It seems to me that every year I hear myself or someone say something like “I can’t ever remember a year like this one” or “This has been a very non-typical year.” I don’t know if I even know what a normal or typical year is supposed to be. Producers face so many challenges every year, and most of the time those challenges are different year after year.
I have been involved in agricultural research for approximately 25 years. Just like all of you, I have seen some pretty amazing events that have changed agriculture significantly. It has to be one of the most exciting times in agriculture ever. Just in the last 25 years, our technology has allowed us the capabilities to plant with precision, spray herbicides that would normally kill the crop and harvest these crops more efficiently than ever before. But, as we all know, there are a lot of things that have to happen in order for all of these things to fall into place.
Just as producers face challenges year after year, we in research also face these challenges. This year certainly was no exception. Toward the end of April we were receiving a lot of rainfall. The Mississippi River was approaching flood stage, and the high waters were making their way south toward Memphis. Agricenter is bordered on the south by the Wolf River, which flows into the Mississippi River. During late April, both were rising with all of the rains.
At Agricenter, we had about 8.29 inches of rainfall in three days. Some areas to the north and east of us received twice as much rain as we did. Our headquarters are located about 0.5 miles from the Wolf River. We were well informed on the possibility of the Wolf River rising.
We could see the water beginning to come in to some of our fields that morning. We usually have corn planted by this time, but we had been delayed due to wet conditions. This sight wasn’t really that unusual because we had seen the river out of its banks just last year when it got to 24.02 feet. Last year, the flood water reached our equipment shed, but that was about it. This year was a little bit different. The water reached last year’s level, but then it kept on coming.
We started to scramble around and move equipment to higher ground. We keep a lot of small plot research equipment in that shed, and we quickly started to move it to higher ground. The water kept on coming and was eventually at the door of our shop. We keep most all of our chemicals and seed in the shop. Being late April with hardly anything planted, we had a lot of chemical and seed to move out.
We eventually got everything off the floor in the shop and moved it up on the hill at Agricenter headquarters. The water kept on coming and eventually got to just less than 28 feet, which is about eight feet above flood stage. We had two feet of water inside the shop and in our offices.
Thankfully, we were able to react and moved most everything to higher ground. We were luckier than some along the Mississippi River this year. The water receded in just a few days at Agricenter, and we spent many hours clearing the fields of debris and trash. The inside of our shop and office had mud and debris two feet up on the wall. However, once we threw away all of the old files and papers from previous years, the shop and office were cleaner than they had been in years.
Somehow, producers in our area seem to overcome the challenges they face every year. At Agricenter this year, with all of the challenges that we faced, we are on track to make it through another year. On a side note, we have two of our farm employees who have been deployed overseas for 18 months. We would like to wish them and all of the men and women serving our country a speedy and safe return.
Maybe next year will be a normal year!
– Bruce Kirksey, Memphis, Tenn.