Innovation

growing season timeline: Godwin Farm, Pelham, Georgia

Walter Godwin – Pelham, Georgia

Godwin_TimelineDecember 20, 2015

I received my Crop Quality Survey results from the University of Minnesota, and they were about in line with the national average. I had a 33.5 percent protein level and a 20.5 percent oil level. I submitted one variety for a sample, so I just got the results for that one variety, not all of my varieties I planted this year. It is a soy-checkoff-funded project, and the University of Minnesota collects samples from across the U.S. to measure the protein and oil content to get a cumulative analysis from different parts of the country. I’ve been sending in samples for the last few years because I like to see the results and know my protein and oil levels.

I finished planting the wheat cover crop, but we have a few more spots in the field we’d like to clean up and smooth back out, so we’re working on that. We plant about 10-15 acres (four to six hectares) of wheat each year, carry it to harvest, collect it and plant it for the next year’s cover crop so we do not need to buy new wheat seed each year.

We’re expecting rain later this week. We’re still waiting on those last 13 acres (five hectares) of soybeans from the last test plot. We got a little rain and cloudy weather yesterday, and if we didn’t have that I would have harvested them today. I’d like to get them out before the rain comes tomorrow, but I’m just not sure that’s going to happen. There are still some green leaves on them, but the pods and beans have dried, so they are ready to harvest. I’d like to get them out as soon as possible to compare them to the earliest planted test plot beans that have already been harvested. Those beans are starting to show a little damage since they were harvested a while ago, so the sooner I can get these last beans out to compare the two groups, the better. It won’t take long to harvest the beans since it’s such a small amount of acreage—it’s going to take longer to drive over there with the combine than it is to harvest them.

We’ve got both planters ready for winter, but I’m still working on servicing other equipment around the farm. We’ve just got little odds and ends to work on around the shop right now.

In terms of what we learned this year, we planted a high-yield plot, and put out two fungicides and potassium nitrate on it, and we didn’t really see the yield boost that we expected. I put potassium nitrate out on some other fields too, and didn’t see much of a yield increase on those either, so I doubt I’ll do that again. We got about a three bushel increase, which didn’t cover the cost of the potassium nitrate, much less the time spent putting it out on the fields. I think we may put out a little more potassium when we do a maintenance fertilizer at the beginning of the year and that’s it.

December 2, 2015

Right now, we are planting wheat as a cover crop on 150 acres (61 hectares). We had some corn trials, and since that land was tilled, we want to cover it with a cover crop to hold the soil in place. We’ve also planted it where we’ve had drainage or erosion issues to help fix those problems. We’re expecting some rain tomorrow, so we’re going to try and get the cover crop planted today.

In addition to planting the cover crop, we’re working on servicing and winterizing equipment. Winterizing takes about three to four hours per piece of equipment, and we should be done in about a week. We’ve also got some planters we’re trying to rebuild. Other than that, we are taking some time to rest and enjoy the holidays.

Godwin4I still have 13 acres (5 hectares) of the very late soybeans left. One of the varieties still has green leaves on it. We had a light frost last week, so that should help the plants shed their leaves, but the pods are still green. I’m waiting to get in and gather those last acres, but I doubt it’s something we’ll be able to do this week. It’s supposed to be about 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) today.

Godwin3A fertilizer company offered to pull our soil samples and provide the results if we would purchase fertilizer from them, so we did that this year. Two men from the fertilizer company came out to pull the samples, and it took about two days. They pulled the samples at the beginning of the week, and we got the results back at the end of the week. We found out that we need to apply lime on about 25 percent of the land, so hopefully they’ll start that application later this week, depending on the rain. Applying lime to the soil helps to lower its pH level. The fertility was around its normal level. We always put out some maintenance fertility, so we’ll do that again this year, but the results were in line with what we’ve had in the past.

Cover crops and soil sampling help me be more sustainable and provide a sustainable supply of soy to my customers.

November 9, 2015

We are currently servicing and winterizing equipment so it is cleaned up for the year. To winterize equipment, I wash it, grease it, clean the lines and put antifreeze inside them. I do this so that in case there’s any water left in the lines, it won’t freeze over the winter. I’m also fixing things around the farm, and cleaning and winterizing the planters.

Photo1There are about 23 acres (nine hectares) of soybeans left in the field right now, and they are part of the late test plot. Although some of those beans in the plot are ready, there are still some that are green with green leaves on them. This late plot is part of the University of Georgia research project. We have the results back from the early plot, and the researchers are monitoring the late plot. They plan to do a full analysis on the yield differences once the last plot is harvested.

Next year, I’m planning to plant mostly corn and soybeans again because of the way prices look right now. This year, we planted about half corn and half soybeans, with a little grain sorghum. I imagine our crop mix will be about the same for next year.

We started spraying all of our harvested corn fields about two weeks ago because there were some weeds growing, and we want to kill them before they leave seed. Since we harvest corn in August, there are a couple of months before the first frost comes, and during that time weeds can grow. During October and November, we’ll usually spray a few patches of weeds. It’s more of a maintenance practice, so we do not have more issues with those weeds in the spring. There’s nothing growing in the soybean fields right now, so that’s good. Hopefully, we’ll get a frost before anything pops up in those fields.

I attended the Sunbelt Ag Expo a few weeks ago to look at the different types of equipment and technology, and to learn about options for next year. I’m trying to get all of the information together now to make decisions that will help me to grow a sustainable crop and to not use more inputs than I need. With the way prices are on crops now, you have to cut costs wherever you can, but still maintain a high-quality, sustainable crop.

October 22, 2015

We are combining soybeans this week. We only have another 125 acres (50 hectares) left to harvest. There’s 80 acres (32 hectares) that are going to be ready in two weeks. And 20 acres (8 hectares) are still green—they are part of the very late plot we planted. I imagine it will be around the first frost when we can get in and harvest them. My goal this week is to combine everything that is ready.

GodwinPhoto2Right now, the weather is beautiful. You couldn’t ask for any better temperatures. It is 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in the morning, and in the high 70s (20s Celsius) in the afternoon. I’ve been enjoying this weather—it only happens for a short time every year.

We should finish harvesting all of the soybeans that are ready today if we can get the semi-trucks. We’re having a hard time getting the semi-truck drivers to come out and haul the beans to the elevator. All of the grain bins are full, so now we are taking the beans straight to the processor in Valdosta, Georgia. However, we’re having a hard time getting semis to come and pick the soybeans up out of the field.

The peanut harvest and other farmers harvesting soybeans have the truck drivers at capacity right now—everyone is trying to get their crops to the elevators. There are a lot of peanuts grown in my area, and truck drivers are shipping them to the buying points and warehouses, so that’s where a lot of drivers are tied up.

After I get caught up, I’m hoping to make it to the Sunbelt Ag Expo, which is a large farm show in Moultrie, Georgia, about 30 minutes away from my farm. People go to the expo to check out field trials, demonstrations and new technology. I haven’t been to the Sunbelt Ag Expo in several years because I’m usually busy with cotton during this time of the year. Since I didn’t plant cotton this year, I’ll be able to get away for a little while.

This winter, we’ll be planting some wheat as a cover crop to help reduce erosion. In soybean and corn fields, we already have a little cover that will help to keep the ground together, but if we have some fields with erosion, we’ll plant cover crops to give them a better base. In the years when I plant cotton, I have to plant cover crops on every acre.

We’ve been looking at some of the yield trials we planted in soybeans and corn this year to get an idea about what we want to plant next year. There are several different characteristics we look at when selecting varieties. For soybeans, we’re looking for yield, whether or not they shatter, and if they fall over or not. Although we’re looking at seed selection considerations now, we haven’t booked any seed yet.

September 28, 2015

We’re waiting for a tropical depression to come through right now. They are predicting rain throughout the week, so we are waiting on the weather to continue harvest.

We harvested on Saturday and were pretty much caught up with all of the soybeans that were ready to harvest, so that’s good. We sprayed a herbicide called Gramoxone to mature some of the beans, but the problem is that it takes heat and sunlight for it to work properly. With this overcast, cloudy weather and the cooler temperatures from the tropical depression, it will take a little longer for the Gramoxone to work.

GodwinPhoto2We planted about 500 acres, and we’ve been able to harvest 100 acres so far. There’s another 350 acres that will be ready to harvest as soon as the Gramoxone works. The rest of the acres are still green and growing; as a matter of fact, I irrigated some of them last week. The beans we planted in June are still filling pods, but they are starting to turn back. They aren’t ready to harvest yet, but they aren’t too far off.

We sprayed the youngest beans in the ultra-late plot last week, and the scout didn’t find anything in them this week, so that’s good. There’s only 15 acres of ultra-late soybeans, and they have little pods on them now. The beans we planted in June are far enough along that the hulls of the beans are hard, so worms and stinkbugs won’t really damage them.

One thing that’s surprised me is that the Gramoxone is not working as effectively as it should, and it’s not just because of the weather. I talked with some of the extension agents, and they are saying we should have applied a higher rate. We apply the highest amount according to the label, but the agents are saying we should have put out more, which is a surprise.

I’m hoping we’ll be able to get back in the fields on Monday to continue harvest, but while we’re on hold, I’m servicing some of the equipment in the shop. We are working to winterize the equipment by cleaning out the pumps, so if it does freeze this far south this winter, we won’t run into problems next year.

So far, I’m seeing yields of 50 to 85 bushels per acre on irrigated fields, and 10 to 25 bushels per acre on non-irrigated fields. Overall, I think yields are lower than I expected on the irrigated fields, based on how we cared for them this year. I don’t know if it was the heat this summer, or if flowers were knocked off and we didn’t get as many pods; I just expected the yields to be a little higher.

However, yields overall are much higher than last year because we planted soybeans on irrigated land this year. Last year, all of the soybeans were planted on non-irrigated land, so we had a 20 bushel per acre average over 300 acres. I usually plant cotton, peanuts and corn under irrigation, but we didn’t plant cotton or peanuts this year, so we grew soybeans on the irrigated land. If you compare dryland to dryland, we’re about the same as last year. But if you compare this year to last year overall, we have much higher yields because of those irrigated fields.

So far, the beans coming out of the fields are quality beans. They look good. I’ve sent in a sample to the University of Minnesota for the Crop Quality Survey to learn more about the composition of the beans. I try to send in a sample each year so I know more about my quality, and so I can work to provide a quality bean to my customers.

August 17, 2015

This week, I’m fixing a lot of things around the farm. I’ve been working on irrigation wells, grain bins, combines and trucks. There were a lot of things to fix because I was gone for a week and a half on the USSEC mission to Southeast Asia. I work the farm with my dad and one hired hand, and it’s pretty normal that things break down, but when I’m gone  it’s hard for them to get everything done, so they put the repairs off until I get back.

Right now, we are combining corn. I got back from my trip on Tuesday and started helping them immediately. We’ll be combining corn for the next two to three weeks. Once we get done with corn, we’re going to switch over and start harvesting grain sorghum. I only have 70 acres of grain sorghum, so that harvest should only take about two days.

GodwinPhoto1The soybeans are looking pretty good—some of our earliest ones are starting to turn back a bit and yellow up, which is a good thing. Once a determinate soybean reaches maturity, it sets pods. After the pods and beans mature, the plant dies and shrivels up. Once it reaches that stage, we’re able to combine. Right now, we are starting to see the beginning stages of this process.

It will probably take a month for the soybean plants to dry up and for all of the leaves to fall off. Once that process is complete, the beans can sit there for about a month and a half before you have any danger of losing beans that fall out of the pods. I’ll probably be ready to harvest my soybeans by the end of September.

GodwinPhoto3I’m not experiencing any challenges at this time. We’re still scouting the soybeans for insects, but we haven’t found many. There are still some insects in them, but they aren’t at threshold, so we do not need to spray anything right now. About a week and a half ago we sprayed 250 acres for insects, but we haven’t had to spray anything since then. We just got a scouting report back yesterday and everything looks fine for this week.

The final soybean plot for the research project was planted last week, so we’ve got some beans that are about an inch tall right now. Those won’t be ready for harvest until we get the first frost, most likely in November. The researchers are looking at seeding rates, spacing and varieties in addition to planting dates for this project.

July 27, 2015

This week we will start combining the corn, and continue to scout the soybeans for insects and apply fungicides.

Right now, we are getting everything calibrated to make sure things run smoothly on the combines. We’ll be ready to combine the corn later this week.

We are sticking to a weekly schedule for scouting and spraying the soybeans. The scout comes out Tuesday or Wednesday each week, and then we spray based on what he sees. For insects, we’re seeing soybean loopers, stinkbugs and more army worms, which is pretty typical for this time of year.

Godwin5We don’t need to spray all of our soybean fields; it depends on what the scout sees each week. We’ve sprayed fungicide on about three-quarters of our soybeans so far to protect them from Asian soybean rust. We are waiting to spray the remainder of the beans until they get older. We want to wait until the youngest beans start setting pods before spraying them with fungicide, and those pods should be appearing this coming week.

In terms of weather, I need a little bit of rain—it’s getting dry and hot. The temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), and the heat index is around 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). That kind of weather can be detrimental to soybeans when they’re trying to fill pods.

I’ll be headed to Shanghai, China with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) next week, so my goal for this week is to get everything set up to combine corn, so we can continue to move forward while I’m out of town.

The purpose of the trip to Shanghai is to learn about aquaculture in Southeast Asia. We’re going to visit fish farms around Shanghai, Malaysia and Singapore. We’ll learn about their operations and how they are using soybean meal to feed fish. It will be both a networking experience and a great learning experience.

Godwin3

July 6, 2015

This week, we are doing a little bit of insect and fungicide spraying on the soybeans, and getting the combines and trucks ready to start harvesting the corn next month. The goals for this week are to get everything ready for corn season.

We’ve still got three main age groups of soybeans growing for the research project- early beans, mid beans and late beans. The oldest beans are about shoulder-high now; they are getting really tall. That’s one thing the researcher said would happen, and I’m interested to see how it works out. If we get a lot of wind, it could knock them to the ground. The mid beans are about mid-thigh high and are starting to flower now, and the youngest beans are about eight to 12 inches tall. Part of the study is looking at what happens when you plant soybeans very early and very late. It’s really pushing the limits of soybean planting.

WalterGodwinPhoto4Every Wednesday, I have a crop consultant come out and scout our fields. He provides a scouting report to me on Thursday, and then I’ll spray what’s needed on Friday and Saturday. We hire someone else to do a scouting report so he can walk our fields, tell us what he sees, and catch things we might miss. It’s really just another eye in the field to let us know if we need to spray. This past time, he said he saw the same thing we saw a few weeks ago in the older beans, soybean loopers and stinkbugs, now in the mid beans. We’ve moved into spraying the mid beans now, because they are at the threshold. Hiring a crop consultant to scout the fields helps us monitor the crops and better use the chemicals and tools we have to grow a great crop.

The wind has been causing some problems because it is not allowing me to get my spraying done the way I want to. I don’t like to spray when the wind gets above seven miles per hour. When it does, I just stop spraying, so it slows down my progress. I worry about spraying at a higher wind speed because there’s spray drift, and I don’t want the spray to be somewhere it doesn’t need to be.

Another thing to keep in mind with spraying is the reentry period. When we spray insecticides or other chemicals, there is a reentry period for a given amount of time, usually 24 or 72 hours. It’s a period between when you spray and when you can go back into the field. This exists so that freshly sprayed insecticides don’t wear off on your skin and clothes. I just sprayed the oldest beans, so I can’t go back in that field for three days.

I’m surprised that we are seeing some aphids in the grain sorghum. Usually, they show up in the corn and soybeans first, and there’s corn and soybeans on either side of the grain sorghum. We haven’t had aphids in that crop in years, but they are really taking to the sorghum this year for some reason.

We are irrigating some, but we’ve really cut back because we got some rain this week. There’s one farm we got two inches on this week, which is great. Although I’ve cut back on some of the irrigation, I’m still trying to get about an inch a week on everything. We can handle several inches of rain per week with the type of soil we have.

June 15, 2015

This week, I’m working on cleaning up my fields with the bulldozer and excavator to clear land for the pivot irrigation, so we can cover more of the field. It is dry and hot here in Georgia—it’s supposed to be 98 degrees Fahrenheit today and the heat index is close to 105 degrees. I irrigate 250 acres, or 50 percent, of my soybeans to keep them thriving under these warm conditions.

I’m also getting ready to spray my earliest-planted soybeans with their first applications of fungicide and insecticide. These older beans are part of the research project on my farm this year.

WalterGodwinPhoto3EditThere are some differences in knowing when to spray insecticides and fungicides. The University of Georgia does studies on thresholds for insects, such as 20 bugs per plant, and I use their recommendations as guidelines for when to spray. So if the threshold is 20 bugs per plant, and you see five or 10 bugs, the bugs are not doing enough damage to justify the cost of spraying the insecticide. I rely on the University’s data because I only want to spray when it’s needed. I aim to use insecticides and fungicides both economically and sustainably.

We’re seeing soybean loopers, or little worms, a few stinkbugs and some army worms in the oldest beans right now, so that’s why I’m preparing to spray them. My youngest beans are not at the threshold where we need to spray yet. What’s surprising to me this year is that I’m just now seeing the first flush of kudzu bugs, and only in small areas of the field. The kudzu bugs are showing up later this year and they have not spread out yet, so we haven’t sprayed for them. Another surprise is that I’m seeing army worms a little earlier, so the timing of these two insects is a little different from previous years.

Fungicides are different from insecticides. If you see signs of a fungus, you need to spray for it. In this hot and humid weather, fungus growth can quickly get out of control. In just three days, a fungus can move from a small patch in the field to appearing on every plant, so it moves fast.

Soybean rust was just found in Mitchell County, about 25 miles north of where I am. Usually the soybean rust fungus starts south and moves north, so we know the fungus is out there, and it’s just a matter of time. We’re spraying the oldest beans for soybean rust as preventative maintenance at this time.

I learn about what is going on in the area from my local agronomist. Each week, he sends out a text message with information about irrigation, funguses and insects, and tips on how to manage these issues so you can apply the recommendations on your own farm.

The earliest soybeans I mentioned are starting to bloom, and they are about waist-high. The indeterminate varieties of soybeans will be blooming in about a week, and the determinate varieties are knee-high right now.

The youngest beans, which were planted after the logging crew left, just came out of the ground yesterday. Everything is going well, as long as we keep the water coming.

I’ve got all different growth stages and soybean varieties, so I can use different sprays and applications on them when needed. It’s the best way to manage my fields, but I’ll be honest- it is a bit of a headache trying to keep it all straight!

May 20, 2015

This week, I’m waiting on the rain. We’ve got almost everything planted except for 20 acres of soybeans, but we’re waiting on a logging crew to come in and cut some trees down, so we don’t want to plant that area until they are done. My to-do list for this week includes a post-herbicide application on some soybeans and grain sorghum, putting nitrogen on grain sorghum and possibly applying fungicides and insecticides on corn.

Soybeans planted on April 23
Soybeans planted on April 23

There’s a front coming through and it just depends on how much rain we get out of that front. Ideally, I’d like to spray and put nitrogen down on all of the grain sorghum, and start the post-herbicide application on the soybeans. We planted an early soybean crop on April 23 for research, and another one 10 days ago. The early beans are about 12 to 18 inches tall right now, and the newly planted ones are just coming out of the ground. I’d like to spray the first 150 acres this week.

Soybeans planted on May 16
Soybeans planted on May 16

Right now we’re having some trouble with thrips, which are small insects that suck fluid out of plants, on soybeans. There are not really any recommendations for thrips at the County Extension Office. We’ve got one high-yield plot that we’ve sprayed for thrips to give us some control, but they’ve since come back.

But right now, I’m focused on maintaining the newly planted crops.

May 20, 2015

Now that we have some clear weather, I’m hoping to wrap up planting by May 20. All of the corn is in the ground, and I’ll be applying nitrogen on the corn Friday. Today, I’m getting started on grain sorghum, and tomorrow, I hope to start my soybeans. We were a little earlier on corn last year, but we are planting soybeans earlier than normal this year.

I’m participating in some research with the University of Georgia for the first time this year. As part of the research, I’m planting a couple test plots at different times to see what effects the planting date has on yield. I planted 15 acres of soybeans on April 23 for one plot, and we’ll do another soybean test plot around the end of July or beginning of August, planting soybeans behind corn.

GodwinThis year, I’m just planting soybeans, corn and grain sorghum due to a lack of contracts for peanuts and low cotton prices. I’ve planted 330 acres of corn, and I plan to grow 500 acres of soybeans and 50 or 60 acres of grain sorghum. I’ve upped the amount of soybeans I’m planting this year due to lower input costs. I put my corn on irrigated fields, and the half of the soybeans will be on irrigated ground.

I try to implement sustainable methods on my farm whenever I can. We use cover crops during the winter, and implement strip-tillage, or conservation tillage, to reduce erosion. I also built three grass waterways, which are areas where I plant grass and don’t spray, so water can flow through the area to prevent erosion and keep sediment in the field.

I’d like my international customers to know that I try to grow my crops in a safe, profitable and sustainable way each year.

Farm: Walter grows soybeans, corn and grain sorghum and raises chickens in Pelham, Georgia. His wife, Rebecca, is a high school special education teacher. They have one son, Noah. This is Walter’s third year as a USB director. Walter is also an ASA director.

Walter Godwin
Walter Godwin

U.S. Soybean farmer

Georgia

Walter Godwin grows soybeans, corn and grain sorghum and raises chickens in Pelham, Georgia. His wife, Rebecca, is a high school special education teacher. They have one son, Noah. Walter is a current United Soybean Board (USB) director and a former American Soybean Association (ASA) director.