Seeking higher yields & bigger returns in 2023
By Paul Hermans
When buying a property, any real estate salesperson will tell you that three things matter – location, location, location. In agriculture the adage that holds true is planning, planning, planning. Failing to plan is like planning to fail.
The 2022 growing (and hopefully harvest) season has come and gone. Now our eyes turn toward the 2023 growing season with anticipation of higher yields and bigger returns.
How you will get there depends on a lot of factors. One factor you have a lot of control over is planning.
Over the next few weeks, I hope you take the time to sit down with all partners at your operation to not only plan out next year’s crops, but also plan for your operation over the next five to 10 years.
Putting paper and pencil to this is great. However, new digital tools that are on the market can make life a lot easier, especially when plans need to change quickly due to weather or market disruptions.
Moving forward, having a sound plan that is written down and accessible both digitally and in print will be critical as the government and other society partners we work with want to see that agriculture is being performed daily in a sound, environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Let us take a closer look at how digital field planning can help your operation.
We all know that placing the right seed on the right field can lead to higher yields. Certain corn hybrids do better on loam soil versus sandy soil.
Triple stack protection with below ground protection against corn rootworm are best suited for those corn-on-corn situations, especially for livestock producers that have manure and silage fields close to their livestock barns.
Every grower, every farm, every field is different. Having a sound seed plan is key for success.
With digital field planning tools, you can place products, planting rates and projected planting dates on a field-by-field basis. These tools often have features that summarize product placement across your farms and operation, so you can quickly reference your product and technology mix and understand your seed needs for the upcoming growing season.
The nice thing about digital field planning is that you can often reference your field plans directly in the planning tools or print hard copies of your plans to keep in the cab and reference on the go. With differences in seed (agronomically), traits (herbicide, insect), as well as seed treatments (corn nematicides, phytophthora root rot, etc.), every field potentially has different seed needs based on prior issues experienced on those fields.
Taking and saving notes digitally throughout the growing season is a simple way to go back through the planting season “book” for that year to see and understand what happened where and when, while reviewing your cropping plans.
In Eastern Ontario, one of the biggest diseases in soybeans is white mould. This pest can easily knock off 25 to 50 per cent yield from top end soybean fields when the disease rears its ugly head. Knowing the field’s history allows a grower to not only plan seed that has key agronomic traits, but it also allows a grower to plan out fungicide needs for that field.
Much like seed planning, planning your crop protection products helps you capture which products need to go where and at what rate. You can share these plans with members of your team or your custom applicator, ensuring that everyone has a clear understanding of the crop protection needs on your operation.
Digital planning is an easy way to ensure the right product gets applied on the right field, at the right rate and at the right time.
With some digital planning tools, manure, synthetic fertilizer, micros, lime and more can all be planned down to the acre. Sound record-keeping and planning is key for government-based programs growers are applying for.
Economic Deep Dives
When I ask producers what their average yields are, most growers can rhyme off historical averages for their operation, or better yet averages on a field-by-field and crop basis.
When I ask what their average cost of production is for corn or soybeans, however, I get a lot of deer-in-the-headlights looks.
We have done a great job of understanding agronomy, but not so much understanding economics.
There are many tools that can be used to do this. Simple things such as Excel spreadsheets are handy, but more advanced tools can get costs of production and profitability down to the acre or bushel.
I love combining agronomic information such as yield maps, soil maps, satellite imagery, as-planted data and harvest data to get a sense of where an operation is headed historically and in the future.
Being able to sort fields by performance gives us a better sense of where an operation is financially.
Some digital tools can now display product performance in head-to-head hybrid comparisons, variety by population data and so much more.
Take the time to review these key aspects this winter.
My big watch-out (which I touched on in the October edition of Better Farming) is to ensure the data you have coming into any program is sound data.
Hopefully this harvest you took the time to calibrate the combine to have the best data you can. Otherwise, this is like starting to build a house with a roof being built on top of a poor foundation. It will collapse in no time.
Digital field planning helps keep things simple, saves you time and allows you to plan with flexibility, which is vital for the success of your farm operation.
It also allows the next-generation farmer in your operation to utilize the tools of their generation to make sure they succeed down the road.
There are many different programs out there that can help you plan and be successful.
Take the time this winter to explore the options to ensure your planning leads to a successful farm operation in 2023 and beyond.
As always, reach out if you would like more details.
Happy planning! BF
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