Innovations in the Field

Sponsored by BASF

This yearlong endeavor looks at how four farmers are evaluating technology and agronomic information that can boost the productivity of their operations.

David Kay

Jasper, MI

David Kay

Blog Entry #10: December 1, 2016

This is my final entry for the BASF Innovation In The Field series. Writing these monthly blogs has forced me to look at our farming operation as objectively and impartially as possible. Our motto always is "How can we grow our operation?" Grain markets have fallen out of their 10-year super-cycle, yet land, seed and other inputs are still historically high. That's not the best scenario to grow an ag business using traditional methods.

We are striving to "grow" our operation by improving efficiencies, reducing costs, improving fertility, increasing yields and refining soil management. Test plots, field trials and good ol' fashioned research have helped us "grow" without having to buy more ground. The last thing you want to do in a wet spring is devote a full day of planting to a 21 acre test plot. It's definitely the last thing you want to do in the fall, but these plots give us so much objective data that we can't afford not to. For example, our test plot showed even yields between conventional corn and stacked traits corn. However, when you add in the reduced seed cost on conventional corn, our returns on conventional were substantially higher vs stacked varieties. We realize this isn't always the case for everyone, different parts of country and different production practices will always change scenarios.

This spring I wrote about fungicide trials we were doing across multiple fields, varieties, irrigated and dryland. You name it, we had it. We set out to see where BASF's Priaxor, would not pay. I'll spoil it for you if you'd like. We couldn't find a single scenario where there was not a worthwhile ROI by applying Priaxor.

Across our soybean trials with Priaxor, we saw an average advantage of 7.5 bushels. Some strips showed a yield bump as high as 10.8 bushels in soybeans. This was over many different strips and trials, and soil types. We applied the Priaxor at about R1-R2 growth stage, which happened here the week of June 5.

When it came to corn, we were rewarded with an average yield bump of 12 bushels per acre when we applied the fungicide pre-tassel. One interesting observation while combing through data on a particularly sandy irrigated corn field (average cec of 7), we saw a 30 to 40 bushel response on two separate dryland corners. Trivial? Maybe….

Determined to "grow" our farm, I not only had to justify these farming choices and directional paths with myself and my father-in-law; but this blog allowed me to walk, you, the reader, through these processes. Periodic self-evaluation is supportive to personal growth and since farming is a lifestyle rather than just an occupation, self-evaluation is critical.

We are farmers, we all know how to sow a seed in the ground and cultivate a harvest. But our duty as farmers, business owners and land stewards is to implement necessary practices that will not just sustain our business and industry for the short term, but for generations to come.