The last three seasons in the Carolinas have been heartbreakers for corn farmers. With higher input costs and commodity prices, the southeast is experiencing an irrigation boom, especially on corn acres.
Sam Fulton, precision ag consultant with Southeast Farm Equipment, explains what he’s hearing from producers considering irrigation:
“I think the main thing is land is not increasing, some farmers are picking up a little bit of land, but overall we are not adding more land to the world and input costs are going up and farmers now cannot afford to not make a crop. There is so much risk and so much invested in it, they just can’t afford to not get some payback for what they are putting into it.”
James Russell Boyd, of Three B Farms in Beaufort and Washington counties echoes Fulton’s sentiments:
“We’ve got to make money on what we do; we can’t just do it as a hobby. You just cannot plant land that one year will pick 120 bushels and the next year only pick 20 bushels. With the price of inputs, you have to have something there to stabilize it, to get some return on your investment. You cannot farm off of insurance.”
Boyd explains how he went about selecting acres to irrigate:
“They are the acres that have been hardest to get a yield on. They dry out faster and the yields have not been substantial to support the price of the corn and feeding the inputs. We are going after those acres first that would be marginal at best without the irrigation.”
With corn being the first choice of crops to irrigation, and with rotation practices, Boyd explains that other crops have benefitted as well:
“We started out with the intention of irrigating corn acreage, but we do a rotation anyway. So we will irrigate cotton too. Last year we irrigated some soy beans when they fell in the rotation, when it was so dry and there was a significant change in those yields.”
As far as 2011 corn yields on land that Boyd is planning on irrigating this year:
“Our corn averaged about 55 bushels last year, but it was an extremely harsh year as far as the yields go. We picked about 55 bushels on the land that was not irrigated. We plan on irrigating that acreage this year.”
Sam Fulton says he’s seen some real success on irrigated land:
“I think the most successful farmers in our area are the ones with the most irrigation. They must be doing something right.”
Boyd commented that installing irrigation was like doubling his land, and had these thoughts about the land he irrigated in 2011:
“An irrigation system on a corn patch is just like a gold mine working.”
We’ll be staying in touch with James Russell Boyd through out the growing season, analyzing his irrigation efficiency.