I started harvesting a beautiful crop of soybeans on October 27. Despite growing during the driest year I’ve experienced during my 35-year farming career, this crop has the potential to set a record yield for our farm. So far, yields have been well above average for our region of the U.S. Southeast.
While the weather continues to be extremely dry, we apparently got the timely rains the soybeans needed to fill pods well. I’m not sure how the soybeans succeeded after a cool spring delayed planting. Then by June, we were desperate for rain. Dry conditions continued through the rest of the summer, but the soybeans are proving the value of genetics and their resilience.
Soybean harvest started a couple weeks later than average. Though the soybeans were fully mature, the plants were not drying down. The combine cuts and separates dry soybean plants much more easily than plants with green stems. A couple frosts during the third week of October finally forced the plant to begin drying out.
Even with the frost, most farmers in our area just started harvesting soybeans in late October, and our machines had to go slowly through the fields because soybean stems were still green and holding moisture. However, the excellent yields make harvesting a lot more fun. With current fertilizer and fuel costs, this is the most I’ve invested in a soybean crop, and it is encouraging to see that pay off. If the weather cooperates, I expect that we will finish soybean harvest by the middle of November on our farm, before our Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.
Soybeans are the only crop left in my fields. Their strong yields will help make up for poor yields in other crops on this diversified farm. For example, due to drought conditions, corn set a farm record for the lowest yields we’ve had.
We had below average tobacco yields, as well. The heat and drought stressed the plants and promoted lots of disease pressure. Tobacco harvest finished during September, and by the third week of October, all the leaves had been cured and shipped to our customers.
Fortunately, the sweet potato crop handled the weather well. We got good yields. However, sweet potato prices are currently low.
As our crews finished harvesting our pickling cucumbers, sweet potatoes and tobacco, we spread cover crop seed on those fields. All those crops require some tillage in our sandy soils. Following those crops, we plant a cover crop mixture of wheat and oats to protect the soil from erosion during the winter and build organic matter. This year, we used a cover crop blend of crimson clover, sorghum, hairy vetch and radish on about 81 hectares, or 200 acres, of fields that grew cucumbers this season. I look forward to seeing how this mix performs compared to our standard. We finished sowing cover crops just a few days before we started soybean harvest.
We don’t till the fields or plant cover crops after soybeans or corn are harvested, as the crop residue protects the soil and adds organic matter.
In all our fields, we take soil tests to determine what it needs to grow the next crop. We don’t apply any fertilizer in the fall, because it would move too quickly through our sandy soils. However, those tests include information about the soil pH. Based on those tests, we apply a variable rate of lime just where it is needed to balance the soil pH to support our next crop.
Variable crop yields reinforce the importance of diversification on our farm, which includes our livestock.
The current group of turkeys now weighs between 9 and 11 kg, or 20 and 25 pounds. They have been growing well. I expect they will reach market weight in late December.
The pigs have also been growing well. By mid-October, we began sorting out the largest pigs in each pen. Those pigs weighed between 127 and 136 kg, or 280 and 300 pounds, so they were ready to harvest. Taking these pigs out of the pens made more space for the remaining pigs to continue growing and thriving. We continue to sell pigs, and the process will continue until our barn are empty again in mid-November. Then we will clean and disinfect the buildings and start the cycle again.
I have enjoyed sharing about our diversified farm in the Southeastern U.S. throughout the 2022 season. I hope it’s been interesting.
Like all U.S. farmers, I appreciate our customers around the world. They are welcome to visit our farm any time. They will see that we do all we can, every day, to produce sustainable, high-quality protein.