A new year brings a fresh start and a great time to resolve to make changes and improvements to both yourself and your business. We have 5 ideas that you may consider changing in your farming operation this growing season.
1 - Plant [some] Soybeans First
2021 could be the year of experimenting with extending grain fill on your farm. One way to do that would be, in a traditional corn-soy rotation, starting with soybeans first. Planting an early maturity soybean variety before you get into corn may give you an opportunity to capture bonus days in grain fill for that field. Remember, soybeans are photoperiod sensitive, meaning when the nights begin to get longer that triggers their reproductive phase. Pay close attention to the plants and when they start flowering, if it is before June 21st, or summer solstice, you will have added extra daylight during your reproductive phases which could add bushels at harvest.
2 - Monitor Crop Nutrition
Monitoring crop nutrition is a great first step in making crop nutrient management decisions. We often use markets, weather forecasts, or gut feelings on our in-season nutrient decisions and this year may be the year to put some numbers behind those decisions. Tissue testing is the easiest way to do this - you just need to pull plant foliage and mail it to the lab. You can also work with a crop consultant or agronomy retail location to help you complete this work. It's important that tissue testing is done properly to ensure the most accurate results. If you have already been sampling on your farm, it may be time to level-up and start pulling multiple samples throughout the growing season to create a season-long picture of your plants nutrient profile.
3 - Use An In-Season Tool for Managing Fertility
It's good to go into the season with a fertility plan, but it’s important to adjust that plan according to the environment the season provides. Many companies have identified the opportunity growers have to call an audible on their in-season fertility and have worked hard to build out tech platforms that can give you confidence in those decisions. Are you a three-pass nitrogen farmer? Some years it pays big dividends, other years it pays to sit it out. Crop models like Adapt-N or Field Forecasting Tool, or tools provided by Granular or Climate can assist you in making these in-season calls on fertility.
4 - Invest in Sustainability
Sustainability efforts have been ramping up over the last several years, and this may be the year for you to invest into these efforts for your business. The investment is likely to be more of time, data collection, and data sharing than it is of dollars. Many large corporations have put substantial investments into sustainability efforts, and elevating the work of local grower’s like you. Sustainability efforts are not always black and white, and can be hard to see tangible returns in the short term. However, consumers’ requests for sustainable practices and transparency may prove incentive enough to begin tracking your normal on-farm behaviors. The message we have been hearing is that companies are not starting these efforts to change the way we are farming, but rather to highlight what we are doing right and bring awareness to the constant progress we are working towards. Companies like TruTerra, FBN, and Nutrien have sustainability programs that may be worth evaluating for use on your farm.
5 - Get Your Soil Healthy
Soil health already appears to be a hot-topic in 2021. Maybe this is your year to create a soil health trial on your farm. Some things you could take a look at include utilizing cover crops, reducing tillage, or switching up your crop rotation. With all of the inherent variables that come with farming, try starting with one tactic that you can benchmark to try to track improvements over time. Soil health improvements, like sustainability efforts, are a long-game so don’t quit if you don’t see results this year. Keep experimenting and evolving and see what proves to be most effective on your farm.
Small incremental improvements each year can position your operation for the future, so what changes are you going to make this year? There is a lot of internet talk and industry support around these topics; we will be keeping a close eye on who is moving the mark and following along as we use 2021 as a year for growth and change. If you have utilized any of the products or services be sure to leave your feedback.