Ignored for decades, moist sample analysis saves money and boosts yields. Soil labs and scientists alike abandoned field moist soil sampling decades ago. Common until the 1980s, field moist soil sampling was replaced with a faster and easier "dry and grind" procedure.
"There’s nothing about scouting a farmer can't learn," says Bruce Potter, Minnesota Extension integrated pest management specialist. He, along with Ryan Wolf and Harold Watters scout extensively and train growers, crop consultants and agronomists how to scout. Scouting isn't just identifying a disease or insect pest, says Watters, an Ohio State University Extension field agronomist.
GM hybrids aren't the only "elite" germplasm. G2 Genetics' 3-H-399 AgrisureRW hybrid, with a full complement of GM (genetically modified) traits, captured headlines with a record 309.5 bu./acre yield in the North Dakota University (NDSU) irrigated corn trials. However, the conventional hybrid runner up may suggest an even bigger story.
How secure is your relationship with all your landlords? At a time when aggressive operators are targeting long-term relationships, offering substantial bumps to rental agreements, what would your landlords accept? Do you know how to 'seal the deal' with every landlord?
While the drought ravaged many Midwestern corn fields in 2012, soybeans in many of those same areas broke yield records. Field averages of 70, 80 and 90 bu. with spikes well above that were reported throughout the upper Midwest. Extension crop specialists contacted by Corn & Soybean Digest credit the ever-resilient soybean's response to late-season rains. And to the role the hot dry weather played in reducing insect and disease pressure.
If you think cover crops are for smaller operators only, don't tell Mark Anson and Lanny Greenhalgh. Anson sees them as an integral part of his family's 20,000-acre farming operation. For Greenhalgh, who farms several thousand acres near Guide Rock, Neb., cover crops build soil, retain moisture for higher yields and allow custom grazing.
Farmers aren't the only ones getting older. Forty-two percent of non-operating landlords (NOLs) were more than 70 years of age in 1999*. As control of rental property shifts to the next generation, long-term tenant relationships can shift, too.
In-crop optical sensing, also called canopy sensing, is boosting yields and cutting costs for Robert Goettl, his brother Jerome and nephew Justin. Their GreenSeeker crop sensing system allowed the Le Center, Minn., farmers to shift away from reliance on all fall nitrogen (N) application. For the past four years they have combined a base fall rate with variable in-season applications using a coulter cart. Yields were up 10 bu./acre or more in the drier-than-normal 2012 season.
Biologically based crop inputs are moving from the orchards and cabbage patch to corn and soybean fields. A combination of higher value commodity crops, synergies between biologicals and synthetic chemical controls, new research tools and major corporate investments are driving the trend.
Dale Crawford has his own crop-scouting drone...sitting in the basement. The Sullivan, Ill., corn and soybean grower bought the Canadian-built, CropCam fixed-wing-style, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) after seeing one at Commodity Classic about five years ago. He was intrigued by the idea of doing aerial photos for his fields and possibly others.
If you lack focus below the soil, on your crop root environment, then these critical plant pathways won't efficiently transport water and nutrients into place for top yields. To build healthy roots, start with the basics, suggests Bruce Potter, integrated pest management specialist, University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center.
Are you growing a crop for the next harvest or farming for the future?
Trend-setter advocates increasingly believe that a farming for the future philosophy is critical. Farmers who build a long-term base of soil health as the foundation for long-term profits will be miles ahead compared to simply growing next year's crop. Researchers, consultants and progressive farmers believe a more holistic, long-term approach is required to raise the bar on future productivity.
Imagine, or just push the fast-forward button: You activate your sensor network to take soil, root and leaf readings and report data. You receive temperature, moisture, plant hormone levels and more from georeferenced points. Your computer integrates them with already-identified and mapped organic matter (OM), pH and electrical conductivity (EC) zones in those fields, with the specific variety planted.
Your farm data represent dollars spent and dollars to be made. Spinning them into gold is the challenge. Farmers 50 years ago knew every field like the back of their hands, no doubt better. With bigger farms and more fields, truly knowing a field is more likely done through data. However, with grid sampling, yield monitoring, variable-rate seeding and fertilizer applications, crop histories and more, data can overwhelm even the most analytical farmer ever.