Fertilizer prices are on the rise, which leaves growers seeking to better manage their input costs. When it comes to planning for 2022, you may have a ton of questions rolling in your head such as: How can I manage costs? Is soil sampling actually worth the investment? Does variable rate fertilizer really pay?
We can all probably think of a product, service, or brand we feel biased towards. Then think about how you make decisions on your farming operation. Do you have any bias on how different fields respond to a certain seed, fertilizer, or crop protection product? Allowing your bias to persuade field decisions can be very costly and frustrating. Your knowledge of your own farm is invaluable. Using farm analytics can enhance your decision making by removing or challenging the bias with objective analysis.
You don’t have to look very hard to find chemical manufacturers’ advertisements claiming a significant positive yield response (15, 20, 25+ bu./ac) to using one of their fungicide products. There are many effective products on the market that provide good control and protection against fungal pathogens, but advertisement claims based on ‘average trial data’ aren’t guarantees for your fields. Three critical components (a host, favorable environment, and pathogen) must come together at the same time for a plant disease to thrive. These three components are commonly referred to as the Plant Disease Triangle. Management or alteration of just one of these components prevents or reduces disease severity.
To efficiently collect data on your farming operation, it’s important to have a good plan and keep notes as you go, collect in a timely manner, and verify that data matches what happened throughout the season. There are many data points that need to be collected, verified, and entered to get a full-scope picture of your operation for analytics purposes.
Every grower sets goals for their farming operation. Seeking high yields or decreasing costs of operation are commonly cited, but ultimately what every grower wants to know is whether or not each decision is profitable.
Telling your customers they’re under-performing isn’t a great business model. Encouraging them to take part in agronomic benchmarking can sometimes have that same effect. Those at the top might enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they are the stars, but how do you gently push the below average customers to step up their game?
GPS technology has allowed growers to capture variability within a field – from yield to soils, fertility, pH, varieties, variable rate application and agronomic treatments. More than likely, you have accumulated binders full of color maps and hard drives full of files.
Now is always a good time to start managing your farm decisions at a finer scale. If someone were to ask you if you know your cost of production, you’d likely have an idea. But, when I say it’s time to manage at a ‘finer scale,’ the question that precedes it is, “Do you know how much it costs you to raise a bushel of grain in each unique part of your field—that is—as your productivity changes across the field?”
At Premier Crop, we say that agronomy is local. Farmers say it too, though, because we have such a vast amount of data within our system.