Local farmers getting prepared to irrigate corn

Friday, June 9, 2017

SIKESTON -- Even as spring rains continue to soak southeast Missouri, Sikeston area farmers are setting up to irrigate corn.

Corn is expensive to grow costing substantially more per acre than soybeans, and diminished market prices have prompted some area farmers to plant less corn and more soybeans as farmers adapt to the market.

The USDA projected a 1-million acre reduction in the number of corn acres planted nationwide this year. The University of Missouri Extension Services estimates that it costs about $400 per acre to grow irrigated corn, whereas soybeans cost about $200 per acre.

Though the corn price has rallied recently, the market price for corn has been low for a few years, prompting some farmers to plant less corn.

Of course, there are exceptions.

Sikeston area farmer Paul Schuchart said his farm will not reduce corn acreage this year.

"We factor in the importance of crop rotation on weed and pest control and the overall balance of nutrients in the soil, and so we continue to plant in accordance with a rotation schedule," Schuchart explained.

With corn, it'as important to keep its needs met, such as irrigation and fertilizer, to keep the stress levels as low as possible for optimal yields at harvest, said Schuchart, who farms just north of Sikeston.

"Last year, our yields were adversely affected because of a hot and dry June, which hurt corn pollination, followed by torrential rain in July that may have washed away the last application of fertilizer," said Schuchart.

Every field presents a unique set of circumstances, with a myriad of factors affecting yield.

"Planting date, seed selection, plant population, soil type, weather events, insect or disease pressure, to name a few, can affect the final yield," added Schuchart. But that's the life of a farmer, and farming has been always been a part of Schuchart's life.

A fourth-generation farmer, Schuchart continues to farm with his dad, Emil Schuchart, and brother, David Schuchart. Schuchart's great-grandfather moved to Morehouse from Eureka in the 1920s, and his grandfather acquired the farm which continues to be the family's farm headquarters.

Just a few miles down the road, Gabe Scherer, another fourth-generation farmer, operates large, modern equipment where his great-grandfather farmed with teams of mules.

Scherer's great-grandfather was one of the original Stoddard County farmers who transformed a swamp into a farm with the creation of the southeast Missouri's drainage ditches in the early 20th century. Scherer farms in Scott County as well as the land his great-grandfather drained in Stoddard County.

Scherer also rotates his crops regularly but said that he planted about 30 percent less corn this year because of the the high cost of growing corn.

"Soybeans are much less expensive to grow than corn, and the expected market price was such that we shifted our crop to grow less corn this year," Scherer said.

Supply and demand, with the reduction in this year's corn acreage may be causing the market to turn more favorable for farmers. Corn prices have inched up recently.

Still, predicting the futures market accurately is considered impossible in the global market with so many deciding factors.

Schuchart and Scherer said they're both in farming for the long haul and have accepted the ups and downs.

"Farming is always a gamble and every year seems to present a new challenge," Schuchart said.

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