BELFIELD — Dicamba-tolerant soybeans are a big deal — even if you live three miles east of the North Dakota badlands and in the midst of oil rigs.
Greg, 56, and his wife, Stacey Kessel, lead Arrow K Farms near Belfield They raise 300 acres of Roundup Ready Xtend dicamba-tolerant soybeans — the only soybeans they know of in Billings County. Arrow K Farms produces cereal grains and field peas for seed, and corn and soybeans grains. They also sell corn and soybeans for Rea Hybrids. Rea Hybrids is a brand of Monsanto, one of the technology companies behind the dicamba-resistant soybeans. German company Bayer bought Monsanto this summer.
It’s not soybean country, but it has high hopes.
The Kessels are about 10 miles from the nearest soybeans so they have less concern about the drift or volatilization of dicamba on neighbors’ soybean. Their own field peas for seed across the road had no adverse effects from any drift or volatilization.
North Dakota State University weed scientists put field peas in a category of “severe” susceptibility to dicamba. NDSU has created a separate “extreme” susceptibility that includes only one crop — non-dicamba soybeans.
“We really like this technology, we really want to keep it,” said Jade (Kessel) Renshaw, 25, who manages sales and marketing for Arrow K Farms. She and her brother, Grant, 22, are learning the ropes to one day take over the farm’s management. That’s helpful because their dad, Greg, has non-farm responsibilities on the boards of the North Dakota Barley Council and Creative Energy, Belfield, Inc. He is also chairman of the Northern Crops Institute in Fargo.
In 2016, Renshaw graduated in agricultural economics from North Dakota State University, coming back to the farm. Her husband, Dan, helps on the farm but works full-time in the oil business. Grant graduated from NDSU in ag systems management in 2017 and has a special role on the spraying operations, among other things. The younger brothers, Garett, 18; Griffin, 15, also help on the farm.
“It’s important we keep our fields clean for our seed production,” Renshaw said. “For us, it’s all about what we can add value to.”
Besides retailing corn and soybean seed for Rea Hybrids, they raise barley, wheat and field pea crops, for various companies: 21st Century Genetics, Pulse USA, WestBred, as well as their own varieties of barley. They raise hulless food barley, forage barley and malt barley, all for seed.
The Kessels wanted to raise their own Roundup Xtend soybeans before they felt comfortable recommending them to seed customers, Renshaw said.
In 2017 the Kessels planted 300 acres Xtend beans north and west of Interstate Highway 94. The field is about 20 miles east of Medora. Hoping for a yield in the 35 bushel-per-acre neighborhood, they were optimistic the dicamba technology could help forestall issues with glyphosate-resistant weeds, including kochia.
But they got significant rain only once during the whole summer. “We got about an inch and a half in August,” Renshaw said. The Kessels were skeptical but were pleasantly surprised the crop made 20 bushels an acre while in a severe drought. So were others.
Seein’ green in ‘18
In 2018, the Kessels again planted 300 acres of Xtend beans. They also sold enough for a local area grower to raise 80 acres. The whole family took the required extra training for dicamba application and got commercial private applicator’s licenses because it is a restricted-use pesticide.
“We followed the letter of the law,” Grant said, saying he wonders if a “large part of the problems” farmers reported 2017 were due to applicators “pushing the envelope” and improperly applying it. He thinks some of the damage was “a little bit exaggerated, too.”
So far, they’ve had beneficial rains. “We’re excited to see what kind of results we’re going to get,” Grant said.
Besides the 300 acres of soybeans and 800 acres of corn for grain, they raised 500 acres of wheat and 700 acres of yellow peas, 1,300 acres of barley, and 800 acres of corn; They also raised 300 acres of the soybeans for the grain market.
Jade said the 2018 application restrictions to prevent off-target dicamba damage so far have seemed prudent. She thinks soybeans have good potential to have a good future here. “If we didn’t have the Roundup Ready Xtends we probably wouldn’t be growing soybeans,” she said.
Jade has developed a Facebook page for Arrow K Farms at www.facebook.com/arrowkfarms. On July 10 the farm hosted more than 100 people to a Banquet in a Field in cooperation with the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce and the CommonGround North Dakota.