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Crop tour offers glimpse at area crops, emerging technologies

By ALLISON MILES
June 17, 2010 at 1:17 a.m.


Victoria County crop acreage planted in 2010

Corn: 35,982.80

Cotton: 7,431.90 (includes 622.10 failed acres)

Oats: 245.50

Rice: 1,922.30

Sorghum: 20,329.80

Soybeans: 9,960.40

Wheat: 77

Total: 75,949.7 acres

Source: Victoria County Crops Tour pamphlet

David Hayes shielded his eyes as he gazed toward a massive corn field. Although he works with the city of Victoria's Parks and Recreation Department, on Thursday he received a crash course in farming.

He was among about 150 area residents who attended the annual Victoria County Crops Tour, a six-stop event that offered a glimpse at local crops and emerging technologies.

Kent Scherer, a local rancher, said he learns something new at every crop tour.

Awhile back, for instance, he discovered planting black-eyed peas wards off stink bugs from other plants. It's helped him keep insects away from his garden.

The 2010 tour went well and area crops look much better this year than last, said Joe Janak, Victoria County extension agent. A little more rain within the next week or so, however, would help.

Agriculture is important to the local economy, he said, explaining it easily brings in more than $50 million in direct sales.

"And that's just in gross receipts to the county," he explained. "It goes beyond that."

Stop 1: Cotton variety demonstration

Planting time and nighttime temperature are important when it comes to cotton, said Dan Fromme, a Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist.

Some producers in San Patricio and Refugio counties who planted in March experienced obstacles, he said.

When farmers plant early, they worry about getting a good stand, he explained. When it's too cool during development of the first true leaf, it affects the location of that first fruiting node.

Stop 2: Three grain storage bins and facilities that can hold 67,150 bushels

The set-up was three years in the making, farmer Bill Obsta said, explaining he foresaw a storage shortage in the area. When storms threaten an area, farmers must find ways to get grain out of the field and into storage.

The facilities cost between $2.50 and $4 per bushel, and electricity costs about 2 cents per bushel, said Don Easterwood, sales manager for Gasaway, Inc. It's cheaper than other options and will pay for itself in five years, he said.

Stop 3: Corn study

Last year, maize called the field home, farmer John Smajstrla said, and crops are living off of their residual nitrogen.

The major study was a look at whether it was possible to credit nitrogen in the top 24 inches of soil, rather than putting in an amount based on yield goals, said Dennis Coker, extension program specialist of soil and crop sciences in College Station. It was a way to offset nitrogen costs.

Results indicated that, 93 percent of the time, it made no difference when it came to corn. Such was the case 70 percent of the time with grain sorghum.

Stop 4: Corn hybrids

Farmers face an increasing number of insects resistant to insecticides and the like, said Roy Parker, an extension entomologist. It's important that producers maintain susceptible plants that produce susceptible insects, he said, explaining that they can, in turn, mate with the resistant bugs.

Putting pressure on the population means farmers face better odds at keeping crops safe, he said.

Stop 5: Grain sorghum and soybeans

New technology is on its way to the sorghum world in the form of a grass herbicide, Fromme said.

The product will be available by 2013 or 2014 and will go over the crops, he said. Currently, farmers must rely on pre-emerge herbicides, which don't always work because of weather issues.

Stop 6: 36-inch deep tree root chisel/root plow

Tree roots introduce issues such as leaching water away from crops, Janak said. To meet the problem locally, farmers paid Larry Stary, a local farmer, to construct a machine that severs roots.

The finished product is capable of cutting about 40 inches down and boasts 22 different owners, Stary said.

"Basically, it's going to be a community plow," he said.

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