Farmers in the Jefferson County area had the opportunity to hear advice and predictions on the 2020 planting season during a crop production meeting held by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Beginning in early January, the Division of Agriculture has held production meetings at its county extensions across the state. This particular meeting, held Wednesday in Pine Bluff is the 16th so far, with twelve more to go this February. It focused on corn, soybeans and rice as well as presentations on weeds and insects.
Kurt Beaty is the County Extension Agent in Agriculture for the Jefferson County Extension. He says while the meetings do look at planting through a statewide lens, there is a personalization that occurs from county to county, including Jefferson County.
“Some of the bigger issues are resistant weeds that are coming up. Especially our pigweeds that we’re having trouble with and some ryegrass issues so just weed control would be the main thing,” Beaty said.
All three crop presentations discussed a tough 2019 planting season, where heavy rains plagued farmers throughout the spring, causing lower yields, a longer planting season and in some instances forced farmers to replant their crops. They also went through the different variants of rice, soybeans and corn that farmers could choose from in their planting in the upcoming year.
Henry English runs the small farm program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He says the research completed by the university is beneficial to farmers for both educational and financial reasons.
“The university does this research and it keeps the farmers from doing it. It can be quite expensive for a farmer to go out and try something new and find out that it does not work. But it’s a lot easier for the university to use research dollars to go out and check and find out that it doesn’t work and tell the farmer that. So it basically helps the farmer and also it’s unbiased data. They’re not trying to sell anything,” English said.
One form of testing that Dr. Jeremy Ross discussed during his presentation on soybeans concerned the quality of the seeds themselves. Last year, the germination rate was at a lower average of 77% compared to the 91% of the 2018 season. Ross believes this year’s seed quality will have some issues, but an average germination of 88% indicates a better quality than last year.
Stephan Walker also works for the UA Pine Bluff small farms program. He hopes farmers take away lessons that improve their farming season.
“They want to take out a sense of ‘I’m gonna do better and increase my profit.’ That’s the main thing. It might be with a different variety. It might be a change of something, a fertilizer program. It could be an herbicide or insecticide program. These meetings hopefully will educate them and get them an idea for something that they can do better to increase their profits,” Walker said.
Other winter production meetings later this month will focus on cotton and peanuts in addition to corn, soybeans and rice.