On a clear, cool, April 2 morning, brothers Pace and Chris Perry were patiently waiting for fields to dry out enough to prepare for planting. Ironically, they were also hoping for rain.
“We need rain to smooth out the rough fields so we can plant corn and soybeans,” Pace says. “We were able to harvest cotton last fall and go back with a Paratill and row it up. We can plant that.”
They farm mostly in Tunica County, Miss., with some acreage in nearby Tate County. A rainy harvest season last fall left fields in rough shape and Pace says a good rain will smooth out the clods and improve planting conditions.
Later, he drove out to one of his Tunica County fields where an employee was running over ground prepped last fall, trying to break up the clods. He picked up a lettuce-head sized clod, crumbled it a bit and said, “We have some a lot worse than this.”
The Perry brothers plant cotton and soybeans, mostly. “We add a little corn every year for rotation,” Pace says. “We’re a bit behind now because of the rainy winter, but we’re catching up. By April 2nd we would usually have planters lined up to go.”
Chris, who drove up as Pace was tying up the loose ends on a discussion of cotton prospects, says soybeans also need a good rain before he plants.
He manages soybeans. Pace concentrates on cotton. “We need a rain so we can plant some $3 corn,” Chris said. “But we should be good to plant corn anytime in April. April 10 through 15 is usually when I like to plant beans. We’re just getting the ground smoothed and need a rain before we plant, anyway.”
“I like to plant cotton the last two weeks of April,” Pace adds. “All the cotton ground we worked up last fall before it got too muddy will be ready to go.
“But we need rain to plant corn. If we get enough moisture on that rough ground, we will plant corn; if we don’t, we will plant more cotton.”
He says they missed a corn crop last year, too, because they couldn’t get it planted.
“Every year is different,” he says.
Wet Natured Soils
A lot of land is still “seeping,” he adds. “We have some fields over the levee that are still under water. A lot of farms around are not as bad. Until the land dries out, we can’t do anything with those fields.”
Pace prefers to “plant the dark ground first, but some of the light ground got rowed up, so we will plant it.”
Water is not the only problem they face. They’re taking an aggressive approach to pigweed control. “We will plant 60 percent of the cotton land in PhytoGen varieties,” Pace says, “and use Enlist technology. Some will be in Xtend. All the beans will be Xtend.
“I’ll probably plant six different PhytoGen varieties, some on just a few acres and some on a lot.”
He likes Liberty varieties, but with pigweed around, he needs the new herbicide technology. “I’ll still use Liberty and other products to clean weeds up,” he adds.
He says Enlist is easier on soybeans than Xtend. “We have planted Xtend and Liberty beans and Xtend cotton close together and did okay, but we have to be careful.
“Inversion is still a big factor. I have seen dicamba applied properly, right wind speed and direction, and still see damage because of inversion.”
He says pigweed resistance began showing up 10 or 12 years ago. He was sending his sons to the field to chop pigweed out of Roundup Ready cotton and they found pigweed as tall as they were. He switched to Liberty, but still had trouble.
That’s why he needs the new herbicide technology. “Enlist and Xtend are not perfect, either,” he says. “We spray with Enlist and come back a week later with Liberty.”
Proper herbicide application timing, he says, is important, just not always possible. “We can’t always do things just when we need to.”
They follow a complete herbicide program, including Gramoxone and Cotoran. “We used a little Brake last year behind the planter. And we put Roundup on to kill the winter stuff. We will run a harrow, too.”
They use Gramoxone and Fierce on soybeans. Pigweed is not as big a problem with soybeans as it is in cotton because of the canopy. “We put something out to keep the weeds from coming up,” he says.
“It’s different with cotton, we don’t get the shade that we get from the soybean canopy.”
Pace says they have cut back on labor this year, saving a little on production costs. That’s as much a factor of not being able to find good help as it is in cutting corners.
“We can find people who can drive a tractor,” he says, “but not someone with the ability to operate the tractors and other equipment we have now. We need training programs to teach people how to operate modern farm equipment.”
They have improved fertilizer efficiency. “For the last 10 years we have moved into high tech fertility,” says Pace.
The process includes evaluating the soils. “We bought a used Veris Rig because it was hard to get someone to run one for us. We don’t have all our fields analyzed yet.”
He says before they bought the Veris Rig they tended to apply fertilizer in a “blanket shot.”
Beans and corn need a lot of fertilizer, Pace says, so they are concentrating on variable rate fertility in cotton for now. “Fertilizer is expensive, but it pays for itself,” he says. “But with variable rate fertilizer application, we apply just what’s needed. We’ve used VR on a lot of cotton ground.”
He says last year’s cotton was good, “but grade was not as good as we like. We had some leaf, and color was off because of all the rain.
“We made good yields on soybeans,” he adds. “Grades on half of them were okay; the rest were horrible. We left about 80 acres in the field.”
The Perry brothers typically plant about half and half soybeans and cotton, a bit more cotton than soybeans when they can get corn in the ground. They irrigate half their acreage, mostly cotton.
Pace, 55, and Chris, 48, say their dad, George, 76, is “still active on the farm, though he started turning over some of the management duties to his sons about 18 years ago, when he and his brother stopped farming together.
“He gets on a tractor when he wants to,” Pace says. “And he still tells us when we do something wrong.”