After a Productive 2023, Farm Families are Hoping for More of the Same This Year - Kentucky Farm Bureau

After a Productive 2023, Farm Families are Hoping for More of the Same This Year

Posted on Apr 1, 2024

Wally Taylor is planning for the upcoming planting season like so many farmers across the state. If all goes according to those plans, he will plant about 2,000 acres of corn and 1,950 acres of soybeans on his Daviess County operation.

"This is a family farm that originated here in Daviess County and I'm the fourth generation and we have some of the fifth generation working on the farm, as well," he said. "It's me, my brother, and my cousin who are partners. Our dads were originally the Taylor Brothers Farms, and then when they retired, we took over as Triple T Farms."

Tradition runs deep in the Taylor family, as it does for so many farm families everywhere. And it is that heritage on the farm that keeps agriculture moving forward, even when challenges arise.

“We had some good yields last year and could have had better but we had a hailstorm come through the last few days of June, about the time some of our early corn was tasseling,” Taylor said. “It was a terrible hailstorm, the worst I had ever seen and we had a yield reduction on some of our corn at harvest. But later in October, we had another hailstorm come through just as bad, and it took the same pattern as that first as we had just started thrashing beans. And that hail just shattered our beans."

While Taylor's corn crop was spared a lot of damage, the soybean crop took a harder hit. But there were some bright spots.

“We farm about 700 acres in Ohio County and luckily didn't have any hail up there and had a good bean crop,” he said. “But it was an unusual year just because of the two hailstorms.”

Being at the mercy of Mother Nature is a challenge all farmers face each year and 2024 may turn out to be no different.

Jerry Brotzge, Kentucky State Climatologist and Director of the Kentucky Climate Center and Kentucky Mesonet said our weather pattern is shifting.

"At the climate scale, we are transitioning from an El Nino to a La Nina pattern, with a La Nina pattern expected by summer," he said. "For Kentucky, a La Nina pattern means greater chances for more unsettled weather, meaning a slightly greater chance for severe weather. Impacts on spring/summer precipitation are less correlated during this transitional phase; however, once in a La Nina pattern, we typically see average to slightly above precipitation.”

Right now, the state is experiencing rather dry conditions with many streams running below-average across the state, especially across far western and south-central Kentucky, noted Brotzge. 

“However, the official NOAA outlooks are positive in this regard,” he added. “The one-month (April) outlook shows above-normal precipitation for the 2/3 southern portion of the state, and the three-month outlook (April-June) with the entirety of the state in above-normal precipitation.”

Looking out even further into the year, Brotzge said as we head into fall, official forecasts show (the state) with an equal chance for wet-dry weather, with models tending to favor above-normal precipitation chances heading into next winter (possibly as a result of the expected La Nina pattern).

For Taylor, he said it is always good to see spring roll around.

"Getting started on planting makes you feel good, but the prices are not where they need to be," he said. "We've got plenty of grain out there and markets are showing it, so it's not very promising going in."

But Taylor, like so many other producers, continues a tradition that has been handed down for generations even with the chance of a growing season that may not be as profitable as hoped for and needed.

“Of course, you never can tell as volatile as the markets are, something might happen, and they may perk up,” he said.  “We’ll stick to the crop rotation and will plant about 80 percent of our corn in April, and then we won't plant any more corn until about the fourth week of May. And if things aren't looking really great, we just may skip the corn and plant it all in beans.”

As most farmers are eternal optimists, Taylor added that a positive thing going into the planting season is that the cost of fertilizer is less than it has been in the last two to three years.

“So, that's a little bright spot for our farm,” he said.

Chad Lee, University of Kentucky (UK) Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture Food and Environment Grain Crops Extension Specialist and Director of the UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence said he thinks this planting season will get off to a good start.

“We’ve had some good warmth and we recognize in Kentucky that we're always dependent on in-season rainfall to make a good summer crop for us, but, we should be off to a really good start, and that always makes you optimistic about where things are headed,” he said.

Last year, for the most part, Kentucky grain producers saw excellent crop yields due to rain events happening when needed but the odds of that repeating this year are not great.

However, Lee noted that it doesn't mean state producers won't be set up for another good year, especially with how technology has helped to boost production.

“I was talking to a farmer the other day who was going through numbers, seeing that over the last 30 years, corn yields have doubled, but fertilizer inputs have only gone up by about 10 percent,” he said. “What that means is, on a per bushel basis, we are extremely more efficient today than we were 30 years ago with a combination of genetics but also the management, and a better understanding of what inputs are needed. It's some of the crop protection chemicals that we have now that we didn't have before. It's precision placement of seed, precision placement of agrochemicals, and zone management that's taking place. All of those things have allowed farmers to gain tremendous efficiencies in their production systems.”

While corn and soybeans take the main stage this time of year, the success of the 2023 wheat crop brings this state to a new level, nationally, in wheat production.

"Wheat is probably one of the best-kept secrets that we do really well in this area,” Lee said. “Kentucky is a smaller state compared to some like the Great Plain states where they grow a lot of wheat. But our yields are very competitive. Especially when you factor in that a farmer here is harvesting wheat and then planting double crop beans in behind that as well."

Lee added that the state’s wheat crop is very profitable and productive, and probably one of the best things for our soils is taking wheat all the way to grain.

“It's a very good system for us, and we're fortunate that our farmers can do it and that we've got markets that will buy high-quality wheat right in the area,” he said. “Wheat for grain is the best ‘cover crop’ we have for our soils.”

Looking at this year, Lee said he feels that most farmers are going to maintain their crop rotation as best as they can.

“Right now, where we sit overall, on-farm profitability doesn't look as good for 2024, and I think growers are going to be paying attention to that and try to make determinations on what they need to have to make yield and what extra things they might cut out this year when the economics up front don't look as good,” he said. “I would suspect we'll see a little bit less effect of that on crop rotation, a little more effect of that on the input decisions that the farmer makes.”

Lee reminds producers that UK Extension agents are in every county and are ready to assist them in any way they can.


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