What is in this article?:
- The Skinners: Getting more yield from the same acres
- Moving to RTK systems
- Twin-row soybeans
- Fifth generation farmers
• “My father and I used to have land running all the way to the nearby Alabama state line,” says Bill Skinner, who farms with sons Will and Lee near Macon, Miss.
• “We were farming 4,200 acres, but we were just spread too thin. Now, my sons and I farm 2,600 acres and we're making as much or more yield on fewer acres, thanks to irrigation, improved varieties, and more efficient equipment and technology.”
• Skinner and his sons operate about 15 farms.
BILL SKINNER, from left, and sons Will and Lee Skinner say their goal, rather than getting bigger, is to continue getting more production from the 2,600 acres they now farm by adding more irrigation and grain storage, and increasing efficiency through equipment and technology.
Moving to RTK systems
“We’re in the process of swapping everything to 12-row equipment and RTK guidance, so we may have to rework some of our land to get all the beds straight. Next year, when we go to RTK, we also plan to start yield mapping.”
This is their third year to use precision planting technology, he says. “The equipment is expensive, but it’s a real money-saver. It allows us to get exact plant population and spacing, resulting in much more uniform stands and better yields.”
The Skinners’ herbicide program includes Roundup and Leadoff for burndown on corn ground, Roundup and Valor on cotton, and Roundup and atrazine on corn.
“This year, we’ve used some Staple and Envoke for morningglory, our biggest weed problem in cotton, and for sicklepod,” says Will, who handles the spraying. “For soybeans, we’ve used Roundup and Sequence for grass and sicklepod, with good results.”
They’ve had no glyphosate resistant pigweeds thus far, and says Bill, “If we see any pigweeds in the field, we get them out immediately.”
It has been a pretty light year for insects, Will says. “We’ve got some loopers now that we’re spraying. Normally, we’d be treating for stink bugs this time of year, but they’ve not been a problem. We’ve used Dimilin for worms and also some Baythroid and Intrepid. We’ve had almost no insects in our corn. We’ve sprayed for plant bugs in cotton.” Rounding out their chemical lineup was Quadris fungicide on wheat and soybeans.
“Prior to the eradication program, boll weevils were always a problem for us, although we never had any out-of-control situations,” Bill says. “Since eradication though, we’ve not had to worry about that pest any more.
“In 1995, worms just ate us up in cotton — we couldn’t kill them with anything. But Bt technology has pretty much taken care of the worm problem.”
The Skinners rotate cotton, corn, and soybeans, and says Will, “Rotation is one of the best things corn has allowed us to do. When we went from continuous cotton to rotation with corn, it made a significant difference in cotton yield.”
Their winter wheat is usually followed by soybeans, but this year, Lee says, “We’re trying some cotton behind wheat. With the abnormally warm spring we had, the wheat came off two or three weeks early, and we planted cotton behind it May 20. At this point in the season, it’s looking good, with an excellent boll load.”
He says they had also wanted to try some twin-row cotton this year, “But everyone told us it would be much harder to pick, so we didn’t do it.”
In 1995, Bill says, they bought a cotton gin just across the Alabama line and ran it for 10 years. “But as cotton acres declined, and labor got harder to get, we shut it down.
“A number of cotton growers in this area have been trying to get a gin in Noxubee County for years, and finally this year things came together. We’re stockholders in the $6.5 million state of the art Bogue Chitto Gin that’s currently under construction east of Brooksville and is expected to be in operation for this ginning season.”
Although industry forecasts are for a continued decline in cotton acres in 2013, Lee says, “Price will be a factor in determining what we do, but we’ll probably continue with about the same acres. We will definitely keep a 50-50 corn-cotton rotation on our irrigated land.”
This year’s soybean roster, all Groups 5.3 to 5.9, include Terrall 59R16, Delta King 533, Progeny 5711, and Pioneer 95Y70.
“Our average is in the 45 bushel range, counting wheat beans,” Lee says. “On our prairie clay soils, beans don’t respond as well to irrigation as cotton and corn, so most of our beans are dryland.”