Innovations in the Field

Sponsored by BASF

Welcome to the 2019 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic practices to enhance their return on investment and profit potential. Check back each week as the farmers share their experiences and crop management decisions throughout the growing season.

Wild Year, Typical Year

Tennessee farmer experiences the highs and lows of the 2019 growing season.

Progressive Farmer image by John Borge

Last spring's early rains and flooding cost Wally Childress 200 acres of wheat and backed up planting so late he didn't get any rice planted. He had to leave 100 acres unplanted. Yet, the Bogota, Tennessee, farmer says this will end up being a really good crop year.

How good? When we caught up with Wally during this fall's corn and soybean harvest, he had seen enough to know his soybean, corn and cotton crops would all yield above average.


While the wet weather got the season off on a bad foot, he says once crops got planted, the rain was a benefit. About half of the 6,000 acres he farms is irrigated, and most fields went the whole growing season without using the irrigation pivots -- a big savings for Childress.

The monthlong delay in planting was also a concern. Would it push harvest of his several crops into each other? But then in late August, Mother Nature shut off the rain and turned up the heat. The higher temperatures delivered needed heat units to the late crop. "By mid-September, crops were only 2 weeks late," says Childress. "And we were hauling corn out of the fields at 15%-15.5% moisture."


The early spring rains threw a wrench in Childress' weed control plans. Soggy fields kept him from applying the residual herbicides he had planned. "Everything piled on our spraying," he recalls. "We'd go out to spray. Then it would rain. We'd have to wait. We had to run our floaters later in the season to get over the ground because it was so soft.

"It would have been a weed disaster if we hadn't had dicamba to control pigweed in our late-planted soybeans," he says. "That saved us."


Southern rust was the top corn disease concern this year. Childress routinely sprays his corn with Priaxor® fungicide, both for protection against fungal diseases such as southern rust, but also for its plant health benefit. "We need strong healthy corn plants so they'll keep standing."

Keeping corn from lodging is important everywhere, but especially for Delta farmers. "We're so diverse in their crop mix, corn is the crop we need to stand," explains Wes Rodgers, BASF Innovation Specialist for the area. "That's because when soybeans are ready, or the cotton's ready, we can't wait to harvest those crops. They don't wait on us. But corn can, and it needs to be able to stand until we can get to it."

Childress has been protecting his corn, soybeans and wheat with Priaxor fungicide and likes its performance. However, he's always open to trying new products but tests them first before using them on the whole farm, notes Rodgers.

This year, Rodgers worked with Childress to set up a field trial to test a new fungicide from BASF, Veltyma, in late-planted corn. Veltyma has the same plant health properties as Priaxor and Headline® but has a new fungicide active ingredient.

At press time, the field plot had not yet been harvested. However, Rodgers says the Veltyma treated corn, compared to the untreated, had "much greener plants, bigger leaves, more biomass and were just healthier plants all around."

Looking back at the year, Childress says, "It's been a long trying one, but every year we have something. In the end, it was just a typical year."