I’ve always found a little time for year-end reflection is worthwhile. Not to dwell on the past, but to learn from it and move on.

There’s almost always the coulda/shoulda/woulda regrets on missing grain price opportunities. There are agronomic, production and input details to rethink and revise. Also think back on any equipment challenges and other bottlenecks that could be improved for 2014.

Closely tied to these 2013 reflections will be further analysis on how to wrestle and ratchet down your costs and reduce your risk exposure due to predictions of tighter margins. There’s the global market impact on your marketing plan that must always be taken seriously. And there are the unknowns here at home with the pending farm bill and possible changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

If your brain isn’t on overload yet, I suggest you also think in a big picture, long-term sense. You know here at CSD we strive to get readers to think different — from as simple as trying a new input to as challenging as going full-bore no-till and cover crops. To that end, we hope you take time to consider building a soil health strategy and a data use strategy — as these two trends will play the largest future role in growing and sustaining yield and profitability.

While we wrote numerous stories on these soil and data topics through- out the year, we have some good examples in this December issue. We kick it off with a story on the value of big data (“Seek pooled data,” Page 8) and the importance of going way beyond your own fields to improve decisions. On Page 14, be sure to read “Big data crop decisions” to learn how data science engineers in the tech hotbed of California are bringing amazing climate and agricultural models to your individual fields that can improve your in-season decision-making to boost profitability. And don’t forget our monthly Data Decisions column by Dan Frieberg that talks about amending management zones.

Regarding soil topics, check out how an Iowa farmer is learning to keep soil and water in place during extreme rain events (“Building soil to handle extremes,” Page 30). And don’t miss “Six factors impact runoff risk” on Page 34 to help you evaluate your soil conservation approach in every field.

Part of our year-end analysis here at CSD is to pick the top Think Different stories of the year — a very popular series that we run online at csdigest.com during the month of December. Don’t forget to check it out in case you missed the best thinking we try to offer in every issue.

And now, it’s time to move on.

I sincerely thank you for reading, for viewing more valuable content on csdigest.com, for subscribing to our newsletters, and for being willing to Think Different.