Stiles Farm Field Day: Producers learn to cope with dry conditions, manage input costs
Input costs and lack of rainfall were on the minds of many row crop producers at the 46th Stiles Farm Field Day recently.
"We went into planting season on the dry side, then got optimistic when we got some showers and soil moisture was adequate," said Archie Abrameit, Stiles Farm manager and Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist. "About a month ago, we went through a drought period, then got a life-saving rain. Now, it's back and with sustained heat; the crops are suffering and will reduce yields."
Learning how to maximize production efficiencies was the highlight of this year's field day, which featured new equipment previews and addressed such topics as water utilization in cropping systems and a row crop weed-control update.
Abrameit said input costs continue to be a concern among producers this growing season.
"We're dealing with those very carefully," he said. "Fertilizer has dropped in price, but is still very, very expensive compared to five or six years ago. The fuel situation (is a concern) on a daily basis. All input costs are rising and crop prices are neutral, so our take-home revenue prices are staying level or have dropped a little bit."
Rainfall capture techniques were demonstrated by Bill Kniffen, AgriLife Extension water resource specialist from Menard.
"I'm getting more and more questions from folks on how to capture rainfall," he said. "There are different needs everywhere. In West Texas, it's just plain dry. In North Texas, folks are concerned about the Ogallala aquifer being pumped dry. In Houston and Beaumont, people are concerned about storm water."
Kniffen demonstrated many rainfall capture techniques, including methods for deer hunters to capture runoff rainfall from a deer blind, adding bird-watching activities while in the stand.
Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist, emphasized the need for soil testing. He said during times of expensive fertilizer, a soil test is much like a dipstick measuring the amount of oil in a truck. A soil test will give exact recommendations, he said.
"If you don't know how much phosphorus and potassium is in that grass, you'll be putting out more fertilizer and spending more money than you need to. The only way you can tell (how much you need) is to get a soil sample."
Even though fertilizer continues to be a costly input, Bermuda grass still needs to be fertilized, he said.
"We need phosphorus for root growth and development," he said. "Potassium is also important for disease protection."
During the lunch program, scholarship winners were announced. Recipients were Christian Schultze of Round Rock (Williamson County) and Melanie Armstrong of Dime Box (Lee County). Douglas Malish of Taylor was named Agriculturist of the Year, as selected by the Taylor Chamber of Commerce.
The Stiles Farm is a non-profit, self-supporting institution of AgriLife Extension established by bequest of the late J.V. and H.A. Stiles for the advancement of agriculture to benefit all Texans. The field day is held at the Stiles Farm each year to introduce producers to the latest research and best management practices.
For more about the Stiles Farm, visit http://agrilife-extadmin.tamu.edu/sff.