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Agronomic Services — News Release

FRIDAY, FEB. 6, 2004

J. Kent Messick
Field Services Section Chief, Agronomic Division
(919) 733-2655

Agronomic services help dairy stay in business

WAYNESVILLE—More than 20 years ago, there were 35 dairy farms in Haywood County. Today there are only eight. Dean Ross, owner of Ross Dairy, attributes the industry's decline to the high cost of real estate, the low price received for milk, and increasingly burdensome regulations.

"In the Asheville area, local dairies have to compete with out-of-state dairies that have fewer environmental restrictions," Ross said.

"With all the obstacles we face, we can't afford not to do a good job. We have to produce as much feed as possible on a limited number of acres. I rely heavily on the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services—especially the soil testing service and my local regional agronomist Bill Yarborough."

To maintain his milking herd, Ross keeps about 500 cattle. Feeding them requires 160 or more acres of corn silage doublecropped with wheat. Because land in western counties is at a premium due to development pressure, yields must be maximized to reduce the need to purchase additional feed from other sources. For advice, Ross often turns to Yarborough.

Three years ago, Ross decided he could increase corn silage production on land he farmed by planting his crop in 20-inch rows instead of 30-inch rows. He knew a switch like that would involve a change in fertilization and seeding practices. He called on Yarborough to guide him through it.

Ross and Yarborough visited and worked out the details—taking soil samples, calibrating the planter, and adjusting the rate of fertilizer based on a higher yield expectation. The fertilizer rate recommended on the NCDA&CS soil test report is a range, not an exact number. Farmers must consider many factors, including management practices, land capability and production costs, before deciding on the most appropriate agronomic rate for their situation.

The collaboration paid off. Yarborough helped Ross adjust his nitrogen rates from the amount needed on a broadcast basis to the amount required per linear foot of row. He considered this method more accurate due to the change in row spacing and the fact that Ross was applying nitrogen by injecting it beside the row. This year Ross harvested about 40 tons per acre of silage on 20-inch rows, about 10 tons per acre more than he used to harvest on 30-inch rows.

"I appreciate the good working relationship I have with Bill," Ross said. "I can always count on the information I get from him. Without his help, I'd be at a disadvantage."

The NCDA&CS Agronomic Division’s Field Services section offers advice and assistance in all aspects of crop nutrient management and agronomic testing, including soil testing, nematode assay, and plant, waste or solution analysis. Growers in Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain or Yancey counties can contact Bill Yarborough at (828) 456-3943 or by e-mail at Growers in other N.C. counties who would like advice on crop nutrition can visit the Web site or contact Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655 for the name of their local regional agronomist.


Last Update August 1, 2007


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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