Salsbery’s operation is well known for trying proven new technologies and agronomic practices. This year he sidedressed 90 lbs./acre nitrogen (N) just before tasseling with a Yetter late-season N-application attachment that attaches to the front of a stock machine. His goal is to raise his average corn yields from 200 to 250. But it’s all about the bottom line, not the yield, for Salsbery. “That sidedressing gave me 40-60 bu. more but only cost me $35 plus the depreciation on the $16,000 attachment; it’s a no-brainer,” he says. “It works best if you get some rain right after you apply,” he advises.

By split-applying his N, his N:bushel ratio was about 20% below standard, notes Welch. Doing the math, he saved $25,000/yr. on N just from that 20% bump in agronomic efficiency from split N applications. (With 31¢ N and $82/acre UAN, he saved $17/acre on N x 1,500 acres of corn =$25,000 year.)

Savings from variable-rate planting is harder to pencil out, but Salsbery thinks proven new technologies make agronomic sense (see sidebar). All of his 3,600 acres are variable-rate planted based on soil productivity and topography. His soybean populations range from 160,000-200,000 seeds/acre, and his corn ranges from 31,000-38,000 seeds/acre.

“Farming is so much fun with this new technology,” he says.

Aerial imagery twice a growing season identifies corrections that yield about 40 bu./acre more yield, says Welch (his agronomist). “He was able to see what a big difference starter fertilizer, split N applications and fungicide applications made. I like NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) because, even in a beautiful field of corn, it shows me what makes 255 bu. and what makes 245. It revals the weakest areas even if they are very good.”

The first shot taken right after pollination reveals different varieties, identifies spots where you planted too deeply or where you need more tile, Salsbery adds.

“Ted’s used imagery since the very beginning,” Welch says.

Salsbery had his first computer in 1980, and has been on the front end of the adoption curve in the field ever since. Just because he focuses on marketing doesn’t mean he’s averse to tinkering. Ten years ago, he invented a drill calibrator to match seed size on a new drill. “The drill directions said the rate varied from 150,000 to 180,000 seeds/acre,” Salsbery says. “That meant you could be doubling or halving your rate; it’s a big range. The local soil and water conservation folks want to use it to seed radishes.

“It’s simple math once you get it down,” he says.