Success Stories Diversity for Profit | Texas
October 16, 2007
Diversity for Profit
By Quenna Terry, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, Lubbock, Texas, 806-791-0581, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a good steward of the land may have a lot to do with possessing a positive attitude.
Wesley Spurlock, Stratford farmer and Texas Corn Producers board member, is a prime example of how positive thinking can lead to personal success in the farming industry.
Spurlock has a multi-generational family history of growing high-yielding, high-quality corn in the Texas Panhandle region. Spurlock began his farming career in 1980 after his father made him a partner in the business.
His farm, Spurlock Farms Too, is located southeast of Stratford, just north of Farm-to-Market Road 1573 in Sherman County. At this large agricultural operation, losses are considered past experiences. Spurlock and his family are forging ahead to make the best, better.
For them, it's all about the future and what they can do to make it more profitable from year to year, while at the same time, taking care of the land that provides for them.
Experiencing drought conditions for a number of years, they have refused to let the hard times discourage their hopes for future crops. "Farming, to me, is finding the economic benefit," says Spurlock. "Crop diversity and carrying out conservation practices are two of the most important components of my farming operation."
Currently, Spurlock rotates corn and cotton on half of the total farm acres. Additional commodities are grown and raised on this 10,000-acre enterprise and include triticale, sorghum, wheat, cattle, and native grasses.
This marks the second year Spurlock has incorporated cotton into the operation, primarily to offset some of the high energy costs. The conservation strategies performed depend upon the crop and the natural resources at hand. Some of their management strategies include strip-till or minimum till on their cotton, corn, and wheat crops.
"Growing cotton comes closest to conventional methods," Spurlock says. "Eventually we would like to develop a minimum till or strip-till program transition for all of our crops."
As Spurlock seeks to diversify using minimum and strip-tillage, his plan includes eliminating conventional farming methods to reduce runoff and prevent erosion, both from wind and water. Increased yields with less input, obtaining better soil infiltration, applying less irrigation and reducing labor costs are some of the many benefits they will accomplish in their overall crop management.
In working toward those goals, with the right conditions, no-till corn is planted into corn or wheat stubble and no-till fall wheat is planted into corn stubble from the previous year. Spurlock says, " good cover of wheat requires 60 pounds of seed per acre."
A strong fertility program is also an important factor of crop management at Spurlock Farms Too. Manure is applied over the top of wheat at a rate of 22 tons combined with liquid fertilizers. With the application of manure rather than petroleum-based fertilizers, energy and input saving strategies are working.
Spurlock Farms Too has been a cooperator of the Sherman County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) since 1988. Spurlock has consulted with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), working through the SWCD, from time to time about the implementation of the best management practices for his operation.
NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations Mickey Black says, "esley not only carries out excellent conservation on his land, but he is a conservation leader providing invaluable input on the NRCS State Technical Committee, chaired by Don Gohmert, NRCS Texas state conservationist."
A couple of years ago, Spurlock enrolled in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and completed irrigation water management practices by installing underground irrigation pipeline and two center pivot sprinklers.
The entire operation is planned and managed for the future. Irrigation is an especially crucial component as the farm is located directly over the Ogallala aquifer.
Spurlock applies irrigation using center pivot sprinklers with drop nozzle conversions, known as low-pressure in canopy. He utilizes 30-inch drops and 10-feet spacing to capture all of the water available. Spurlock prefers this method of application after years of experimenting to gain efficiencies for getting the water on the ground and directly to the plant. Spurlock's experience of managing and operating more than 40 center pivot sprinklers has led him to this conclusion.
"We make do with what we have and we understand its value," he said. "The water here is good and our efficiencies have improved while we continue to utilize it more effectively."
Spurlock considers irrigation the most critical factor in all of their planning and preparation from year to year because managing farmland in semi-arid conditions creates a five times greater risk for evaporation.
Soils are also an integral part of their scheme as they consider working on the sandy land and sandy loam textures at Spurlock Farms Too. "It's all highly erodible soils and our purpose for developing minimum till and strip-till practices is solely for wind erosion control, Spurlock says. By reducing tillage and leaving the residue on the surface, they are able to protect the soil and increase organic matter as it decomposes. The benefits of these practices are covering the erodible surface and building organic matter to increase soil fertility and water-holding capacity.
Spurlock maintains an interest in wildlife too. Milo, wheat, and native grasses on the farm attract a variety of species. Pheasants, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and antelope are plentiful on this High Plains farm. Field corners have been predominately wheat in the past, but are now being prepared to return to native grass stands.
Spurlock has incorporated rangeland sites into his operation too. These areas are being rested to rebound from dry conditions from past years. He says eventually he plans to restock the areas with cattle.
Spurlock's love for the land and experience in the agricultural industry has been an asset for the state of Texas. He has spent many years promoting and supporting agricultural producers.
His influence in conservation programs and practices has gone beyond the security of his land, as he has served as the liaison for the Texas Corn Producers Board (TCPB) to the state technical committee for planning appropriations for conservation programs.
In addition, Spurlock serves on the Production and Stewardship Action Team for National Corn Growers Association. Locally, he is on the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District Board and serves for other local organizations.
"Wesley gives freely of his time by representing producers on the Texas Corn Producers Board and Corn Producers Association Board,"says David Gibson, TCPB executive director. "He does an excellent job of serving producers both at the state and national levels. He's very conscientious of conservation issues for improving soil and water practices to maintain the quality of the land to ensure water for his family's farm in the future."
"Conservation is a large part of what we try to accomplish," Spurlock says. "When a program is available that will benefit our overall plan, we participate.
"The EQIP program is valuable to farmers because it provides assistance to complete what's needed, that might otherwise not get done. EQIP improves the economics through the work and value of the project,"he continued.
Spurlock's positive, can-do attitude is catching on. It's not only good for Spurlock Farms Too, it's good for Texas.