B&L Farms of Live Oak, FL have kicked off wheat harvest here in North Florida. This was these young farmers first year growing wheat after their interest was piqued by a farm tour hosted by William Birdsong, Extension Specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES). William hosted a tour to the Myron Johnson Farm in Headland Alabama where Myron discussed his conservation farming system and crop rotation including wheat double cropped with peanuts. The reason that farm co-owner Jamie Driggers found this most interesting was because Jamie and I traveled 190 miles from home, and watched Mr. Johnson doing what area farmers told Jamie couldn’t be done. In fact, Jamie had seen farmers with irrigation grow wheat only to vow never to plant any again. I was confident this would work for them having grown wheat at the Suwannee Valley Agriculture Extension Center, just 10 miles from their farm. However, using their capital to make the jump was not the same as a University test plot.
Every time another farmer said it wouldn’t work, Jamie and co-owner Tamos Sapp studied what needed to be done to make it fit in their system. They concluded their best opportunities lie in planting behind peanuts where the vines are left on the field to fertilize the following crop. They added two tons of poultry litter to provide phosphorus and potash. They topdressed with the recommended nitrogen rate in January. Things looked good until 8″ of rain Feb 22-26 washed the remaining nitrogen fertilizer away. They applied supplemental nitrogen fertilizer following the week of rain. They took turns scouting the field each week and managed the weeds, powdery mildew, rust, and aphids using IPM practices. They will drop in and strip-till cotton into the residue after the next rain because they farm without irrigation. These farmers don’t plan to double crop every acre, but have found a niche that will profitably work for them even though their friends and neighbors said it couldn’t be done….here….
I am most proud of this because it is a great example of Extension working. From their Extension Agent asking them to tag-along to a meeting 200 miles away, to William Birdsong with ACES showing us what works in his area, to constant feedback with Extension on what to look for and what inputs will pay. Jamie and Tamos are most proud that they harvested 63 bushels per acre on this 55 acre field when everybody said it couldnt be done.