Soybean South


Farm ‘Cents’

To realize the greatest potential profit from a 3,500-acre soybean and rice operation, Arkansas farmer Rick Coleman built a reservoir that allows him to irrigate 900
acres of beans and rice. He also grows seed beans for a local company,
eliminating the cost of hauling his crop to the river.

By Carroll Smith

When you farm 1,700 acres of beans and 1,800 acres of rice, a lot of thought and planning has to go into the operation for everything to run smoothly and efficiently and turn a profit at the same time. Rick Coleman, who operates this family partnership near Cash, Ark., shares some of the practices they have implemented on the farm that have proved successful.

Coleman’s acreage is actually in two different locations. One of the farms, which consists of 500 acres of beans and 400 acres of rice, needed a source of water to realize its full potential. Consequently, in 1999, after the crop was harvested, he took a 130-acre field out of production in order to build a reservoir.

“We didn’t have any water, so we had to do something,” he says. “After we got our crop out that year, the weather cooperated, and we used eight tractors to build the reservoir that November. We filled it up in December and January and were able to use it in the spring.

“On average, it gives us access to about 100 acres of water, 10 feet deep,” Coleman adds.

“There is a large drainage ditch that comes out of Jonesboro, so if they get a big rain in Jonesboro, then we can pick up the water and put it back into the reservoir.”

Coleman explains that they can gravity flow out of the reservoir and pick up the water with stationary re-lifts.

Because the Arkansas farmer grows MorSoy and NK Brand seed beans, having the ability to irrigate is a must. Coleman chooses to flood irrigate, so he precision leveled the fields on .5 and built levees about 200 feet apart. He plants his beans flat, then when he’s ready to irrigate, he cuts the levee and lets the water on the high ground. Then when that field is full, he cuts another levee to let the water down to the next levee.
“We can water all of our soybeans like that,” Coleman says.

Professionally grown beans
This year, Coleman was asked by Cache River Valley Seed, which serves seed dealers and farmers throughout the Southeast, Southwest and Mid-South, to grow MorSoy RT 4802N and MorSoy RT 5288N.

According to the company, RT 4802N is “a standard with no complaints,” adapted to all areas and soil types, a consistent high-yielder, a good choice for high or low soil pH and best on 30-inch or narrow rows. RT 4802N has a relative maturity of 4.8. RT 5288N is described as “easy cutting” medium bush plant, high tolerance to soybean root knot, excluder to soil chlorides and adapted to a wide range of soil types.

Coleman says he makes one fungicide application on all of his beans.

“Typically, I grow Group 4s and early 5s,” Coleman says.

One benefit he has realized by growing seed beans for Cache River Valley Seed is location, location, location.

“We used to haul all of our beans to the river and get 30 to 40 cents over the Chicago price for them,” Coleman says. “But, today the price of diesel is so high, and we don’t get the 30 to 40 cents anymore, so it works well for us to deal with Cache River Valley Seed because it is so close to our farms.”

Rice production practices
Coleman also puts a lot of thought into producing his rice crop.

“We have one farm that is not a good soybean farm, so we try to grow as much rice on it as we can,” he says.

This year he planted Cocodrie and CL 171, and all of his rice acres were treated with a fungicide.

“This year it was hot and dry, so sheath blight really wasn’t a problem,” Coleman says. “However, we still treat all of our rice with a fungicide because we want the straw to be green and it helps with milling.”

Coleman also fertilizes his rice crop a little differently than most people, by spreading out the fertilizer applications.

“I never put out over 80 pounds of urea at a time,” he says. “However, we will make four applications. My reasoning is that so often when we make our first fertilizer application and get the water started, we get a big rain. So where did that fertilizer go? I’ve found that it works better for us to apply a little bit along the way. We fertilize about every two weeks.”

As for any changes he plans to make next year, Coleman says he is going to grow CL 171 and Catahoula – a semi-dwarf bred out of Louisiana.

“I prefer growing semi-dwarfs because they are less likely to go down in adverse conditions than other varieties,” he explains.

And one final reason that the operation runs so smoothly is that everyone in the partnership has their job to do and does it well – from bookkeeping to going back and forth between the two farms to help out where needed to keeping everyone fed during the busy times when breaks are hard to come by. All in all, the Arkansas operation makes good farm “cents.”

U of A Answers The Question: Why Irrigate?

The ability to irrigate his soybeans to achieve their greatest yield and quality potential is obviously
important to Rick Coleman, who grows seed beans near Cash, Ark. It appears that the University of Arkansas (U of A) Extension Service agrees.

Here’s what U of A has to say on the subject:

“When growth and yield factors are rated according to importance, the availability of moisture always ranks near the top. Yields, up to a point, are determined by the availability and use of moisture.

“Irrigation is a means by which an adequate moisture supply to the crop can be better assured. This provides a potential for increased yields over dryland production and the opportunity to stabilize year-to-year fluctuations in yield and seed quality.

“This yield stabilization can allow a more aggressive marketing program. In addition, loaning agencies
in some areas are evaluating the percentage of a grower’s soybean acreage that can be irrigated before they issue a crop production loan.

“By the reproductive growth period, when irrigation is often first needed, approximately 50 to 60 percent of the production costs are already invested in the crop.

“Irrigation serves as insurance against a drought that can result in yields that do not even cover production costs, especially for double-crop soybean production.

“The Arkansas Soybean Performance Tests include several varieties that consistently produce in the 50 bu/ac range when irrigated. These same varieties average 10 to 20 bu/ac less without irrigation.”