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Improve Efficiency, Productivity
Master Farmers share successful production strategies

By Carroll Smith
Editor
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In 2009, Durand Farm, located in St. Martin Parish, La., was presented the Outstanding Master Farmer Award. In 2010, this 1,150-acre progressive rice and crawfish farm, operated by brothers, Jeff, Greg and Conery (C.J.), was named the recipient of the Rice Farmer of the Year Award, sponsored by Rice Farming magazine and Syngenta.

All three brothers completed the Master Farmer Program and have each achieved the designation of a Certified Master Farmer. Jeff, Greg and C.J. strive to increase the efficiency and productivity of their rice and crawfish operation. Following are a few examples of what they do to keep Durand Farm up-to-date and viable.

 

• Crawfish boats powered by Go-Devil or Mud Runner

Crawfish Boat“One of the reasons that we can plant no-till rice following crawfish farming is because we don’t make ruts in the field with our crawfish boats,” Greg says.

“We use either Go-Devil or Mud Runner engines, which have a long shaft and a prop on the end with power steering that we steer with our feet,” he adds.

“There is some disturbance with the prop wash, but not near as much as with crawfish boats that use paddle wheels to push or pull the boats.”

 

• Tracks on tractors and combines

Tracks“Our main objective for using the Soucy tracks on our tractor is to achieve better flotation and reduce soil compaction,” C.J. says. “We also added a 90-foot spray boom on the tractor so we can get in the field and spray when the crop duster can’t.

“We’re also hoping that by using this tractor with the tracks that we can get in the field sooner when the ground is still damp and drill the seed in with a grain drill,” he adds.

The Durands also put tracks on their combines to avoid rutting up the fields at harvest. Once they finish cutting their rice, they flood up the rice stubble for crawfish production. During the season, the crawfish clean up most of the stubble, and when the ponds are drained in early spring, the brothers don’t have to till the soil. They can plant right into last year’s stubble because the soil is disturbed less with the tracks.

 

• Electric motors

Electric MotorsThe Durand brothers only use surface water for irrigation and have high-efficiency pumps that produce more than 6,000 gallons per minute. They’ve also replaced most of their diesel engines with electric motors to pump water.

“These electric power units have no emissions, and we don’t have to build the spill prevention and control foundations around them like we would the diesel engines,” Jeff explains. “We converted every pump that we had near a power line to electric. It’s much more efficient to run electric rather than diesel units.”

An energy audit was done on Durand Farm in 2007 by EnSave, Inc., which was funded by NRCS. The auditor concluded that the savings in pumping cost was 58 percent with the electric motors compared to the diesel units, based on an 8 cents per kilowatt hour rate vs. $2.50 per gallon diesel prices.

 

• Pressure Cure grain bin system

Pressure CureThe CMC Pressure Cure grain bin system that the Durands had installed is based on the principle of forced, pressurized air drying and does not use any heat. In addition, this system is not a “layer-drying” or “stirrator” system with expensive annual maintenance costs.

“During the Energy Audit, the auditor also assessed our Pressure Cure drying system,” Jeff says. “He found that we had the most efficient drying system because we were using electricity instead of a heat source such as gas or propane. We’ve also found that, in most cases, the quality of the rice dried with this system is better than drying with heat.”

 

• Stripper header

Stripper HeadersThe Durands began using a Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header when it was first introduced in the states because less material runs through the combine since the seed heads are stripped off the straw. Thus, there is less wear on the combine.

“The major reason for using a stripper header is that it leaves the stubble standing, so when we flood the field for crawfish, we don’t have a lot of decomposing straw on the ground, which lowers the oxygen level in the water,” C.J. says. “The young, small crawfish will die in low-oxygen environments. If we keep the oxygen levels high in the ponds, normally we can grow a better crawfish crop.”

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