John Michael Parimuha knows that unlocking profits will take everything he’s got this year.
“You can only cut costs so much, but you have to find ways to save,” the Clarendon County, S.C. farmer says. “You still have to give the crop what it needs.”
Parimuha, 35, has always been a big believer in adapting the latest technology to both manage costs and build yields. He produces corn, cotton and soybeans on more than 3,000 acres near Manning, S.C.
This year he is planting a small portion of Deltapine DP 1553 B2XF, a new cotton variety that is tolerant to glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba. He wants to see how the new technology will perform on his dryland cotton acreage.
“I won’t be able to spray dicamba on this variety this year, but I want to see how it yields. I like to spread my risk over a number of different varieties. If you want to make money, you have to find varieties that perform,” Parimuha says.
For most of his acreage, he is turning to DP 1252 BR2F, DP 1555 B2RF and DP 1558 NR B2RF this year.
Parimuha is also using Field View and Delta Force technology to plant his corn, soybeans and cotton this year. He likes Delta Force because it is precise and allows him to control down force, resulting in more uniform seed placement. Parimuha says the technology allows for individual hydraulic control of the planter for individual row units. Field View allows him to apply variable rates to his seed population and also variable rating of nitrogen at planting.
“We variable rate our seed population based on soil types and whether the crop will be irrigated or non-irrigated. The better land gets more seed and the sandier land gets less seed. We variable rate it all. Delta Force controls how much down pressure there is on the hopper,” he says. “We control it by the pound; we can set it by 25 pounds or 30 pounds. No matter the field condition, the hydraulic cylinder will control our down pressure.”
Parimuha says the use of this technology will save him money this year because he won’t plant more seeds than needed. “Like anything new technology, there are some growing pains along the way, but I think it will work for us,” he adds.
A good fertility program is critical and Parimuha says he will give the crop the nutrients it needs, but to save cash he plans to forego grid sampling and soil testing this year. He says he will return to both next year.
“I have been using grid sampling on two acre grids, but not this year. I need to save money and I’ve been doing it for 10 years, so I figured I am good and limed up this year,” he explains. “But I do like grid sampling because it takes advantage of the problem spots you have in the field. You can put the lime where it’s needed instead of putting a blanket rate across the crop.”
It all boils down to applying inputs where they are needed.
“If you apply fertilizer when it’s not needed, it costs you money. It’s a lot easier to fertilize and a lot easier to manage when prices are high. It takes a sharp pencil to figure things out when prices are low. The price of fertilizer is high and will continue to be high. You have to find ways to get the costs of inputs down.”
Through it all, good judgment is critical.
“You have to manage your own farm and know what your yield potential is. You must know what your expectations are and don’t live in a fairy tale land. If your land can only make 100 bushels of corn per acre then you don’t need to fertilize it for 150 bushels per acre.”
Mixed operation critical to profits
Parimuha is hopeful that he will get top yields on his cotton, corn and soybeans this year. “You have to make the yield in these low price years,” he points out.
Last year, he made two bales per acre on his cotton crop. Three years ago, Parimuha averaged 135 bushels per acre on 1,600 acres of corn. “Two years ago, we had the best corn crop ever on this farm. We made 155 bushels per acre average across 2,000 acres of corn. We were shooting for that last year and it would have been that good, but we were hit by hail and only made 115 bushels. I don’t like to think about last year.” He’s hoping for another bumper crop this year.
For soybeans, he averaged 55 bushels per acre on 350 acres of irrigated land and 400 acres of dryland beans. He’s shooting for the same average this year.
Parimuha likes to irrigate his corn to achieve maximum yield, but he doesn’t irrigate his cotton land. “The last few years, we’ve planted all dryland cotton. It takes the hot and dry weather a lot better than the other crops. I make as good a yield on my dry land as on irrigated land.”
Parimuha enjoys working with cotton and plans to stick with it, despite the low prices. He says it is a critical part of his crop mix.
“I’m going to keep planting cotton. I’m not giving it up. You have to look at the big picture. You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. I try to spread the risk around as much as I can. I don’t want crop price to be the sole dictate of my crop mix, rotation is also a factor to consider.”
Parimuha will plant less cotton this year due to the low price. Last year, he planted 900 acres of cotton; this year, he’s planting 700 acres. He is planting 900 acres of corn and 1200 acres of soybeans this year.
“We’re talking about $10 soybeans at an average of 35 bushels per acre. That’s a heck a lot more attractive to me than 1,000 pound cotton at 60 cents. And you can’t make any money on $4.50 bushel corn.”
Even in the low-price years, Parimuha says he is committed to farming. He started farming with his mother, Vikki Brogdon, in 2000 and says it’s what he’s always wanted to do. Today, he manages Brogdon Family Farms in partnership with his mother.
“It’s great because your office is a turn row. You can set your own schedule and take time off when you need to and I really love the challenge of it all. Every day is different and that makes it fun,” Parimuha says.
Zack Webb, Parimuha’s Monsanto agronomist, says the young farmer is well known for his passion and attention to detail.
“You can sense John Michael’s passion and enthusiasm when you step on his farm. He takes care of what needs to be done and is on top of his fertility and weed management programs,” Webb says.
Parimuha and his wife Laura have a son, Brogdon, age 12, and a daughter, Isabelle, age 10.