Ask the Agronomist
By Bethany Kroeze | AgVenture Marketing and Communications Specialist
During the cold winter months, there are still several things you can do to ensure your 2020 harvest will be the best it can be. We reached out to our team of agronomy experts with a simple question: What is the most important thing to do this winter to achieve your harvest goals in 2020? Here’s what they had to say.
Jerry Hartsock, owner of Cutting Edge Consulting and Research Services, emphasized the importance of having a plan. “High-yielding farmers need a cropping plan for every farm that lays out all of the key steps, details and standards at which each task should be done within the Maximum Profit System™ (MPS), AgVenture’s systematic approach to selecting, placing and managing seed,” he said. “Setting goals, having the right mindset coming into the season and maintaining that mindset
throughout the season are paramount to success.”
Hartsock and Josh Seemann, owner of Total Crop Management, advise farmers to spend time with their circle of influence. It is important to replace the weakest links and add key moneymakers in order to set higher goals and develop a better plan.
“Key moneymakers in your circle of influence will ensure you stay the course and never give up on your crop, even when faced with adversity,” Hartsock said.
For an easy way to remember what to do this winter, Seemann puts it simply: “High-yielding growers must go through PAIN every winter or off-season.” He describes four actions that farmers must do to achieve their best yields: PLAN, ADAPT, INNOVATE and NAVIGATE.
- Plan: High-yielding farmers must sit down with their circle of influence and develop strategies for different areas of their operations. These strategies are based off past experiences and new information gathered throughout the year. They also create plans that branch off the main strategy to account for changes in all phases of the growing season.
- Adapt: High-yielding farmers understand when it’s time to change an operation for the betterment of the whole business. They are not afraid of change; they look at the negatives of a growing season as an opportunity to get better.
- Innovate: High-yielding farmers understand that top yields don’t come from conformity. These county and state leaders get to where they are by thinking outside the box. They see practices being done in other areas or on other crops and bring them back to their operation, modifying the practices to fit the specific area or crop and, most importantly, they learn from the outcomes. True innovators never make mistakes; they learn and get better from everything they do.
- Navigate: Agriculture is always in a state of flux since growers deal with a living organism. There are numerous outside factors that can influence the outcome of each farmer’s season. The best farmers are the ones that can navigate the growing season, making the correct decision most of the time. These decisions can range from making timely crop protection applications to being able to see past shiny promotions or gimmicks that might clash with their operational goals.
AgVenture Soybean Product Manager Jeff Shaner suggests that farmers develop written plans for both manpower and equipment so that soybeans get planted as close as possible to the same optimal time corn is planted.
“Soybeans reach their best yield potential when planted at that time,” said Shaner, noting that this advice is specifically directed to the Midwest and does not include double-crop soybeans. “It often doesn’t pay to plant earlier than that, and you can expect an 8% to 12% reduction for every 2½ weeks you delay past that time frame.”
While planning is a crucial piece of MPS, another very important piece is mindset. The 2019 crop season provided opportunities for tons of excuses and most farmers thought there was little chance of meeting their harvest goals after the spring weather wreaked havoc across the country.
Maybe 2019 brought back memories from 1993, when late-planted corn struggled to mature to black layer, leaving many farmers with a big mess. Accepting an insurance payment on corn for a figure adjusted to just under 180 bushels per acre seemed like a likely win on June planted corn.
“But here’s the thing,” Shaner explained, “this season, like so many others, pretty much turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Plan for yields less than 180 and receive yields just under 180. Those who still maintained a goal of achieving maximum profit this year are harvesting corn in the 215-to-260 bushels per acre range and beyond! I personally know one farm where several parcels produced 265-bushel corn and the farmer is not telling his neighbors because he knows they won’t believe him. In this area, 200 bushels per acre from June-planted corn is a long shot, let alone 265!”
Never give up on your crop, even in a year like 2019, and trust that the millions of dollars being spent on research is paying off. Shaner and the AgVenture product team are judicious in their product advancement efforts.
“Your local AgVenture Regional Seed Company has better product information available to them, so take advantage of the research,” Shaner said. “In 2020, more than ever, plan to win.”