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'Million-dollar rain' brings relief to Iowa, Arkansas, and North Carolina crops

XtremeAg farmers Kelly Garrett, Matt Miles and Kevin Matthews receive a break from the hot and dry summer with life-saving rains.


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

We started all our Netafim drip irrigation systems last week for the first time this year. We had a few minor startup problems with some of the pumps, but Kurt Grimm and the people at NutraDrip were able get things going with a few tweaks.

A dark green field of corn growing on a July summer day
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We irrigate with our drip, but perhaps more importantly, we use it to fertigate our crops at the root zone. The ability to get nutrients directly to the plant in a matter of hours with just the flip of a switch has proven to be a key component to driving high yields.

We are conducting a few interesting trials this year, including one with NutraDrip, Agricen, Netafim and Iowa State University. We are trying to determine if delivering stress mitigation products through the rootzone will have the same effect as a foliar application. If we determine that we can effectively reduce crop stress using our drip irrigation systems, it would be a game changer for us.

Map of Iowa precipitation
Photo credit: Iowa Environmental Mesonet

It’s been hot and dry for the last few weeks and our dryland acres have been showing stress. Luckily, we received close to an inch of rain over the weekend. Another million-dollar rain at the right time.


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

We always talk about the “million-dollar rain.” We had 100% of our irrigation pumps turned on Sunday when we received anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain. It made me think about what the real value of that rain is with the price of diesel as high as it is.

Map of Arkansas precipitation
Photo credit: Iowa Environmental Mesonet

So, I did some calculations on the cost of electric and diesel and used data from previous years to determine that we spend around $51,000 per day to run our irrigation pumps. This doesn’t include labor cost (which is very intensive with in-furrow irrigation), or the wear and tear on the equipment. If you figure that our corn and beans are both using about 1/3 inch of water per day at this stage, then it is safe to say that the rain we had saved us a minimum of $100,000 for the 2 days that we did not need to pump.

A child with a sunhat gives a thumbs up standing in an irrigated field of soybeans in Arkansas on a July day
Photo credit: XtremeAg

Our corn is now at the R3 stage and all our beans except the double crop beans are at R5 with our February beans being a little ahead at R6. We are hoping to terminate irrigation on the February beans by the middle of next week with the chance of harvesting them in July. It might sound crazy, but we are thinking about trying to plant corn behind those harvested beans. Stay tuned.

Arkansas farmer Matt Miles holds a soybean pod up to the sun
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.

We received some much-needed rain over the last few days. Coverage was spotty with a few areas missing out, but it was a life saver for most of our fields as it has been hot and dry here for the last month.

Map of North Carolina precipitation
Photo credit: Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Our corn is starting to pollinate so we are hoping for cooler weather and some more frequent rains over the next month. We are putting out our Veltyma fungicide later this week as we are starting to see some signs of gray leaf spot low in in the canopy. We farm in a high disease pressure environment, so not a year goes by where we are not fighting off something.

Corn plant growing in North Carolina with gray leaf spot
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We are tarting to conduct XtremeAg trials of some products from Spraytec that are designed to enhance movement of products into the plants through foliar applications. We are in the second half of the season, and we are now focusing on repairing drought stress on the crop. We have seen a lot of success with products like Finish Line from Nachurs to mitigate any stress damage and give the crop enough of a boost to get it to the end of the season.  

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