Getting "More Than" from "Less Than" Ground: Part 1

We all know how hard it can be to get “more than” from “less than ground.

AgVenture’s, Jeff Shaner interviewed two farmers that have dealt with their share of challenging ground. In these interviews he digs deeper into the challenges they faced and still outperformed their acres in 2016.

Nathan Beard

Nathan Beard of western Illinois works with AgVenture Yield Specialist Matt Davis of AgVenture D&M. Nathan is on a serious upswing in productivity with an eye towards maximum profit.

Nathan in field

Tell us about your connection to AgVenture.

I’ve been farming for 11 years now. Three years ago, Matt started a conversation with me that is still ongoing today — a conversation that got me thinking more deeply about positioning products for each soil type, about how I plant seed, and about how I care for that crop in a way that propels it toward the best result. Matt is always honest with me and never has anything bad to say about the competition. He is present throughout the year so we can plan, observe and execute together.

You have achieved measurable improvement in yield levels in a rather short period of time. Most noticeably are milestones on some of your tougher farms. Tell us about that.

I have one tract of land that has never averaged above 180 bpa. It pitches and rolls and soil types are all over the board. This year we averaged 230 bpa, with one 12-acre piece of fairly uniform ground averaging 332 bpa. Matt and I had a plan to plant the right product at the right population with plenty of in-season care. My Net Effective Plant Stand (NEPS) was strong, so I knew we were in the hunt for great things. Even when June got really dry, we stuck to our guns. If I can do that on my Class C soils, I can only imagine what is possible on my Class A soils.

What else has led to your improved profitability?

As soon as pollination wraps up, I’m at work devising my approach for next year. Pest pressure I observe from disease or insects may be a factor in deviations from my crop rotation. I am already picturing the attributes of the particular hybrid or variety that gets placed in field.

I am also paying more attention to residue management. For instance, a relatively minor adjustment to the boot has made a big difference in how evenly crop residue is being distributed coming out the back of my combine. It all adds up.

Other than AgVenture, where do you go for information and to share ideas?

I communicate one to one with other area farmers. These are guys who are honest about what’s working for them and what isn’t. From there, I initiate concepts and prove them on my own farm. On the flip side, the last thing I want to see is some salesperson with plot results. There are no product placement decisions being made in plots, no adjusting to meet the strengths or weaknesses of your individual hybrids. Don’t get me wrong, I host plots on my farm for observation purposes. But one-size-fits-all strip trials do nothing to inform the way I farm.

Do you have any parting words?

There are things I can do to enhance each crop, but just performing new activities isn’t enough. I’m not looking to waste money on activities. To me it has become obvious that the timing and placement of those activities is where the answer lies. For example, I have moved to spoon feeding N at multiple times of the year and it is paying off. Your most productive ground can be very forgiving. But variations on items such as row spacing or N management can bring a really positive and amplified response on your rugged ground.

I am going to harvest 300-bushel corn and 100 bushel soybeans year in and year out. It’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

 

Watch for part two with Cade Bushnell, coming next week.