Some Say It. We Do It.

At AgVenture, we're more than just seed guys — we're go-to guys. While some seed companies claim to provide year-round service and insights, we really do. All season long, we work with farmers to achieve the highest yields possible, applying region-specific practices and technologies. Journey with four farmers across the U.S., as they work with their AgVenture Yield Specialists to reach new heights on their operations.

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November 9, 2016
By Aaron Paus

Using Precision Data to Raise Yields

Every year, we track data on our fields and soil types, looking at factors like population, fertilizer and nitrogen applications. In the winter when we do our planning, we look at the results from the previous season and compile them with data from past years. I sit down with the AgVenture team and look at the issues we know affected us.

Once we look at the big picture, we do some fine-tuning with soil sampling. We match soil samples to the problem areas we saw on the yield map and start looking for correlations that we can take action on. When we know what issues we have, we can handpick varieties that are suited to deal with those issues. For example, we might change a hybrid based on how it handles pH issues, heavier soils, lighter soils, irrigated or dryland, and pivot or gravity forms of irrigation. We also look at our management practices and consider things like late-season nitrogen applications. If we decide we want to put on late-season nitrogen, we’ll use a hybrid that takes advantage of that practice.

Something we’re looking at that can improve the way we use our data is on-the-go infrared scanning and variable rate nitrogen applications. That’s really exciting to me, and it’s something we’re looking forward to incorporating when the economy improves. But with corn at these prices, we have to make sure we can justify the technological expenditures to do it. Maybe next season.

 

Determining Population with Data

In the meantime, we’re continuing to push production levels higher every year with our practical understanding from learning and discovery blocks. We’re still fine-tuning our bell curve on population by analyzing at what point we start seeing a drop-off in yields.

My AgVenture Yield Specialist, Jeremy, sees more than I do because he and his team work with many other operations. He’s finding that Producer A may see yield drawbacks at a 33,000 population on irrigated corn, but Producer B may not see those drawbacks until he gets to a 35,000 or 36,000 population.

Jeremy’s also looking at how many nitrogen or fungicide applications the producer is putting on. That’s where we start having fun. Jeremy is able to quantify all the data and decide how we can push things. We also look at where irrigation comes in. With higher populations, should we delay irrigation so the stalks don’t get too tall and spindly? Should we keep the plant a bit shorter on purpose and pour on extra water later? Those are all things we’ll hash out during the winter.

AgVenture could say, “You want precision data? Go talk to some other group,” or, “You want a soil sample? Go talk to someone else.” But Jeremy and the AgVenture Pinnacle team want to be hands-on and help with everything from start to finish. They want to be involved, so it’s pretty exciting. They keep me on my toes, and they don’t allow me to fall asleep and do the same thing over and over. It creates a pretty nice partnership. 

 

 

 

November 9, 2016
By Aaron Paus

Managing Crop Moisture

We completed harvest, finishing up on November 5th. Usually I like to be done by Halloween, but we didn’t quite make that date this year due to some wet corn issues, but we weren’t too far off track. A few weeks back, we were running some irrigated corn through the dryer, and it was anywhere from 19-25% moisture. In the middle of October we were dealing with wet corn issues. Likely that was because of the recent rains and wet weather in late August. Now we’re starting to deal with some ear mold issues, and it’s something we’re keeping an eye on. Luckily it has slowed with the cooler weather.

I think the biggest challenge we faced this year was the weather. We were ridiculously hot during pollination time, and it just didn’t allow the crop to fully pollinate. We also had wet conditions in the early season that gave us some stand issues, and then we had a fungus come in and drop down our plant count quite a bit. So with the weather, we started out wet, got dry in the middle, and were wet again in late August.

All in all, we’re pleased with the outcome of the crop. Our soybeans were just slightly above where I anticipated them to be. They were not over-the-top bin-busters, but they were better than anticipated.

 

Surpassing 300 Bushels Per Acre

Corn has been up and down. The dryland corn actually has been surprising us — I think we had 1.7 total inches of rain in the months of June and July. We were anticipating 30- to 40-bushel dryland corn because of that, but somehow the numbers are hovering right around 100–120 bushels. So that corn is below what we might normally get, but it’s above what we anticipated. On the irrigated acres, I had one AgVenture hybrid that had us excited with all sorts of 300 bushel numbers in some areas. In other areas, it’s fallen a little below expectations, so we’re either really good or a little bit disappointed on the irrigated corn.

I’m looking forward to finishing harvest and analyzing what we could have done better

October 28, 2016
By Jackson Webb

This spring was unusually wet and cold, and there was a lot of flooding. We had to make some tough decisions about whether to wait until conditions were right or whether to plant our seed in the mud. My AgVenture Yield Specialist, Wayne, reins me in sometimes when I want to be planting too early under the wrong conditions, and this year I’m glad he did.

Some of our fields were completely flooded in the early season, and it would have been a disaster to plant in the mud. We held out as best we could, but there came a time when we had to get the last of our seed in the ground. We planted in less-than-ideal conditions because we had to, and now we’re seeing the effects in our yield numbers. Luckily, the affected areas didn’t account for much of our 4,000 acres. It’s a testament to how planting in the right conditions really does make a difference.

As the season progressed, we were always about 10 days away from drought, but the weather held. We had beautiful weather during the soybean harvest and the last part of the corn harvest.  Even though we were rushing to get our corn crop out in time, the crop held up well, aside from just a bit of down stalk toward the end of harvest. The stalk went from having a little green tint to being dead as a hammer in a matter of days. From the sounds of it, we weren’t the only ones.Thankfully, it wasn’t a huge part of our overall crop.

As for our yields, the corn numbers are off this year from where they should be, but it's still a good crop. We had the potential to handle 250 bushels per acre, but because of various factors, we wound up with 200 bushels per acre. That’s still great for us here in the Delta, so I’m pleased. Much of our yield loss had to do with the flood conditions during planting, but we knew that was a risk going in. After the planting season we had, I’ll take the 200 bushels per acre!.

Our soybeans on the other hand were phenomenal — one of the best bean crops I've ever had. Beyond weather, another factor that helped us out was continuing with our liquid fertilizer program, which included a special, expanded P and K application. Instead of using solid fertilizer, we used a liquid sidedress application, and we’ve had good results with it — both last season and this season. My neighbor and I are trying it together, and so far, we're very pleased with it.

After a long harvest this year, I’m happy to report that we are finally done. Now it’s time to rest for a minute, do some hunting and prepare for next season.

October 28, 2016
By Heath Hill

In my new role, I’m excited to explore how precision farming impacts yield. On both our planter and in our combine, we’re able to track each seed almost to the seed level — and people don't think of it that way, but that'’s the way we'’re looking at it. There’s so much potential to grow smarter by getting the exact right seed for your fields and nurturing it in the right way so that it reaches its full potential.

For instance, if a seed can only produce 260 bushels, we don’t need to push it to produce more than that. Instead of throwing on too many applications and wasting money, let’s be smarter and more precise with our practices. Let'’s see if we can reduce the inputs on that seed and keep it at 260 bushels. We want to be able to refine our management and determine what the seed really wants — and give the seed exactly that. If the seed starts limiting our ability or opportunities, then sure, we need to find different seed; but If the seed really can produce 350 bushel on its own, then why are we putting so many inputs into the ground? What I want to know is how to make the most effective, efficient decisions.

To get to the root of these questions, we have to start with the seed. We need to study where, how and when it likes to grow. We also need to understand the agronomics behind it — the biologicals, seed treatments, fungicides, insecticides and pesticides. We need to talk about applying in furrow or over the top. We need to explore how to protect the seed in different environments, and study how the seed responds to chemicals throughout the growing season. These are the things I’m most excited for, and this is what we’re tackling with the research on our farm.

October 28, 2016
By Heath Hill

I recently announced a new opportunity with AgVenture that I’m very excited about. We're going to be utilizing our farm a lot more for testing, consulting and yield checks using AgVenture hybrids and management practices. We can afford to do new things because we have a small footprint — with 750 acres, we can handle a lot of testing and fine-tuning to get that true net effect.

We’ve been doing a bit of this already with AgVenture, and I’m excited to expand it. For example, this year, we were testing 32 different AgVenture hybrids in one field and found that the software on our newer (red) combine was limited to no more than 30 hybrids. The AgVenture team spent the time to work through the issue with us and got us back to harvesting. That’s an example of what kind of things we can learn from testing.

Testing is going to be very important for the future of farming operations. It’s not about gross bushels anymore. It’s about net income. The days where you can just dump all the inputs into your crop and hope you get high yields are past us. Now, you need to put on the appropriate inputs at the appropriate time. No more ‘three applications and extra N’. You have to be net effective. On our farm, we’ll explore those thresholds with AgVenture and share the knowledge and research across the network. We’ll help show farmers what it really means to make money and how much they can make off of each acre. If we can make $85, $185 or $285 — whatever the net amount is after everything is paid for — that's what the game should be. 

 

 

October 28, 2016
By Heath Hill

This year, there were several factors that greatly influenced our harvest start date. We’re in a wind tunnel in our area, and over the last 3-4 years, we've had a much higher likelihood of corn going down, so our belief is ‘get it when it's standing.’

In early September, Josh, my AgVenture Yield Specialist, came out to do some yield and moisture checks. We noticed we were at a higher moisture level than usual because we put fungicide on all of our acres; and fungicide keeps us 2–3% wetter. In addition, most of our corn this year is a longer season crop — about 107–113-day corn — so it matured a little later than what our neighbors planted. Between the higher moisture levels and the long season corn, we just weren’t ready to cut when our neighbors were; but that’s okay. We wanted to be confident that our crop could reach its full potential and that our harvest schedule was on point, so we made the decision to start harvest in mid-September.

Phantom yield loss was another factor that affected our start date. My father has preached this to me for years, and I refused to believe that it existed; I didn’t see any evidence that yields were higher if harvested at the beginning of the season rather than at the end. But as I became a bigger part of the operation, I came to realize that it’s real. I noticed that when we harvested our silage at a higher moisture, it adds up a whole lot quicker than when you harvest it dry. Now, based on that and what we read from Robert Corzatt in the latest AgVenture Forward Progress magazine regarding phantom yield loss, I’ve become a true believer. We started running this year at 23-24% moisture, which is a bit earlier than I would normally have harvested. It just goes to show that by looking at the data, we can make little changes that really pay off. 

September 20, 2016
By Heath Hill

Heath Hill farms 750 acres on the Southeast corner of Hamilton County in Iowa. We met up with him to hear how he and his AgVenture Yield Specialist are focusing on the details to increase yield across his operation. Watch the video to hear his story. 

 

September 20, 2016
By Jackson Webb

This year, we did a really good job spacing out our acres so harvest would be easier to manage. We went real heavy corn this year — out of 4800 acres, we had 4000 acres of corn, 800 of beans, so I really didn’t want all that corn to be ready for harvest at once. We did a good job, so we could get all the corn harvested in a timely manner and didn’t have everything drying out in the field.

 At the time we were making the decision to do so much corn, bean prices were in the tank and corn had the most upside potential — or we felt like it did at the time. We second guessed ourselves watching the bean market this summer, but it is what it is.

 We had a lot of rain during planting, and we had neighbors that had tremendous amounts of flooding. I don’t know if you saw it on the news, but in Louisiana, they’d get 20-30 inches of rain at a time, and we’re right next to them. We didn’t get quite as much as they did, but we had a tremendously wet spring, and we stayed really cool a lot longer than we normally do, which pushed planting back. We were hitting 40-degree nights and it wasn’t conducive to corn seed.

 One of our fields in particular is ringed all the way round by two different bayous, and we had 160 feet of water all the way around on both sides of the bayou. We had to wait for the water to go down before we could plant, and sometimes we had to push and mud the seed in. When it kept getting later and later, we just had to plant — but that wasn’t much out of our whole 4800 acres, and it did end up looking okay.

 Over the summer in general, everything started to look fantastic. We feel like we kind of got it lit — fertilizer got out when it was supposed to, herbicide was on time, and we did some other proactive things. Everything was really timed out well and was done when it was supposed to be done.

 Wayne of course has been running around trying to field a thousand different phone calls and help us too. He’s still a huge part of this farm, and we’re slugging through it together.

Toward the end of the season, we were 10 days away from a massive drought, so we focused on irrigation. This year we didn’t see any disease or pest pressure or stress or anything. The weather was cooperative, and the corn loved it.

June 10, 2016
By Heath Hill

I am 46 years old and the third-generation farmer on a century farm in Iowa that’s been in our family since 1909. I have a wife, Lesli, and a 16-year-old son. I farm with my father Craig on about 750 acres, and everything is precision farmed. We plant about 75% corn and 25% soybeans, though this year we will be almost two-thirds corn and one-third soybeans. Our dirt’s a little too black for a 50/50 rotation with corn and soybeans, so we usually do a two-year or three-year corn to every year soybeans.

We’re located about 20 miles north and two miles east of Ames, Iowa, in a town called Ellsworth. I’m fortunate in that my parents still own the home on the land, and I arguably live in the most beautiful acreage in the state of Iowa. It is an insane amount of work to mow, but we have a baseball field out front and all kinds of things. Even the barn, which is the oldest structure on the property from 1909, is gorgeous. About seven years ago, every single piece of wood on the exterior was removed and replaced with shiplap or tongue-and-groove boards and then repainted, so it’s very well kept.

I’ve never waxed my planter, but I wax everything else — the combine at least once a year, our tractors twice a year. I even wax the ripper. People think we’re a little bit finicky, but that’s just the way we’re going to be.

Working with AgVenture

We’ve been planting AgVenture corn for three years now, and we have grown test plots the last couple of years. Initially, we hadn’t heard of AgVenture, so we started out very small with the acres we planted with them — but this next year they’ll encompass more than half of our acres. I think also we’ve influenced a number of others around here — and in our area, change is kind of slow. “Grandma always cuts the ham in half,” as they say. Even giving 25% per year to a different seed company is pretty dramatic around here, but with AgVenture, we’ve been more dramatic than we’ve ever been with any company.

AgVenture’s seed quality, precision and attention to detail were what drew us in — as well as their willingness to help manage and fine-tune an organization. If you’ve got 3,000 acres, you can afford to make a few mistakes. If you have 750, you can’t. So we really have to get it right. Josh and Jim and Merlin and everybody at AgVenture in Ames truly go the extra mile — almost to being annoying at times (in a nice way). Josh is my AgVenture Yield Specialist and the guy I work with the most. We have a daily or weekly interaction. Then with seed size and selection, not only is Josh 100% available, but I can also call Merlin or Jim and say, “OK, here’s what I’m looking at. Here’s what we planted the last two years. How are they going to interact? What do we need to put on for insecticide? Etc.” All of them are very knowledgeable.

When Josh comes to the farm, he’s out here scouting, evaluating the planting depth, and he gives me a report card of how well I do — and it’s a written, half-sheet report card. That is comical if you think of what other seed companies do. There is no one who has ever given me a report card — and I love it. I love the fact that they’re critiquing me, saying things like, “You’re planting a bit too fast,” or “You’re going a bit too shallow.” Planter report cards are a big deal. Then Josh will come out three weeks later and do a Net Effective Plant Stand (NEPS) test . If you ask any other farmer what NEPS is, they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. But again, that’s the precision of AgVenture. If you have to operate on 750 acres, you do it well. But we’d do this again if we had 3,000 acres; we’d sill operate at this level of criticism or critique.

June 7, 2016
By Aaron Paus

We’ve been pretty productive since last fall. We went hard preparing the fields, and we started planting at a reasonable time — around April 15. I wasn’t in a hurry, because we were working on our planter and waiting for the right field conditions. For a while, our fields were nice and moist in some areas, but for the most part, we were plenty dry. We had snow on the first week of February — about 15 inches — and we barely had a thing since, so had about two months with negligible moisture. It’s very unusual. We’re not exactly wet country like out East, but we can expect a couple inches of rain in the spring.

 

I haven’t gone so far as to figure out what we’re doing about water restrictions. Last time we were in a situation like this, it was pretty unnerving. I went through about half my allocation just to get to pollination, and I never would have had enough allocation to get through, but that was the year we had a very generous amount of rain, so we made it okay. Since then we’ve always had enough rain in springtime. We haven’t had to worry about it.

 

Through everything this spring, Jeremy has of course been helping us out. We worked out most of our fertilizer maps and planting maps. He came to deliver seed around the first of March. Everything on their end is going nice and smooth.

 

I was looking at ramping up some remote soil sampling probes, and we were up and ready to run on that, but this year’s financial strains have me dragging my feet. So as far as doing the beta testing, I’m still deciding whether I’m going to write a check or not. It’s going to be a tough sell for me at this point. Things were a little tight going into the year, and we’ve lost two irrigation motors and one pickup motor since then, so that’s several thousand dollars I didn’t plan for that we’re out so far.

 

Other than that, we’re just keeping an eye on the markets. There’s quite a bit of speculation that the 93 million acre number for planting prediction of corn was high to start with, and that has shifted the market where beans gained a little and corn lost a bunch. So that’s probably going to shift about 3 million acres out of corn and into beans during planting. That takes it down to 90 to 91 million, which is a magical number and hopefully the market can sustain a $4 corn price. So there’s hope.

 

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