Welcome to the 2018 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic practices to enhance their return on investment and profit potential. Check back each week for new blogs and videos from the farmers as they share their experiences and crop management decisions throughout the growing season. Here is a brief overview of our four participants.
You don't usually spend money to cut costs. But that's what JC Henrekin, of Deer Grove, Illinois, has been doing. And the real plus is his cost-cutting investments are also improving yields and bottom line.
Self-propelled crop sprayers are big-ticket items not usually seen as cost-cutting investments. But for Henrekin, buying a sprayer has opened up a host of cost-cutting opportunities. The biggest might be the leverage it gives him for buying chemicals. No longer forced to buy his chemicals through suppliers who are spraying them, he now has the freedom to shop around. "We no longer need the service that comes from buying from a supplier who's doing the spraying. When a supplier knows you have your own sprayer, they can get a sharper pencil real quick," notes Henrekin.
In addition to chemical cost saving, the use of the sprayer has helped significantly to improve yields. "The sprayer's contributed a lot to our improved yields," explains Henrekin. "Timeliness is everything in weed control, and especially with waterhemp."
Being able to spray at exactly the right time also limits spray accidents. "We plant all dicamba soybeans," says Henrekin, "and that means keeping the sprayer out of the field when it's too windy or not windy enough. With our own sprayer, we can move when we need to move and stop when I need to stop. We're not pushed to cover a certain number of acres every day."
Henrekin also credits the purchase of Y-Drop technology for improving yields and cutting costs. "We try to focus our money where it's needed most. Y-Drop has helped us better utilize our nitrogen dollars, enabling us to boost yields while cutting cost."
Y-Drop has been especially effective in improving yields in the lighter, sandy soils that make up some 25 percent of the land Henrekin farms. "These soils have low cation exchange capacity and don't hold nutrients well," explains Henrekin. "We can't expect nutrients applied early to be there later in the growing season when the plants need them. Y-Drop enables us to spoon-feed these soils during the season.
Henrekin is also experimenting with using his Y-Drop to apply liquid fertilizer on soybeans in high pH soils that tend to tie up nutrients. BASF Innovation Specialist Chris Norberg shared fertilizer suggestions with Henrekin for working with these soilsâ€”suggestions based on what he had learned from other farmers in the area.
This crop year, Henrekin is taking a close look at his operation's irrigation costs. Prior to this, Henrekin made his decision on when to turn on the irrigators by observation. "We need to pull the trigger on irrigating based on when it truly needs to be pulled and not when the neighbors are pulling the trigger," he says. So for this year, he's bought moisture probes; spending money on technology to save money.