When Chris Porter’s ancestors came to the area around Matthews in the Missouri Bootheel a number of years ago, they couldn’t have foreseen what a fortuitous decision that would be for their descendants.
Not only did they choose land in what would become one of the prime soybean-growing regions of the country, but they located in an area that would attract a seed production facility for one of the major ag companies.
Thus when Asgrow brand Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans were commercially introduced this season, Chris Porter was no stranger to the products, having grown them for several years as one of a relatively small number of growers who work closely with weed scientists and plant breeders at Monsanto’s Asgrow seed production facility near Matthews.
“I was one of the first — and a handful of others through the Ground Breakers Field Trials Under Permit — to grow these soybeans when they came out five years ago. We’re all close to their plant here at Matthews, so they don’t have to travel very far. There are willing participants here with plenty of acres.”
Thus, Porter has had a good look at these Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans: How they respond to conditions in the upper Mid-South; how they yield; how to control weeds in them; and how they respond to irrigation.
High Yield Potential
“Last year was the best year I’ve had growing those beans,” he says. “They do just fine — there’s definitely no yield loss like we saw with Roundup Ready beans years ago, and with LibertyLink soybeans. I definitely don’t see that with Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Xtend beans.” Porter says he’s pleased with the 63-bushel per acre average yield these soybeans achieved this season.
Porter says he likes to plant these soybeans about the time he plants cotton, around May 10. He planted about 1,000 of the 4,000 acres he farmed in 2016 in these soybeans, with the rest of the acreage in cotton, corn, rice, and grain sorghum.
Porter laughs at a comment that his soybean fields are more than a “test plot” for Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. “No, no — although we have one farm that is very close to their plant, and we put 38 products there last year. But, as far as everything else, I usually try to grow big acres for them. That farm is literally within four miles of their plant, so they can access it very easily.
“You should have seen that field. It was like it had racing stripes down it (because of the different colors of the soybean products.) I think there were four-acre patches all the way across this 150-acre field, and each one was a different color or at a different stage.”
Porter says he feels very fortunate to be able to participate as an Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Xtend seed production grower.
“As long as I’ve been in the program, we’ve got a good acreage going. With my rotation I can have about 1,000 acres of those beans growing every year.”
He began farming in spring 1998 after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia in December 1997. “I grew up farming with my dad and my grandfather, so I’ve been farming for as long as I can remember.”
Management Critically Important
Porter and his father farmed together until 2007, when his father passed away. Since then, he’s been on his own, working with a group of employees, some of whom also worked for his father and grandfather.
That makes time management critically important. The day he was interviewed for this article he was preparing to defoliate more cotton and finish cutting rice. To make farms like his work, he says, it’s necessary to start clean with a burndown and stay clean.
“There are days when it really weighs on you,” he says, referring to being the sole proprietor of Chris Porter Farms. “I have farmed more acres (than the current 4,000); when my dad passed away, we were farming more than 5,000 acres. Then I backed down to about half that, and have steadily worked my way back to where I am now.
“But it seems like we micro-manage a lot more now than we did 10 years ago. For a long time, I said I thought I could have farmed that 5,500 acres easier than the way I micro-manage 4,000 acres now. You just adapt, and you go on.”
Cotton is a labor-intensive crop, he notes, “but it seems we manage everything that way now. We used to just go out and plant soybeans, and then didn’t worry about them. We sprayed them once or twice, and if it got really hot and dry, we watered them. Now, soybeans are a money-maker — just like our other big crops.”
Uniform Crop In 2016
Soybeans he planted in 2016 “were as uniform a crop as I have ever seen,” Porter says. “Conditions were ideal; we had plenty of moisture. We hadn’t gotten into anything dry. It was as ideal a spring as I’ve had in a while.”
He rotates cotton and corn, “So I let last year’s fertilizer carry into the next year. I generally don’t fertilize beans. I put down chicken litter, and if the soil test calls for something to be added, we will do that.”
For Porter, the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System is not a silver bullet. “It’s an extra tool (pending regulatory approvals) but residuals are still our key component. If you ever get behind with pigweed, you’re done, and dicamba won’t save you.
“Ideally, we would control them at 4 inches, which is what the experts say. You’ve always got to be applying residuals.”
Dicamba may not yet be approved for commercial in-crop use in your state with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. Monsanto’s XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, a low-volatility dicamba herbicide for in-crop use with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, received EPA approval in November.
Irrigation As Needed
All of Porter’s soybeans are furrow-irrigated, and they received a fungicide-insecticide application of 14 ounces of Approach Prima and 4 ounces of Prevathon per acre in 2016 since they were being grown as seed beans for Asgrow.
He watered four times in his furrow-irrigated field and five times in a field that is pivot irrigated because it was on sandy ground. “It seemed like every time we irrigated we would get a small rain, so conditions remained favorable.”
As he concluded the interview, Porter said he had visited one of the Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean fields that morning to check on its progress. “I realized it could be ready in the next few days, so I’ve got to hurry up and finish cutting rice so we can start on soybeans. It seems like it’s go, go, go all the time.”