There seem to be fewer and fewer real traditions anymore, those events and customs that we can depend on occurring year in and year out, without fail. But one that has endured is the East Alabama Crops Tour, held this past Friday in parts of Lee and Macon counties. As is custom, participants gathered early under the towering oaks in a community called Society Hill – just a few short miles but a world away from the bustling college town of Auburn.
This marked the 33rd year of the tour, having started back in 1978 as a cotton insect tour and evolving over the years into a cotton tour and finally into a crops tour, featuring cotton, peanuts, soybeans and, occasionally, corn. Up until a few years ago, cotton was just about the only row crop being planted in this area. Then, with the end of the government quota program and a bit of urging from cotton nematodes, peanuts were planted, and most growers seem pleased now to have it as an option.
While some things about the tour are the same every year – including the expertly grilled 16-ounce ribeye steaks served at lunch – others change, like the condition of the crops at the time. There are years when there has been so much rain that farmers are discussing tricks for regulating cotton growth and wondering when it’ll be dry enough to get back into the fields. Then, there are years like this one when they are hoping for a few more good showers or even a tropical storm to help salvage an otherwise dismal growing season.
For as long as I can remember, Jeff Clary and Chuck Browne from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System have always done an exemplary job of planning and conducting the tour, with help from sponsors, area farmers, and administrators, specialists and researchers from Auburn University. This year’s tour featured peanut variety trials, a cotton variety trial under irrigation, and improved soybean varieties. In addition, there were updates on common issues of concern for this time of year, including late-season disease management for peanuts.
Tours such as this certainly serve a practical purpose, informing decision-makers and showcasing the latest technology for farmers. But more importantly, it marks the continuation of a storied tradition, and there just aren’t many of those left. If you have a memory of this or any other crops tour, please share it with us.