What is in this article?:
- Less aggressive approach expected for South Plains farmers
- Minor adjustments
- Wait and see
- Southern Plains farmers a bit less optimistic than last year.
- Many taking a wait-and-see attitude.
- Will watch weather and markets until planting time.
AS PLANTING TIME NEARS, Southern Plains farmers are taking a cautious approach to production strategies but hoping timely rainfall will get crops off to a good start.
Vaughan will make only minor adjustments. “I’ll add more cotton,” he says. “I’ll also plant corn later. Last year the later corn was the best. Over the last few years the new genetics (in corn) responded better planted late. We delayed planting about a week last year.”
Vaughan says April 15 is his usual target date to start planting corn. He waited until April 20 last year. “We’ll wait until about April 25 this year. Maybe we can outlast La Nina and get some cooling later in the season.”
Vaughan will not make wholesale cuts to production. “It’s full-bore ahead with fertility,” he says. He says with irrigation he knows he’ll make some crop. “And we have to be optimistic.”
He’ll maintain usual plant population as well. “Seed is important. We have to get a stand to grow a crop; without a good stand we fail before we get out of the gate.”
He says seed dealers have indicated “robust sales of cotton seed,” but he also suspects that many, as he’s done, have double-booked cotton and corn and will wait to see what April looks like.
Bearden says most farmers in his area have residual nitrogen left from last season’s failed crops so they’ll be cutting back a bit on early fertilization this year. “Folks are going to be less aggressive and take a ‘wait-and-see’ outlook to see what markets and moisture are going to be like.”
This time last year cotton farmers were fairly aggressive with production. “Conditions were dry but the price was higher. Now, folks will do what’s necessary to prevent land from blowing away. They won’t put the soil in jeopardy.”
He says folks have done some field work, however, taking advantage of December moisture to break land. Two days of 60 mile-per-hour winds, however, caused some damage.
He says crop mix likely will not change much in the Gaines, Terry and Yoakum County area, but peanuts could regain some acreage. “We lost a lot of peanuts last year because we did not have early contracts and cotton price was high.”
Still, he doesn’t anticipate more than a 15,000- to 20,000-acre shift between cotton and peanuts. And dryland acreage will go to cotton. “That’s what it’s best suited for,” he says.
“The memory of last year still weighs heavy on most farmers around here,” Strickland says. “I don't know of anyone who wants to go full throttle after last summer. My personal rotation will be a lot more balanced. After a few years of mainly cotton, I’m ready for several peanut acres.”
He’ll concentrate peanuts on his best water. “But I am not ready to put the whole farm in peanuts after last year.”
He says aggressive production tactics early proved the wrong approach in 2011. “We really pushed our cotton and peanuts early, and that turned out to be the wrong decision,” he says. “By August, our crops were overloaded and relentless heat caused major fruit shed.”
Irrigated wheat will help spread risks this year. “Tommy and I are growing several hundred acres of irrigated wheat, so we can concentrate our water on fewer acres of summer crops.”
Crop mix is still unsettled.
“We know we will have several acres of peanuts, but with no contract I can't tell you how many acres. It makes it hard to plan and borrow money to farm peanuts when all you can figure on is the loan price. Cotton price may not be a lot better, but cotton has good insurance, a major plus over peanuts. Considering the summer we just had that has to be taken into consideration.”
Strickland says last year was the first time he ever collected multi-peril insurance on any irrigated crops.