Getting "More Than" from "Less Than" Ground: Part 2

Getting “More Than” From “Less Than” Ground with Cade Bushnell

Cade Bushnell of northern Illinois works with Jeff Jackson who heads up Agrithm in Byron, Illinois. Cade is on a serious upswing in productivity with an eye towards maximum profit. We caught up with him to learn about how he outperformed his acres in 2016.

Cade in field

Tell us about your connections to AgVenture.

Jeff Jackson and I have worked together for over seven years. His dad and I go back further than that. I am certain that I am a better farmer because of the work we do together. Yes, Jeff takes an interest in my seed decisions, but our talks cover the full range of my operation, including fertility, equipment and timing of applications.

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

All of my farms are on tougher ground. I custom farm some very fertile ground; I know what that looks like. But on my own farms, I’m making big strides to improve organic matter. Cover crops and a never-till system are important to me. Some people refer to crop residue as trash. Trash is what goes in the garbage, but residue is my friend. I’ve farmed with my father since I was a kid, and full time since leaving college in ’82. But in just the past six years, my yield average has gone from 180 to 220 bushels per acre (bpa). That’s not luck, and it’s not the weather. That’s been a willingness to dissect each thing we do and determine where improvements can be made. Everything is on the operating table. (except my tillage).

What else has led to your improved profitability?

I have Plan A and Plan B for each activity I perform. For instance, I have a plan for herbicide application, but what if it rains for two weeks? I’ve already thought about that. Now here’s the thing about Plan B: My goals have not changed, just because I have been flexible enough to adjust according to the current conditions. I am still aiming for high yield and profitability. The decision to move from Plan A is never because I’ve decided that I just don’t want to spend the money. You cannot save your way to prosperity.

Other than AgVenture, where do you go for information and to share ideas?  I attend industry meetings with the intention of participating. When I take the initiative to speak up, it opens to the door to meet friendly people from all over. And whether the speaker is good, bad or in between, there is always something useful I can take home with me. In fact, my notebooks are filled with ideas. Probably the most useful person I ever met was one who looked at my notes and helped me connect the dots.

I also have a friend in Australia involved in agriculture. You would be amazed at how the challenges he faces on the other side of the world correlate to what I do on my farm.

Do you have any parting words?

Every seed company has good products. Can you tell me how to take those products and translate them into more profit on my farm? Can you make me a better farmer? Not many are able to do that.

When I purchase a bag of seed, it contains the promise of untold riches. As soon as I open it, everything I do has the potential to rob me of that promise. I’ve been learning when to get myself out of the way. For me and many of my peers, the part that gets in the way most often is the little voice that tries to tell you the season has turned against you and you shouldn’t continue to invest in the crop. I’ve seen too many people attempt to save $20 per acre on a marginal farm only to give up 20 bushels per acre. That isn’t the way to succeed in business.