Play the latest episode:

[SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST]

podcast.jpg

Brought to you by:

Yetter Farm Equipment logo

 

Adam Chappell is moderately busy these days.

The fifth-generation Arkansas farmer and recipient of the 2022 Responsible Nutrient Management Award at the National No-Tillage Conference was working on getting his planters ready for work when he sat down for this interview. Elsewhere in Arkansas, fields were being burned and plows and chisels were making the rounds ahead of planting season. It was a stark contrast between conventional tillage and no-tillage.

Chappell began using no-till within the last decade, and no longer uses synthetic phosphorus or potassium at all. While Chappell, who holds a degree in entomology from the University of Arkansas — Fayetteville, benefits from a relatively mild southern climate, he says his system of covers, no-till, and mulch potentially has lessons for growers in frostier regions. His latest push is seeking lower seed populations against constant yield.

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment, Chappell, joins us to talk about how he got into no-till, what methods he employs, what he sees for the future, and more.

google-play.jpg
stitcher.jpg
Spotify
tunein.jpg
 
Yetter Farm Equipment

No-Till Farmer's podcast series is brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment.

More from this series

Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment you need to face today’s production agriculture demands. The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different planting conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement, and products that meet harvest-time challenges. Yetter delivers a return on investment and equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them at yetterco.com.

 

Full Transcript

Brian O'Connor:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Podcast brought to you today by Yetter Farm Equipment. I'm Brian O'Connor, lead content editor for No-Till Farmer. I encourage you to subscribe to this series, which is available in iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher Radio and Tune-In Radio. Subscribing will either receive an alert about new episodes when they are released. I'd like to take a moment to thank Yetter Farm Equipment for sponsoring today's episode. Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment that you need to face today's production agriculture demands.

Brian O'Connor:

The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement and products that meet harvest time challenges. Yetter delivers a return on investment, an equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them @yetterco.com that's Y-E-T-T-E-R-C-O.com. Adam Chapel is moderately busy these days, the fifth generation Arkansas farmer and winner of the 2022 Responsible Nutrient Management Award was working on getting his planners ready for work when he sat down for this interview. Elsewhere in Arkansas and Louisiana, fields are being burned and tills were making the round ahead of the planting season.

Brian O'Connor:

It was a stark contrast between conventional and no tillage. Chapel began and using no-till within the last decade and no longer uses synthetic phosphorus or potassium at all. While Chapel, who holds a degree in entomology from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville, benefits from relatively mild southern climate, he says his system of covers no-till and mulch potentially has less interest regards in frostier regions. His latest push is seeking lower seed populations against constant yield. For this episode of the No-Till Farmer Podcast brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment. Chapel joins us to talk about how he got into no-till, what methods he employs, what he sees for the future and more. So where are you guys at right now in the annual cycle of the farm?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah, so we're just basically getting geared up for planting. We're working on planting equipment and doing machinery maintenance. So we really don't have any field work to do so we're as much no-till as we can be. So we're just getting ready to start putting some burn down out and planting.

Brian O'Connor:

For burn down, what do you use?

Adam Chapel:

Obviously glyphosate and then we'll add some kind of Oxy to it, maybe 24D or Dica or something like that to help with the broad leaves, but that's about it. And then pre-plant, we'll use light rate of Gramoxone and then whatever Pree emerges we're going to use.

Brian O'Connor:

How have the prices been? Have you been able to get all the chemicals that you need or the herbicide beans?

Adam Chapel:

So far the supplies have been okay. The prices are 40 to 50% more. Yeah. They're quite a bit higher than they were last year. So some things have doubled or even more than that, so it's going to be tough making that budget come out.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. How does that affect? Are you anticipating higher price points on the selling end as well, to help offset this at all or?

Adam Chapel:

So we have been booking in these rallies here, we've gotten some, some really good commodity prices locked in, but we don't lock in 100% of our production because if we have a failure or something, the market goes the other way, we're going to be exposed there. So we've done the best we can to lock in, to try to cover our costs.

Brian O'Connor:

Now, when you say lock in, that means you have signed a contract for deliverables. And so if you have a failure, then you're liable, right?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Right.

Brian O'Connor:

Okay.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Sorry if that's a stupid, rude question.

Adam Chapel:

No, no, no. It happens too. I mean, we've been caught before. Luckily the times that we haven't been able to fill a contract, we were on the good side of the market, so we didn't end anything or owe anything, excuse me. But at the levels we're pricing at right now if they go down, they can go down a long ways and you could be on the hook for quite a bit.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. It seems like there's a lot of volatility. We had a pull on no-till farmer, specifically focused on wheat because that's related to the Ukrainian news. And we had about a mixed response to my recollection, a majority of guys saying, "Oh yeah, we're going to plant more wheat because the prices are going up." But we also had a fair number of guys that said, "We're going to plant less because..."

Adam Chapel:

Inputs are going up. Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Inputs are going up. And also volatility means more exposure essentially. So more risk.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Well, there's definitely a lot more risk built in this year than there is normally. And there's plenty normally. So it's unnerving right now, but it is what it is. So it's what we do.

Brian O'Connor:

All right. Now what's your rotation?

Adam Chapel:

So we've got four primary crops that we grow. Cotton, corn, soybeans and rice. And some of our acres, we rotate all four of those on the same acres. So there'll be a four year time before each crop comes back and some of the heavier ground, we just do beans and rice, but we try to go abroad broad leaf then a grass and broadly and grass.

Brian O'Connor:

Okay. And for intents and purposes, I've been talking to farmers in Louisiana. That was part of my big trip down here. Rice counts as a grass, right?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Okay.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. We don't grow flooded rice.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Can you explain a little bit how the dry land system differs from the flooded?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah, so we just spur irrigate and down here that's a common term, but we just have furrows that we pull and run water down and we do that for every crop. So we've just started doing that with rice and people have been doing that around here for a while, but it's really working well for us. it suits our mixed soil type. We've got fields that'll have sandy spots and gummy spots. And when we try to hold a flood, the sandy ground, we just pumping, pumping, pumping. We're not getting anywhere. And then this spur irrigation works a lot better for us.

Brian O'Connor:

Okay. And take it from that you're irrigated and not dry land. Right?

Adam Chapel:

Right. Yeah. We're irrigated. Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

How many acres?

Adam Chapel:

So we'll have probably 2000 acres of rice this year and then 3,500 beans and 1500 corn. And then about 400 cotton. It's usually how we work.

Brian O'Connor:

So it doesn't sound like you're doing rice this year at all.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah, no, we'll have about 2000 acres of rice.

Brian O'Connor:

Oh, okay. All right. Wow.

Adam Chapel:

Yep. Yeah, it'll be that spur irrigated rice.

Brian O'Connor:

And I understand rice is a huge crop in Arkansas. Like you guys are the number one producers of rice in the country. Is this something that you inherited just from coming into the farm? Like how did you get into the rice?

Adam Chapel:

Yep. We've always grown rice. I mean, my grandpa did and dad did. And then when me and Seth took over we scaled our rice acres way back just because of the labor it requires for flooded rice and the difficulty we had holding floods here. But since we've transitioned to a spur rice and it's big in our rotation again which is really good for everything.

Brian O'Connor:

Got it. Now I spoke with Condo, I think at Jubilee Justice, your name came up there. I hadn't been expected. They were actually the ones that brought you up. They said, "Oh yeah, Adam Chapel is helping us with the..." Now they said, you're a little bit different than what they're doing because they're doing organic focused. But they name checked you as somebody who does the kind of rice that they hope they can implement. How'd you make that connection?

Adam Chapel:

Well, through meetings and stuff like this, but yeah. So we're not organic, but they're trying to get a regenerative label for things. And basically we just try to cut inputs as far as we can. We don't want to use a lot of water because water is an expense. It's a cheap expense here, but we don't want to waste it. And then fertilizers, we've eliminated all synthetic P&K. We still have to use some nitrogen sources, but we depend on the soil, the cycle, nutrients and have a composting operation that we use on the farm. So we try to source waste material gin trash, rice holes, salt dust, things like that. And we get some native micro biota out of our forest lots and stuff and make inoculum to break that stuff down. And we use that for our fertility source. It's taking somebody else's waste and making something good with it.

Brian O'Connor:

Is that something that you think is broadly applicable or is this something that you guys benefit from uniquely because of the confluence of operation?

Adam Chapel:

Well, I think that if you're willing to do the work, it's broadly applicable. I mean, there's feed stocks everywhere. I mean, in your cattle areas, you've got barn pack and stuff that they compost now, and I'm sure you can find a good carbon source somewhere, maybe dried distillers grains or something. I'm not familiar or with anything like that, but down here we've got rice hulls everywhere and we've got cotton gin trash everywhere and poultry litters everywhere, saw dust timber industry in Arkansas's big, so we have access to saw dust and all those things are once they're rotted back down or full of plant available nutrients, I mean, it's just really good stuff. Plus the biology that you're adding to the soil every time you apply that stuff is a big deal.

Brian O'Connor:

What do you do for soil testing in terms of how do you monitor the conditions that you're trying to accomplish?

Adam Chapel:

So our soil testing used to be really intense. I mean, we used to do grid samples and we'd do every other year. And we tried variable rate fertilizer and stuff. We really used to rely heavily on soil sampling, but we started just asking some hard questions and we don't do a lot of soil sampling anymore. We do some Haney testing and then we do some total nutrient digestions, but we don't do much mileage three or anything like that, unless it's for demonstration purposes. And how that came about is we were spending all this money on fertilizer P and K specifically. And we'd check our levels and they'd be optimum and high. They'd be good. And then we'd get this recommendation to put out P and K as a removal rate.

Adam Chapel:

Well, we'd do that, when we started not doing it also. And then we would take samples again and there wouldn't any difference toward where we put the removal rate, fertilizer supplement and no fertilizer. We did that two or three years in a row. And there wasn't ever any significant difference. I mean, there'd be a few pounds difference just, and that could be anywhere from being a foot apart. It didn't matter. You could get this different level out of the same hole. I've done that also. So we didn't see any significant difference where we've been spending the money where we hadn't. So as far as deplete in the soil or mine in the soil, we haven't seen that. And we still pull some just like I said, for demonstration purposes, just to reassure ourselves or a landlord or another farmer that's looking to cut inputs I mean. The soil testing in my system, it doesn't correlate, I guess.

Brian O'Connor:

One, and I would imagine too, it would be hard to justify the expense of that removal stuff if it's not seeing a clear benefit.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I would understand when I'm putting the removal rate, if those plots didn't go down, I mean, that would make sense. But then the other half of the field not going down also didn't make sense to me. Why it didn't down?

Brian O'Connor:

P and K are two of the essential macronutrients that we need. How do you reckon you got to a point where you don't have to apply them anymore? Was this cover crops or is the mulch handling it?

Adam Chapel:

Well we just started the compost and this is just our second year for that. So that's new. I think that the addition to cover crops and going as close to No-Till, as we can go has just ramped up our biology so much that we're getting cycling that we didn't used to get maybe. I'm not a sole scientist, so I don't have the answer for that, but there's definitely something going on. The only P and K that our crop oversees prior to compost, just a little sniff in our starter, and that's it. We hadn't put anything out. We stopped on a lot of the form in 15, and then we completely stopped in 16. So it's been going on years added P and K.

Brian O'Connor:

How did you get into No-Till and cover crops in the first place?

Adam Chapel:

So we were fighting pigweeds, which is huge down here, and we were going broke doing it.

Brian O'Connor:

Broken crazy probably too.

Adam Chapel:

Oh, yeah. Well, and just our herbicide bill just for pigweeds was huge. I mean, we just were them backwards. And I started looking at organic farms to see how they did it. And most everything I saw was bunch of tillage. Well, I knew every time we tilled, if we got a rain, we'd have a carpet of pigweeds again. So I knew that was out. I mean, we'd be doing it every day. So I stumbled on a guy in Pennsylvania growing pumpkins in cereal rye and he had a big huge tall grass called cereal rye and I didn't know what it was at the time. But man, he was rolling that stuff down and planting pumpkins in it and it was clean. I mean, it just looked great. So I started diving down that hole and got up 300 acres of cereal rye, all I can afford the first year. And we planted that and haven't looked back since, I mean.

Brian O'Connor:

You burn it down. So I would imagine you can't harvest it and use those seeds. How competitive is the cover crop seed market right now?

Adam Chapel:

So the cover crop seed market is real competitive, but cereal rye and things like that don't grow well in our environment. I don't know it's too humid or something. I don't know what it is, but tried to grow some of that seed. And I may get a year where I've got a 20 bushel yield and now knowing what I know now, that's pretty good, but a lot of years I'd get two or three bushels, so I just wouldn't even harvest it. It just doesn't make seed down here good. Our, climate's not good for it. And I have not found one that really does here. So I just leave the seed production to the other parts of the country that are good at it.

Brian O'Connor:

So have you tried other things besides cereal rye?

Adam Chapel:

Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well any number of grasses, we plant annual rye, cereal rye, triticale, black oats. We've planted just white oats. We've tried some spelt. And I'm sure I'm missing some more barley. We tried some barley. We're into broad leaves now, too. We use a lot of radish, and I really like it. We use some mustard sometimes and any number of the lagoons we just mix it up. We just started with just cereal rye, have evolved to a little bit of everything.

Brian O'Connor:

What kind of yields do you see as a result of this? Have they gone up?

Adam Chapel:

No, they hadn't really gone up, but they hadn't gone down either. we had a time where we were learning how to do this, when we had some problems. And it seems like everybody that gets into the cover crop and stuff does, and it's usually with corn, that's where we had it. We let our seed in ratios get out of whack before we planted corn. And of course we didn't know any better. Because we've been throwing soybeans and cereal rye there to doing great, never saw any troubles and then decided to do it with corn and got hit with that pretty good.

Adam Chapel:

But now that we know how to manage the CDN and termination timings and different things, we don't have any trouble with that anymore. But our yields we rent 95% of our ground. We don't own a whole lot. So our yields are competitive for our area. If they weren't they'd get somebody who would be making bigger yields. So that's always my credibility check. I know if I'm not competitive, I'm not going to be here. So our yields hadn't dipped. I mean, they hadn't gone up either, but our expenses have gone down so much that making the margins there instead of just paper thin.

Brian O'Connor:

Return on investment as opposed to overall yield, basically. Okay.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. When me and Seth were just getting started, we were typical, know it all young farmers. We wanted to make the biggest yields and we would put out anything that they told us would do that. And it doesn't take long to spin yourself into a hole doing at the promise of higher yields. And what we figured out is you're going to get whatever mother nature allows you to get. You're at the mercy of mother nature. So I've fertilized corn for 200 bushel corn, and I've made 240 and I've made 160 with same fertilizer regime. So just bought that tractor out there and had it wrong one them before.

Brian O'Connor:

Is it one of their new? Because they just won some kind of award, right?

Adam Chapel:

Yes. It's one of the new ones.

Brian O'Connor:

Oh, nice.

Adam Chapel:

It's a horse.

Brian O'Connor:

Can you take me through a little bit since it come up? What kind of informed that decision? Like how did you decide on that brand versus the others or?

Adam Chapel:

Well, basically hydraulic capacity is the biggest thing. I mean that tractor is got so much hydraulic capacity and these planters were running now. Take so much hydraulic flow. They were just gutting these tractors that we have these John Deeres, they just couldn't handle it. Whenever we'd pick that planter up, it took all the hydraulic demand just to pick that thing up. So the would slow down and we'd lose suction on our plates and then we'd have skips at the end until it picked back up. It's too big of a machine for the rigs we had. So that's why we looked at that brand there.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. What kind of planter do you use?

Adam Chapel:

We got a John Deere case, we got some great planes and then the one we do all our rice with is that harvest international.

Brian O'Connor:

The one that they're working on?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Okay.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. We rebuild them every winter. And we've been having trouble getting parts in, so we're just now finishing up. But we've got everything we need now, so we'll be ready to go by the end of the month, which is when we usually start planting.

Brian O'Connor:

That's good. There's some guys that ordered new planters for the season.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

They're in trouble.

Adam Chapel:

They're still waiting on it. Yep. Yeah. The place where I get parts for this one over in Carlisle and their lot's empty. Everything they had is sold and then everything that they ordered is not in yet. Yeah. Hopefully they'll get it there before planting season.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. So this is a family farm or family operation?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Can you explain a little bit how it came to be like how many generations that kind of?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Me and my brother are fourth generation here. So our great grandpa formed right up the road. And then our Papa dad's dad farmed here and dad farm with him and now me and Seth are doing it.

Brian O'Connor:

Were they around for the transition to No-Till? And what was the feedback that you got?

Adam Chapel:

Papa was already retired, but he still was over here a lot. And he just liked coming over and driving tractor, hanging out he didn't really care at that point. Just like being over here. And then dad was still farming then, and dad had always kind of liked No-Till. We just hadn't figured out how to do it in the south yet. Around here he would've been considered minimum till I guess, because we did pool beds and stuff every year but we didn't work everything down and float and we didn't tear it completely down. So we did as little as possible. But when we got into letting the cover crops get big, he got a little nervous because he didn't, I mean, because we were planting in six foot tall stuff.

Adam Chapel:

I mean, we had never done that before and it made him pretty nervous, but he retired not long after that. He'd had enough farming and just left it to us. But he still over here every day he was here this morning. He's gone to Carlisle to get some parts now. So he's still over here and involved. He just doesn't have to sign any notes or anything anymore. But he likes coming over here every day still. But now the transition was pretty smooth. I mean, like I said, with the corn, we had some yield hiccups there early on when we were trying to figure out how to plant corn into a high biomas thing. When we were learning that, that was a little touch and go. But after we figured it out, I mean...

Brian O'Connor:

And what fixed it for you?

Adam Chapel:

Well, so there's several ways that we've handled it. The most obvious and easiest one's termination timing. If you terminate early enough your carbon and nitrogen ratio never gets out of whack. So that's the easiest one. And if you don't have a lot of weed problems and stuff, that's okay. But we like to let our stuff get bigger. And so there's a couple ways we've been handling it. There's a guy I talked to in Tennessee, farmer over there, you probably know him, but he started doing chemical strips where he was going to plant and man that was super smart. He'd leave the middle's growing and just plant a strip where the corn or cottons going to go. So we started doing some of that. And then the other thing is we just front load some nitrogen a little bit to balance that CDN out. And really the only crop we got to do that on is corn. The rest of them.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. It's so nitrogen out. So do you guys use legumes at all as the cover to help?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. And that's another thing we do. We try to plant a more broad leaf, heavy mix ahead of corn to mitigate that from the jump but still grasses can really tiller and get prolific, so you got to stay on top of it. But yeah, I mean we've figured out how to handle it and every situation's different and we just manage it accordingly.

Brian O'Connor:

How are you managing nitrogen prices this year?

Adam Chapel:

Well inherently, we don't put out as much as we used to just because of the system we're in, we just don't have to. Like last year we made a lot of 200 to 240 bushel corn, which from my area it's pretty good. I know up in our states, they probably laugh at that, but down here that's pretty good. And we only had 180 units of total in on that. And our university recommendation from my soil type is 220 to make 200. So I think our nitrogen use efficiency and that system's a lot better than it used to be. And we've got a budget number in mind and we're going to try to stay under that and we're going to try to split our applications into smaller doses and spread the applications out some more to try to gain some more efficiency.

Brian O'Connor:

Wide drops or side dress or?

Adam Chapel:

We're going to do some dry product. We've got some wide drops we are going to use also.

Brian O'Connor:

This is the first time with wide drops? Because I've heard people either hate them or love them or they both love and hate them.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Well, we actually used them two years ago and we hadn't used them since and not because we didn't like them or anything. We just didn't feel the need to, I guess, I don't know it's just not something we do every year, but we hadn't used them again, just because we don't use a lot of liquid because it's time consuming. But we are planning on using them this year. So it just to spread our applications out more.

Brian O'Connor:

Well, and more precise means you can maybe save on the overall volume. So that seems to make sense.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. That's the thing, we're trying to cut our units down some more this year, just because of the price of everything. And we feel like if we increase our efficiency some more by placement and additional smaller applications then we can get away with this and still stay in our budget number we have in mind. Which is with the prices we're seeing right now on inputs is getting tougher all time. But we're still going to try to do that.

Brian O'Connor:

And the input prices were high before Ukraine in part because of Belarus, right? It's Northern neighbor. I mean to the extent that I know anything about it, that's what I remember reading.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. The fertilizer stuff started getting high last fall I think, maybe. I can't remember exactly when, but I remember it going up, but here lately it is really high. It's high enough to the point where I've considered changing rotation a little bit, but I just really don't want to do that. I feel like it's-

Brian O'Connor:

That's a huge decision to make, right?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. I feel like long term it's important enough to maintain our rotation rather than just try to dodge a input cost. It may not even be here in a month it may go down who knows? I don't know. Just try not to react emotionally but it's hard to do.

Brian O'Connor:

Speaking of at least tangentially in the chemicals or circle back to something, you guys use herbicide to burn down. Why that and not roller crimping? Is it just too much land for roller crimping?

Adam Chapel:

No, it's a timing thing. Cover crop's got to be a certain stage to be effectively crimped. And we can't wait until that's the case on everything to plant because of our harvest windows in the south. It's dry sometimes in the fall, but we get a lot of rain. So our harvest windows are tight. We can't wait on the ground to freeze to go harvest corn because it doesn't freeze. It's just going to be a slop hole. So we have to make our planting window match our harvest window, if that makes sense. So we can't wait for serrata to be at a stage where we can crimp and kill it. So we still have to rely on herbicides. But yeah. I mean we've tried crimping small stuff and it just comes right back. It just doesn't die.

Brian O'Connor:

Speaking of which, the frost state for Wisconsin where I live is April 28th, which is late in the year because we're so far north. Are we already past you guys frost date? In North Louisiana we were. That was to the day or before yesterday or something like that.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. After the last few years I'm not even sure what it is anymore because we've had some really late frost, but if we're not past it, we're getting real close. I'd say 1st April, we're generally always safe to plant, but we've gotten April frost a bunch of times. So I've seen a lot of two and three leaf corn get smoked to the ground and come back. So it's apt to happen. But hopefully it won't. Usually when it does is when my wheats are flouring that's when we usually get a good frost. So that's probably what'll happen this year with all this $11 wheat I'll get a good frost right there at flower and not having anything to sell.

Brian O'Connor:

So I noticed a lot of the guys have unusual accents that work here. South Africans. Why South Africans?

Adam Chapel:

Well, labor's just hard to find here. Well, we got a medical marijuana facility in town that employs 150 people. So anybody that's going to be high quality labor in this local area pretty well works there.

Brian O'Connor:

Especially agriculture. I mean that's a really effort intensive and knowledgeable ground.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. And they get to sit in the air conditioner up there and work eight hour shifts. So all I see people all the time talking about there's no labor shortage. It's just, you don't pay enough or you're hard to work for well. We pay good and I'm easy to get along with. And we still have to go outside the country to find people to work. And the South African guys have been great. There was some guys around here already had some South African guys working for them. So that's how I settled on them. But I know guys that have people from Romania coming and working for them there. Really impressed with them and people from Guatemala and Mexico and I mean that H-2A program is vital to agriculture. I've told my brother before that and he agrees with me if we ever have to go back to trying to have to hire local, if they ever took that program away from us that we'd either have to scale down to what just me and him could handle or just get out altogether because it's just not a fight we're willing to fight more.

Brian O'Connor:

How did you even make the connection to South Africa?

Adam Chapel:

Well, like I said, there was some farmers around here that had a few guys in.

Brian O'Connor:

And so you went to them and asked? Okay.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. I just said where are these guys coming from? And they hooked me up with the recruiter farm that they're using and we've been using them ever since.

Brian O'Connor:

And I'm not as familiar with the climate in South Africa as I should be. I know a lot of South Africans when they had snow in Korea for the first time, I used to work in Korea with South Africans who taught English. And when they had snow there for the first time was the first time you'd ever seen snow. Is there any kind of adaptation environmentally that has to happen or?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Yeah. We had snow just the other day and a lot of these guys hadn't seen that before. But the humidity's the biggest thing that they got to adjust to coming from South Africa to here. And I know a lot of guys that have had workers from South Africa come to the south and work and they only last a year and then they want to go to the Midwest or somewhere where the humidity is a little lighter because it gets tough down here in the summer. But all of these guys have adapted willingly, they enjoyed here and I enjoy having them.

Brian O'Connor:

Now how many years have you been going to South Africa?

Adam Chapel:

2017 was our first year. Yeah. So this will be our fifth year.

Brian O'Connor:

So it seems like at this point you've probably feel like you're comfortable saying it's working.

Adam Chapel:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean you have hurdles, you got to overcome with any group of employees and they're not perfect just like anybody else we have little things go wrong here and there that we got to deal with, but it's nothing we can't handle.

Brian O'Connor:

So I'm speaking of medical marijuana. I didn't realize that Arkansas had legalized medical marijuana.

Adam Chapel:

Yep.

Brian O'Connor:

When was that?

Adam Chapel:

Was that been three years maybe. Maybe 2019.

Brian O'Connor:

Do you see an opportunity there?

Adam Chapel:

Oh, no. It's all greenhouse. Yeah. Nothing open air.

Brian O'Connor:

Got it.

Adam Chapel:

Plus I wouldn't want to try to grow something that expensive out with all the herbicide drift problems and stuff we have. I mean, they've got such a filtration system up there, they're very aware of the potential problems with herbicides.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. What about the distant cousin in industrial hemp?

Adam Chapel:

That came through Arkansas. It didn't come through my farm just because I grew a produce with a buddy of mine for a couple years. And I know all about over promise and under deliver, brokers and stuff, came to us wanting produce. They liked the way we farmed, the cover crops and stuff. And they were going to market this produce as regenerative and all this stuff. And they said Arkansas and the Deltas, just the next California or Georgia, just because there's no produce growing through here. And were having a ship from all these other places.

Adam Chapel:

They talked it up, like there was big opportunity and they were putting in a big distribution center in Little Rock and there is a lot of that going in now, but man, we grew a bunch of stuff. And then when it came time to sell those brokers, if there wasn't just a shortage or if they weren't in need, they just left us high and dry. They went back to their people in Georgia and California and other places. So we got home pretty hard on that deal. Just a serious market collapse, we just couldn't sell anymore. There just wasn't any buyers for it. Because they were getting it from other parts of the country.

Brian O'Connor:

What are we talking about here, tomatoes or?

Adam Chapel:

Oh, no, it wasn't tomatoes. It was a squash, zucchini, okra, watermelons. What else did we have, bell peppers. We had a big bunch of stuff. Those brokers came in and put in an order of what they wanted and different times of the year here. And that's what we based our planning off of. And then, like I said, if we had something going, like when we first started harvesting squash, we were ahead of some of the other regions we were rolling pretty good there for a little while. And then when the other regions came online, they just abandoned ship here. So when that hemp thing came through, I'd heard all that talk before of it's the next big thing and this and that. And I just didn't didn't bite on it twice.

Brian O'Connor:

Have you heard of any successes with it at all?

Adam Chapel:

I heard of a lot of people planting it, but that was the last I heard of it. Usually when that's the case, it was not a success. If it was a success, they'd be out talking about it.

Brian O'Connor:

Well, yeah. Or you'd see at the barbecue joint dropping money on [inaudible 00:34:01].

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Or they'd be talking about planting again and I hadn't heard of any of that. So yeah. No, I think the hemp thing's pretty well dead around here.

Brian O'Connor:

Have you looked into the possibility of carbon contracts and why or why not?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. We've looked at some of that stuff and the one experience I've had with it I did a whole lot of leg work and then find out I didn't qualify because of an additionality clause. So I'm not going to do that again. Nobody mentioned that up front when I was doing all the work. And then when it came time to cut checks, I didn't get one because all the stuff I was already doing. It wasn't an additional benefit to the environment or whatever. So I don't know where that's going, but I'm not going to do any more legwork for anybody until I get a guarantee that I'm going to get paid for this much because of doing these things.

Brian O'Connor:

We'll get back to the podcast in a moment. But I want to take time once again, to thank our sponsor Yetter Farm Equipment for supporting today's episode. Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment you need to face today's product agriculture demands. The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different planning conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement and products that meet harvest time challenges, Yetter delivers a return on investment and equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them@yetterco.com that's, Y-E-T-T-E-R-C-O.com. And now back to the podcast.

Brian O'Connor:

Now growers often, especially guys that are subscribers and readers and the people that we interview they've been in No-Till for years. And that frequently, especially in this particular I guess you could characterize it as a second push, right? Because we had the market in the '90s that the Chicago climate exchange that kind of fell apart. So how do we create a market that benefits you like flat payment for a number of years in the past? How do we construct something that gets you, what you need and then sets you up to go forward?

Adam Chapel:

So the problem that I see with the stuff that I've seen so far is they're trying to put a blanket measurement across an entire country. All right, so they're looking at carbon as a static commodity. If you grow soybeans and you put them in a tank. Well that's not how carbon works. It's something that's cycled constantly. So they want you to accumulate carbon in the soil and you're doing that, but they're wanting to measure it as a static thing. And that's not the case. Like where you're from Wisconsin area, and y'all are frozen half the year. So microbiology in your soil stops.

Adam Chapel:

Here. I mean it was 80 degrees at Christmas this year. So any carbon that I'm sinking, the microbiome is cycling, it's constantly eating it. So for them to use the same measurement techniques that they use in Wisconsin in Arkansas is guaranteeing me that I'm never going to see a payment. Whereas technically I'm sinking more carbon into that system than they are in Wisconsin. Because they get to actually store it during the dormant frozen phase, they're going to pick up that measurement. Where here, the more I sink in, the more my micro floor goes up. Right. So the more you add, the more it's going to... So there's no way for me to ever get a payment on that. Even though I'm sinking more carbon probably than anybody north than me.

Brian O'Connor:

Because you can't end a moving target.

Adam Chapel:

That's right. So the only way it's going to work is if they... And they know all this stuff, as far as if you generate this much green biomass of these plants, how much CO2 they're converting to oxygen and sugars out the roots. I mean they know all that stuff. So if I've got something green growing all year, they can probably do this with NDV or something. They don't even have to go take hand samples. They can calculate relatively effectively how much carbon that I'm putting into that cycle underground. And then pay based on that. That's how they're going to have to do it. Or they can have estimates of that if you do these practices, we know over this amount of time we can confidently say, that's going to sink this much carbon and just pay on practices. But everything I've seen has been, they want to check this August and then they want to come back and check next August and pay you on the difference. And that's never going to work here. I mean, it's just not.

Brian O'Connor:

So it seems like a market structured more like oil might be full ironically enough where you've got Texas light sweet crude versus Oklahoma versus Alaska, all these places where you see it, that might be more of a way to think about how to do those.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. I mean, you can measure it regionally, but again, if you're looking for a static increase in carbon, you're not going to see that in a year round active soil, it's just not going to happen. Because I mean, just look at any population when you add food and resources to it grows. So the more carbon, I sink the bigger, my underground micro biology gets. So I'm never going to get an accumulation of carbon. I'm just going to be feeding more mouths if that makes sense.

Brian O'Connor:

Well, and even up north there's some reticence, Gabe Brown. Gabe Brown gave us a presentation in Wisconsin where he was very down on carbon, told everybody in the room, "Don't sign a carbon contract right now." it's very off brand for him for lack of a better description. So afterwards I asked him about it. He said, "Well, basically right now their soil samples only got on to two feet." He said, "I know from my own soil testing, I'm going down to four feet and I deserve to be paid for that carbon too."

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. Well, yeah. That's the other thing. We have field days of stuff in Arkansas for our, we've got a group called the Soil Health Alliance and our whole purpose is to try to help farmers not make the mistakes that we did getting started. Us and some other farmers that put this thing together. And we dig soil pits at all those and we'll have cereal rye roots at four or five, six feet. So yeah. If there's roots there, then there's exit dates there. So yeah, you're sinking carbon in that, the entire profile where there's roots. So that's why they need to figure out how to pay on what you're doing above ground instead of trying to measure underground, because there's just so many variables that they're not going to be able to count for.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. What about biologicals? Do you use any? Are you considering them?

Adam Chapel:

I don't use any of...

Brian O'Connor:

It seems to be the big thing with input prices so hard.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. No, we don't use any biologicals in our starter fertilizer, we have a lot of biological food. Lot of sugar and other things, but we do not apply biologicals. I just can't get on board with that. I just feel like that's a kind of a snake oil deal. If you've got dead soil and you put a little bit through a joke through a tube, I mean, you're not going to do anything. The only thing that we do is in our we make our native inoculum for our compost. Because we want native saprophytic fungi and things like that, breaking down our stuff. So when we pot on the field, we're reintroducing native stuff. But otherwise, no, we don't mess with any of those.

Brian O'Connor:

It seems like that would be analogous to the situation that you mentioned before with, I think it was carbon, you did a lot of leg work, but then there was no payoff in there.

Adam Chapel:

That's right. Yeah. I could see that being the case with the bugs and the jug stuff. It's pretty natural cycle there, if a big egg can jump on something that's going on good. And convince a farmer that this is just as good, you don't need to plant cover crops and do all that. You can just put this biological out there they're going to do that and they're going to convince some people and they're going to make a big, healthy margin on it. Because they're selling them jugs of water with a little bit of stuff in it. But there's always going to be somebody that's going to fall for it.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Are you implementing things, new practices on a year by year basis? And what are you trying this year that's new?

Adam Chapel:

We don't really have anything novel this year. We're further improving our low population stuff. We're planting like 25% of the recommended population for rice, same with cotton. So we're trying to improve on those systems and they both worked really well last year. So we've got a few tweaks we're making that won't be significant improvements, just a little more efficiency as far as equipment set up and stuff like that. Just some things that we notice through the year, we wish we'd done different than we're doing this year, but nothing really novel this year. We're kind of settling into a groove now.

Brian O'Connor:

Is that because of the volatility and the input costs and everything like, does it create, you dispose you towards maybe trying the same, or stuff that that works?

Adam Chapel:

Well, no. It's really just, we found any, anything new that we really want to try yet. We've been on a pretty fast paced experimentation phase here, the last five or six years and we're finally figuring out what's really working good for us and doing those things. But yeah. I mean the reason all any of these systems came about is cause of the price of things. Seed cost is ridiculously high and we can make the same crop with 25% of the seed. So why would we plant other three quarters?

Brian O'Connor:

Can you give me an idea how your population stack up against your neighbors or guys that have maybe still doing the conventional stuff?

Adam Chapel:

So I don't like to say neighbors because I don't want to signal anybody out, but let's just say the company standard for say the rice that we plant is their standard planning rate is 22 to 25 pounds per acre. Well we're at four to six. And that equates to about $130 an acre savings. And we're making the same rice. So I mean, I can't speak for my neighbors, but I know that's good business for us.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Have you looked into alternative spacing? I know there's a big debate right now, about 30 inch corn bear just weighted into the commodity classic with their short stature corn possibly in the mix.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. That's some of the things that we've been tweaking over on this rice deal. So the first year we did it, we were 38 inch twin. Last year were 1523 and we had a lot better tiller counts just because we had more space between plants. And this year we're keeping that same spacing just because we're limited on bed space after that for our furs. But now we're tweaking in row space. So the length between seed placement. So we're cutting the rate just a little more and widening the spacing on the seed. And if you cut a half a pound off of the rate at the price, that stuff is that's significant. So if we can cut a half a pound off our rate, we're saving a lot of money especially over 2000 acres. I mean.

Brian O'Connor:

In terms of your implements, do you use Coulters or no?

Adam Chapel:

Well, we've got Coulters on our drill that we plant soybeans with, just because we don't-

Brian O'Connor:

Air drill or box drill?

Adam Chapel:

Box drill. We had air drills and we got rid of them because the closing systems weren't heavy enough. So we went to great Plains box drills, but we do use Coulters on them just because we're not laying anything down in front, there're doing all the lay down work. But our planners, we just run disc openers. Yeah. And we've tried Coulters, row cleaners, all that. We ended up taking all of it back off. I think everybody goes through that. I've heard that so many times. But you just got to try it for yourself. But we don't run anything on our planners.

Brian O'Connor:

Strips are swear by them but that's a totally different beast.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. The strip till deal intrigues me. I've got some buddies that do that, they get some really nice looking stands behind those rigs, but strip tilling on beds. Like we got it just doesn't work. Because you'll have the fur and you on a strip till you have a dip in your bed and you get a big rain. It doesn't work here.

Brian O'Connor:

Is your box drill heavy enough for No-Till? I know that's one of the...

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. That's the reason we went to that, they're the great planes HD models. The big monsters.

Brian O'Connor:

You got to weigh them up too or no.

Adam Chapel:

Well we've got liquid on them so that weights them down pretty good.

Brian O'Connor:

Got it.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

Okay.

Adam Chapel:

But our ground's not that hard so we don't have to cut through a... It's pretty silty here, so not too bad.

Brian O'Connor:

So not less of a concern about compaction then it sounds like.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. No. Ideally of one of these days we're going to try to get to controlled traffic, but we're not there yet. We've got RTK equipment, but our problem is our harvest platforms don't match our planting platforms yet. And now's not the time to be spending money on stuff just for that. We've been making it fine without that. We'll just keep going until it's on the wishlist.

Brian O'Connor:

Five, 10 years. Is that the big change that you see more precision type technologies or do you see other big things looming on the horizon or?

Adam Chapel:

Man, there's all kinds of stuff out there. Automated tractors and just all this stuff. But I don't know if that stuff will ever make it to us or what? I see the practicality of that where you've got big wide open fields. Like in Northeast Arkansas, they've got huge big fields. Not a lot of trees. They got to work great up there, but we got a lot of 20s and 30s and trees everywhere. And I just think it'd be a nightmare trying to get all set up. And I mean, if I can put a person on there and I'll just keep doing that.

Brian O'Connor:

The old fashion way.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah.

Brian O'Connor:

All right.

Adam Chapel:

Yep. But I tell you, one thing I do like that I've seen is these drones for spraying applications. I got a buddy in Georgia. He one's row cropper the other one is a vegetable farmer. And I think they're both running them. I'm on a message board with them, I know the row cropper is. He's getting them and he said he can run four at a time and they do his herbicide. He can just do it from his laptop. And he's got one guy with a chemical truck filling them. So a landfill, he said he can spray over a thousand acres a day with him. And do it when it's wet and a have to pay the airplane. You can save a lot of money quick doing that.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. Do you use aerial spraying here? Like plane or drone or?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah, we use plane when we have to. We try not to, but it's a necessary evil as much rain as we get.

Brian O'Connor:

Yeah. I saw it's getting to that time of year. I saw one of the pilots. I think it was out doing practice runs on the field. He was coming low, but he didn't spray anything.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. There was guys putting burn down out here yesterday. We had a good nice calm day yesterday. And there were some guys putting some burn down on some corn ground and I'm just going to wait a little while longer. I'm going to see if it dries up before I do it.

Brian O'Connor:

What of the lessons that you've learned since starting this do you think is broadly applicable? What's the takeaway for farmers maybe that aren't in Arkansas?

Adam Chapel:

Oh man.

Brian O'Connor:

So many things, huh?

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. There's a lot. But one thing that, and I still catch myself doing this is letting fear influence a decision like, oh, I don't know up until the invasion, it looked pretty good. But people were trying to get us to buy fertilized all last fall because, "Oh it's going up, it's going up, it's going up." And it is up right now, but it's just in the last few days, last week. But there was a point this winter when we fertilized wheat where we were actually $300 cheaper than what it would've priced for in the fall.

Adam Chapel:

So if I'd have let them scare me into it, I'd have been out $300 a ton. It's like that for everything especially getting into this system. I hear all the time if you don't put out P&K, your yields are going to suffer and this and that. Well, early on that really bothered me when I heard that. And I was testing a lot to verify what my theory was. And now I don't listen to it anymore because I've been doing it for six, seven years at this point. But I could have easily gotten scared into buying stuff that obviously don't need.

Brian O'Connor:

It's that FOMO, I guess. That fear of missing out.

Adam Chapel:

It's FOMO. Yeah. You just got to temper that. And it seems like young farmers are a lot more susceptible to it. I know I was when I was, well, me and my brother were first starting, man. We wanted to make biggest yields because that's the only way we saw to make money and we ended up losing money because of it because it's just not that easy. If you just apply more and get more bushels and we'd all be rich, but it's not that simple. But it's marketed to you that it is as a farmer.

Brian O'Connor:

Well, and I think that's an intergenerational thing too. Like multiple generations have been told, "You put this on the crop, you get this yield." And one of the things that's weird about, reason I ask you about biologicals, they're not the responsible people that are selling this, are basically not saying that they're saying, "This will help uptake." But we're not yet seeing the consistency that is going to... And I think that's a harder sell. Right? Because you guys are bottom line focused always and so then it's harder maybe to justify right. If you're not going to get that consistent return, why put the investment out there in the first place?

Adam Chapel:

Well, this one slipped my mind, but it's that insecticide for heliothis, that virus. That is one biological we do use because it is effective and it is cheap. I mean it is a great product and...

Brian O'Connor:

Is it targeted specifically to species?

Adam Chapel:

Just the species. Yeah. Just a cornea one which gets in our beans, cotton and corn, everything down here. So it's a really good product for us, but that's the only real biological that we use and that sucker is consistent. I mean, its year over year. It's death. So and it's good. You're not broad spectrum killing everything. It only affects that species. So that's one we really like, so yeah. If they got some biologicals like that, that's something we'll definitely look at, but it's bad enough that they have products out there that they promise you five bushel increase or then you don't get that. But if you're trying to sell and say, "Well, you may get this." That's really going to be tough to buy.

Brian O'Connor:

No, you hear a lot of size whenever that comic inevitably comes out. I mean the only people that are out there right now making those guarantees is Pivot Bio. But they're basically saying we're specifically targeting synthetic nitrogen and we're going to make this bacteria that fixes the nitrogen out of the air using gene editing. So that's a different thing. A lot of the other stuff is like, "You'll have to still put in nitrogen, but this bacteria takes your mineral stuff and makes it easy for planting."

Adam Chapel:

There's lots of allergies and bacteria out there that do that now. You don't need a host plant like a soybean. So I don't know that they need to gene edit one, but because there's soils in the world that make enough nitrogen with native microbes that they don't have to apply nitrogen. So I mean that could happen anywhere if you get to that point. But...

Brian O'Connor:

Well, yeah. What was it? I don't know, did you read the Plowman's Folly at all? The Ed Faulkner. He talks about the forests like there's plenty of natural ground out there that does just fine.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. That's right. Yeah. I psych that all the time. Yeah. I like that book. I read that a couple years ago.

Brian O'Connor:

His writing style leaves something to be desired I think.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. It's hard to read for sure. But he does make a lot of sense. But he was a farmer, not a writer.

Brian O'Connor:

Right, exactly. So a farmer and an educator because he did crop stuff for while.

Adam Chapel:

Yeah. He was an extension agent. Yeah. He was sharp guy, but yeah, he wasn't Shakespeare by any stretch.

Brian O'Connor:

We touched briefly on FOMO and Shakespeare. I got to ask, how has social media changed farming? Does it make it easier for you to pick up practices you like? Does it give you new ideas or is it a nuisance?

Adam Chapel:

Well, it's a nuisance Santa. It's both. Yeah. I've got a network of friends that I've developed over social media and coming to like no-till farm meeting and stuff like that. That I've stayed in touch with over social with media and we share ideas and stuff all the time. So it's been really good for that. And of course YouTube man. People put stuff on there, what they're doing and it is a lot of fun to look at that stuff. So I like that. But yeah, the social media, it gets pretty wild sometimes. I just have to turn it off sometimes because I can only hear about how the government is plotting to overthrow the fire departments to take over the food market or whatever craziness is happening out there today. I can't listen to all that. So I just got to abandoned ship every once in a while.

Brian O'Connor:

Thanks to Arkansas farmer, Adam Chapel, for this discussion about no-till farming, its implementation, the equipment he uses and nutrient management. To listen to more podcasts about no till topics and strategies, please visit no-tillfarmer.com/podcast. That's no-tillfarmer.com/podcast. Once again, we'd like to thank our sponsor, Yetter Farm Equipment for helping to make this no-till podcast series possible. If you have any feedback on today's episode, please feel free to email me at, B-O-C-O-N-N-O-R@lessitermedia.com or call me at 262-777-2413. If you haven't done so already, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Google Podcast to get an alert as soon as future episodes are released. You can also keep up on the latest no-till farming news by registering online for our no-till insider, daily and weekly email updates and Dryline no-till or eNewsletter. And be sure to follow us on Twitter at @NoTillFarmr with farmer spelled F-A-R-M-R and our No-Till Farmer Facebook page. For our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Brian O'Connor. Thanks for tuning in.