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Miracle Crop
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Miracle Crop

Ark. producer Brian McDaniel survived record flood, replanted cotton and hopes to make a good crop

By Tommy Horton
Editor
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About two and a half months ago, Arkansas cotton producer Brian McDaniel figured he was experiencing his worst nightmare. Nearly 5,000 acres on his family’s farm were being methodically overwhelmed by flood waters from the St. Francis River.

Had the floods not occurred, Brian and his father John were hoping to plant 3,700 acres of cotton and the rest in soybeans. The overall profit potential was excellent.

Then came the floods in mid-May, and it was immediately evident that this was no ordinary flood – if such an event is possible. It was a downstream effect of the raging Mississippi River, which was engulfing huge amounts of valuable farm acreage from Missouri to Louisiana.

Brian always knew there was a flood risk on bottomland acreage near a levee, and he had dealt with plenty of small floods through the years.

Nothing, however, prepared him or his father for what they saw in mid-and late-May. It was mind boggling to view the enormity of the flooded parts of their farm.

Then, when the Army Corps of Engineers reported that the floodwaters would recede quickly in early June, the 30-year-old fifth-generation farmer swung into action.

Replanting Same Varieties

After doing non-stop land preparation work, Brian began to replant three varieties – ST 5458B2RF, DP 0912 B2RF and Americot 1550 B2RF.

“We knew that DP 0912 and Americot 1550 were faster maturing varieties,” says McDaniel. “That’s why we stayed with them and avoided any late-maturing ones.”

Even though a majority of the farm’s cotton acreage is irrigated, timely rains were needed to get the crop off to a good start. That is exactly what happened, and the replanted cotton progressed quickly.

“Had we not received two good rains in June and July, we would  have been in bad shape,” says Brian. “The cotton would have been too small to water it down the row.”

After the cotton was replanted, the residual herbicides were put out just as they were the first time. But until the first timely rain came along, the herbicides weren’t activated immediately. That has caused some resistant pigweed outbreaks.

Brian, however, has remained vigilant about putting chopping crews into the fields to remove the weeds as quickly as possible.

Despite the pressure to get the re-planted cotton up and growing, the McDaniel family felt that it was worth the effort. By mid-July, the replanted fields had made remarkable progress and already resemble some early planted fields that weren’t damaged by floods in May.

“If this cotton runs into problems later on, I still think we can get a bale and a half out of it,” says Brian. “It was worth the effort if we get that kind of yield. If we have a good August and September, the yields will be bigger.”

Never Quit On Cotton

Consultant Blake Foust, who has worked with the McDaniels for nine years, says some farmers might have given up on replanting a crop after such a devastating flood. But he also knew that if any farmer could quickly  implement a plan, it would be Brian McDaniel and his father.

“They don’t drag their feet on anything,” he says. “That’s the key to their success. If they need to replant, they replant. If they need to turn on the irrigation pivots, they turn them on. They are in constant motion.”

Foust knows that other factors will be crucial to finishing out this late crop. If the weather somehow cooperates, this miracle crop will be one to remember.

“I still think we can make this happen,” says Foust. “We have a great chance if the weather is good.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.


It Was A Flood That Mid-South Farmers Won’t Soon Forget

As weather events go, the Mississippi River flood of 2011 was one for the record books. It affected cotton producers in Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. However, the impact in eastern Arkansas was significant because tributaries that feed into the Mississippi River overflowed, causing backwater to inundate farm acreage.

How Did McDaniel Farm Survive The Flood?

• Developed a workable plan for replanting.
• Got into fields as soon as possible.
• Did extensive land preparation.
• Replanted early-maturing varieties.
• Continued residual herbicide program.
• Monitored heat unit accumulation.
• Watched for pigweed outbreaks.

One of the major flood areas was along the St. Francis River where Brian and John McDaniel had large amounts of cotton and soybean acreage. After they planted their crops in late April and early May, they were hoping the floods wouldn’t affect their farm located in Widener, just east of Forrest City, Ark. In a matter of days, however, the situation became worse.

“There were times when I felt like throwing up my hands and calling it quits,” says Brian. “But quitting wasn’t an option. We’re farmers, and we weren’t raised like that. If there was a chance to get back into those fields, we were going to give it a shot.”

Consultant Blake Foust says another reason why the McDaniel family and other producers were so aggressive about replanting their crops is because much of the 2011 crop was forward contracted. With record high prices for cotton in 2011, most producers decided to book their cotton early.

“The floods definitely caught everybody by surprise, and many farmers had to plant later than they thought they could,” he says. “However, they realized that even with lower yields, they had to keep adding acres to fill the bookings.”

Arkansas Extension cotton specialist Tom Barber has watched the situation unfold for the McDaniel farm from the dark days of May to the present. He is hopeful for warm temperatures this fall.

“If this crop can get enough heat units and produce yields of around 850 or 900 pounds, it would be absolutely awesome for the McDaniel family,” he says. “We’re not there yet, and we need the necessary heat units in August and September. Then, we need a dry fall season. However, It would be quite an accomplishment if this late crop somehow delivers for them.”

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