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Dry winter has farmers concerned about soil moisture

XtremeAg’s Matt Miles, Kelly Garrett and Kevin Matthews are getting ready to plant, but a wintertime drought gives them concerns about germination in dryer than usual soil. 


Matt Miles is a fourth-generation farmer in southeast Arkansas who grows corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton.

30 days! That’s how long it will be before we start another planting season here in southeast Arkansas. Seems like it was just yesterday that we were harvesting. I’m getting tired of talking about high fertilizer prices and input shortages, so I’m happy it’s finally time to talk some planting. We continue to push our planting window up each year on soybeans. Last year we started planting on March 16, and this year we’re hoping to get started on the last day of February. Of course, that will all depend on the weather forecast, but we have our plan in place if we get the opportunity.

Map of Arkansas drought conditions
Photo credit: U.S. drought monitor

We are a little concerned about how dry this winter has been. Our reservoirs that we use to surface irrigate are critically low right now. Normally, they would be overflowing with excess water at this time of the year. We could really use some good rains this month to get them back up to capacity.

Matt Miles farm in Arkansas in early February
Photo credit: XtremeAg

One exciting thing this week was we were able to work our delta pattern tile project field to get it closer to being prepared to plant. We were able to get into our fields with “sharkey” clay a week before we were able to get into our sandy ground. Normally we would be working our sandy ground first and then hitting the clay ground. This is a direct result of the tiling project we did with Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) on our clay ground this winter. It has been an eye-opener in terms of how tile can radically change the way we farm our poorly drained clay soils down here in the swamp. We are excited about what the future holds. Stay tuned as this project unfolds.


A fifth-generation farmer, Kelly Garrett farms corn, soybeans, and winter wheat in western Iowa.

Kelly Garret speaking on a panel in North Dakota
Photo credit: XtremeAg

I just got home from North Dakota where I was invited to speak on a panel about wheat growing with Chad Henderson, Lee Lubbers, and Jason Schley from Agronomy365. The panel was hosted by Hefty Seed Company and was a great opportunity to meet a great group of growers in attendance. Although it is not very far away from my home in Iowa, this trip was my first time ever in the state of North Dakota. I was a little concerned about taking a Southern farmer like Chad Henderson into the deep north during the heart of winter, but he was OK once he discovered he could snuggle up against the freezer to stay warm.

Cows in Iowa cover crops in early February 2022
Photo credit: XtremeAg

It has been a dry winter so far. Although it is a better time of the year to have a drought, I would like to see a little more moisture in the soil as we approach planting season. The cows probably have a different opinion as the lack of snow this year has allowed our cattle to continue grazing on the fall cover crops in our soybean fields. The quality and amount of feed still available in our fall cover crops is amazing at this point in the winter.

Map of Iowa drought conditions
Photo credit: U.S. drought monitor

We are working on our planters every day in the shop. We just pulled in another planter and are installing the SelectShot system on it. I am excited to see how this system performs, and how much money we can save with fertilizer prices the way they are.

Kelly Garrett in the shop working on his John Deere planter in February 2022
Photo credit: XtremeAg


Kevin and his wife, Cindy, own and operate Matthews Family Farms of North Carolina, Inc., Precision Nutrient Management, Inc., and Deep Creek Grain, Inc. in East Bend and Yadkinville.

Map of North Carolina drought conditions
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Our planter parts are finally showing up in the shop. All planter maintenance and repairs will be in full swing this week. We will be replacing all the row units on our DB planters, as it is a much more cost-efficient option than buying new planters. We are going with Precision Planting’s Furrow Force and Conceal on one planter and installing The Closer system from Integrated Ag Solutions on our other planter used for corn. It will be interesting to compare the performances of each system at planting and the results throughout the season. Our soybean planter will also get new hardware and continue another season with our Yetter 2×2×2 fertilizer placement and the Dawn closing wheels. I am excited about the member webinar this month featuring last year’s planting results and data that will be shared live.

New Holland sprayer with flotation tires in North Carolina
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We did get in the field this past week to do some top dressing of wheat and barley, applying just a small shot of nitrogen. The ground was frozen just enough to make our Trelleborg floaters perform well on the New Holland sprayer. In our no-till environment, it is very important to avoid making ruts in the ground.

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