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  • Writer's picturePrecision Ag Reviews

Ep. 19: What’s on the horizon for agriculture? with John Smith

We’re kicking off our first interview of 2021 with an episode about trends in agronomy and ag tech with agronomist, John Smith. From soil health to crop models and row spacing, our wide-ranging conversation hits on what many growers have been asking or considering for their operation this year.

John spent the bulk of his career as an agronomist supporting retail sales, but took a turn toward ag tech in the last few years – giving him a well-rounded look at modern agronomy. Although he is technically retired, John is spending time each day watching the trends and seeking to understand what’s going to be important for farmers to succeed.

Soil health is top of mind for John in 2021 and he describes its benefits for agriculture as a “trifecta” – environmental, biological and economical.

In terms of the environment, he is specifically considering how soil health can benefit water quality. Recently, Ohio passed House Bill 7 – a program to create water quality protection and preservation plans – which John believes can be good for growers and their soil health efforts.

He’s also looking at the inherent benefits of soil health, including increased biological activity, organic matter, water infiltration and retention, and more.

“We know a lot more about soil physics and soil chemistry than we do about soil biology and what goes on in the soil,” John stated. “And, as we uncover more about the soil health topic, we’re learning more and more every day about the soil biology. It’s pretty interesting.”

Lastly, John believes soil health is going to be a prominent topic in 2021 as growers may begin to get paid to improve their sustainability efforts. There are several tools that growers can subscribe to today, but how growers may be able to monetize this isn’t quite clear yet.

“I think the biggest thing with this whole soil health piece is that all of the stakeholders need to realize this is not an instant gratification event,” said Smith. “The issues that have happened to the biology of our soil did not happen in a year and we are not going to restore all of that biology in the year.”

Not only is soil health not an instant-gratification win, the solutions vary depending on each environment and current practices. This makes finding the right “answer” to improving soil health part of an ongoing system that works in conjunction with your unique environment.

What steps are you taking to improve soil health this year? Listen to the full episode with John Smith for more ideas.



Host: Morgan Seger

Guest: John Smith

Morgan Seger: (00:22)

Welcome back to Precision Points, an ag tech podcast from I'm your host Morgan Seger and in each episode, we strive to bring you unbiased ag tech information and ideas. And on today's show, I am joined by my dear friend, John Smith. Now, John is a retired agronomist and plant pathologist by training, but he took a turn towards the end of his career into ag tech and he has a really interesting perspective. So, he spent some time with us today talking about trends that he's expecting in 2021 and also we talk a little bit about row spacing. So where I'm at, we've been getting lots of questions about row spacing and we know that Dr. John Fulton mentioned that he's doing some research on that as well. So it was interesting getting John's take on row spacing and changes in the implications that that may have for your growing crop. So, I hope you enjoy this conversation with John Smith. John, welcome to the show.

John Smith: (01:20)

Thanks, Morgan.

Morgan Seger: (01:21)

Do you mind kicking us off today by going through some of your background? I know that you have a very extensive background in agronomy and you took an interesting turn towards tech that I think is going to fit in really nice in our conversation today. So can you share some of your history with our audience?

John Smith: (01:36)

Gladly. So my training was in plant science at University of Delaware. I'm actually a plant pathologist by training and I started work for American Cyanamid a long time ago, started actually in sales for a few years and moved over into the tech service group, got to introduce Scepter and Pursuit, which back in the '80s was a big deal and left there in the mid '90s, went to work for Terra. Was a tech service rep for Terra. Interesting in that I not only covered Ohio, but I also had opportunities in the Northeast and the East Coast. So I went out to Cape Cod for cranberries and I did melons down in the Eastern shore and all kinds of specialty crops on the East Coast. So that was an exciting, interesting time. And in 1999, the Terra distribution business was acquired by Cenex Land O'Lakes.

John Smith: (02:34)

And so I joined Cenex Land O'Lakes, became Agriliance for seven years and then they agreed to part ways, Cenex Harvest States and Land O'Lakes. And so Land O'Lakes took the crop protection business and I went to Land O'Lakes and worked with crop protection. See that's where you and I became acquainted a long...a few years ago. Was an agronomist then, interesting role, had the opportunity for a number of years to work pretty closely with some large successful growers and that was an enlightening experience. And you shared a lot of those experiences with me and then finished out my career on the e-business team, Mike Vandalot, and the whole fuel forecasting tool. And I was kind of charged with trying to make the soybean model hunt. And we made a lot of progress there in a year and a half and decided it was time to leave. So I've been enjoying retirement for the last year and a few months. That's my background. Does that suffice?

Morgan Seger: (03:44)

Yes, that does. I think that it's interesting that you've really got to watch this whole ag tech industry really develop throughout your career, and you have a lot of different perspectives coming into it from the tech side that you worked on, the grower experiences. So this is our first episode of 2021, what's your guess on what this year is going to bring? What trends in tech are you most excited about?

John Smith: (04:15)

So, I think I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the buzz around soil health. It's clearly garnering the most press and the most interest, that's successful, the ramifications for all of agriculture. I mean, whatever aspect you're in, it changes pretty dramatically. I mean, just catching up on email this morning, I still get emails from some farm journal publications, Successful Farming, Ohio Country Journal – different stuff, right? So I spend about an hour in the morning sorting through some emails and this morning, there's four articles in some way dealing with the soil health. So it's every time you turn around, you pick up a trade publication that there's something in there. I look at this again, my experience, I think you know me maybe well enough to know that I kind of well-rounded and I'm interested in the whole business, not just like crop protection or something, right?

John Smith: (05:08)

So to me, this has the potential to be a trifecta for agriculture. And by saying that, it has some real benefits regarding the environmental footprint of agriculture and seeing some positive benefits, right? I mean, one of the articles I read this morning, the Ohio House passed a House Bill Seven, which has a lot to do with water quality. And the corn growers, wheat growers were excited and behind them passing that bill. So it's a positive for agriculture. The second thing, obviously from a grower perspective is improved soil health means a lot of things includes increased biological activity, increased organic matter, improved water infiltration and retention and the list goes on, right? There's a lot of benefits there. I think the one thing that's becoming clear when you talk about soil health is we know a lot more about soil physics and soil chemistry than we do about soil biology and what goes on in the soil.

John Smith: (06:14)

And as we uncover this soil health topic, we're learning more and more every day about the soil biology. It's pretty interesting. And, last but not least, the grower’s going to get paid for carbon credits. Now it remains to be seen how that all works out. But finally, we're going to monetize the whole sustainability thing, which if you can put some money behind it, if there's a financial incentive, growers will adopt these practices and regardless whose sustainability tool that you want to subscribe to, it's going to garner a lot of interest, right? I think the biggest thing with this whole soil health piece as I look at it, is all the stakeholders need to realize this is not an instant gratification today, it's going to take some time. The issues that have happened to the biology of our soil didn't happen in a year, and we're not going to restore all of that biology in the end.

John Smith: (07:21)

But when I look most of my career, I've always worked in Ohio, Eastern Indiana and these heavy, wet, poorly drained clay soils, right? I mean the opportunity to improve those soils, to improve water infiltration, increase organic matter, they're all huge benefits to the grower if we can take the steps and do the things we need to do to get that done.

Morgan Seger: (07:50)

Sure. So if you were talking to a grower, if you're a grower listening to this, where's kind of that first place you would recommend they start if they wanted to start improving their soil health?

John Smith: (08:00)

So reducing the amount of tillage that they're doing, that would be the first step. The second step would be trying to plant cover crops where feasible. You may not be able to plant a cover crop on every acre, every year. I drive around the countryside and I see wheat stubble fields, that there's nothing but weeds growing in when September rolls around. That's a bad deal. I mean, clearly that's an easy place if you're not going to double crop soybeans, we need to get a cover crop established in those fields. We can do a lot of good because July, August, September, you got three really good growing months in the fall on wheat stubble fields and plus the spring, cereal rye becomes a default product and in a corn-soybean rotation, because we get harvest delays and we get to seeding cover crops till November, cereal rye becomes the winner as far as a cover crop to plant late. But those are probably the two things I would take a serious look at if I was going to tell a grower to change.

Morgan Seger: (09:12)

Okay. And so knowing that it's not going to be an instant gratification thing, how can growers benchmark their actions to know if they're doing any good?

John Smith: (09:24)

That goes back to my point about it not being an instant gratification event. I think you have to wait and see and when you plant and you get that great big rain, if you've done less tillage and you've had a cover crop and all of a sudden that field that used to crust didn't crust, and I get a good stand when I get that pounding rain following planning before emergence, right? You and I have been through the seed business together, right? And you always have re-plant claims and it's all about the crust, right? We've seen that our clay soils, I want to do that if I can increase the organic matter in those sources.

John Smith: (10:10)

So, that would be one clear thing and then the other piece would be those yellow, white clays that we have and a lot of times they're on the eroded portions of a field when July comes around and they're like rock solid and the rain comes and it just rolls down the hillside because that clay is so impermeable to the water. As we're making progress improving soil health, is that soil becoming a little bit more permeable and the water percolates down into that profile as opposed to that first two tenths of an inch of rain wanting to roll on down the hillside rather than percolate down into the soil profile. Those are a couple of things I would look at as kind of measurements and in a real-world scenario.

Morgan Seger: (10:56)

Got you. So a personal question if you don't mind me asking, how did you decide or get interested in making this change from being a very technical agronomist to working on the e-business side and working with crop models and other digital tools?

John Smith: (11:15)

Oh, so that's a $64 million question. So, I think because I have always taken a very wide view of things, I originally got put on their back when we first started the field forecasting tool, I was in the first real meeting in Minneapolis and Randy Brown made the joke that he needed a cynic. I said, this could work. He probably thought that was okay and it could work. And the group at Winfield was a great group and that there were no egos in the room. Mike Vandalot came into the room and he wanted to hear from the guy that started yesterday, just as much as he wanted to hear somebody with 30 years of experience. Everybody checked their egos at the door and you were in some of those meetings, we had some knockdown, drag-out fights, we got arguments, we got mad at one another, we laughed and we went and had dinner and had a couple of drinks together and everybody was okay but we got a lot accomplished because of that.

John Smith: (12:22)

And I just saw the potential as we talk about some of these things that the environmental impact of agriculture, we can front load enough nitrogen in March to support a 300 bushel corn crop from an environmental standpoint, from an economic standpoint, we can't do that. So the modeling piece – and you and I have sat through models and done projections – but these in-season applications of nitrogen are just incredible, what we can accomplish with those. As an agronomist, if you told me you're going to put nitrogen on corn that had brown silt 15 years ago, I would've said you're nuts and now we need to do more of that. It works.

John Smith: (13:09)

Part of these new hybrids respond to late nitrogen much better, much differently than the hybrids of 30 years ago. So, I think that all intrigued me putting this late nitrogen on keeping these plants healthy. So being a plant pathologist, the use of fungicides, one of the things I worked on the e-business team was the soybean model. Had two really good conversations with Mike Vandalot on the soybean model, and his first comment at our first meeting was like, "So if we're going to make this soybean model hunt, we're going to have to model a disease. Right?" And I'm like, "Well Mike, you're talking to a plant pathologist. So the answer, yes." And we went from there, he was very supportive.

John Smith: (13:58)

The corn model, modeling diseases was not forefront in making that corn model work. Right? It was about, we could do a lot with that corn model from the standpoint of managing population, managing nutrition with soybeans, disease clearly limiting and that was a piece. So that's how I got involved with taking my agronomic interests to that and the things that that model was allowing us to do from an agronomic perspective where I landed.

Morgan Seger: (14:29)

Yeah. Well, I know that lots of times this technology can be kind of intimidating to just jump in because it's constantly changing. It's a moving target. And so I always admire your willingness to just jump all the way in and figure it out from the ground up. But you're right, it's a systems approach. And so if you're an agronomist and you're looking at diseases and then you're working with a tool that can help you predict or model those out, it just makes sense to try to leverage the tools. So another question I had for you, we've been getting lots of questions about row spacing. And I know when I started working with you, I think 11 years ago, we had just moved a lot of our trials and plots to 20-inch rows, and a lot of those large growers you were talking with were in the process of changing over some of their equipment or considering making a change. So what's your perspective on growers who are trying to optimize row spacing and population and manage that on their operation today?

John Smith: (15:29)

So, one of my moments at a January agronomy meeting with Kevin Eye in the room, the reason we switched to 20-inch rows is at that point in time, we were planting soybeans in 30-inch rows. When you came on-board, growers had fully adopted traited corn. So they had seen some pretty phenomenal improvements in corn yields. Soybean yields, 12 years ago when you started were lagging and corn yields were improving and soybeans were falling further and further behind. And we had a January agronomist meeting and I said, “So Kevin...,” – talking to Kevin Eye who was heading up the Answer Plot crews at the time. Right? – and I said, "Kevin,” I said, “We bring growers to Answer Plots and I'm telling you 30-inch row soybeans is not the answer to growing higher yielding soybeans."

John Smith: (16:23)

And he's like, "So Smith, we can't have two planters. It's just not feasible to haul two planters all over the countryside." And I said, so get 20-inch row units. I can live with 20-inch row soybeans. So that was kind of my start and then from there, I got looked at by a lot of people for kind of a leadership in the row-spacing thing. We were working with some large growers who were already on 20-inch rows. We had some growers that were interested in different row spacings. And so the biggest thing was 20-inch rows and we did response to population and, with our clay soils in Ohio, regardless of how good a job we do with soil health, that root system's ability to explore that soil profile is not going to be timber, clay soil in Ohio. It's not going to explore as much soil as a corn root system with the same hybrid explorers in that good home soil in Champaign, Illinois. Just not going to not going to do it.

John Smith: (17:26)

So can I reposition those... Maybe the same number of plants, maybe a few more plants. I'm not going crazy with population necessarily, but can I reposition those plants to explore more of that soil? Right? I've got clay soil, water-holding capacity is limited. Can I capture more of that water that's limited? Can I capture more of the fertility by having root systems exploring more of that soil? And then can I capture more sunlight because Ohio, we're very cloudy. Sunlight's at a premium. So by repositioning those plants on that acre cannot capture more sunlight. Is corn more of a heat game than a sunlight capture game but when it comes to soybeans, it's purely sunlight capture, right?

John Smith: (18:21)

So the better distribution of soybean foliage on that acre, the more sunlight I can capture, especially early in the growing season because we're figuring that piece out. And that's a whole other question but the soybeans, repositioning those plants becomes critical. When you look at 30-inch rows and you're talking about corn, all of a sudden you've got a 35,000 plants per acre basis. In 30-inch rows, you've got a plant every six inches. There's a lot of plant-to-plant competition going on there a) from sunlight capture, and b), from a root system. I take those same 35,000 plants and put them in 20-inch rows. All of a sudden, now I'm at a nine inch plant-to-plant spacing. And we had a lot of success for a lot of years, planting to 27,000 plants in 30-inch rows and we were a lot closer to nine inch plant-to-plant spacing than we were six. So that's the corn piece.

Morgan Seger: (19:25)

On the corn real quick, you were saying, it's a heat thing with heat accumulation. So corn likes heat. Right?And isn't it kind of a double-edged sword though, because as you close in that canopy a little bit closer, I feel like you were with me one time we were out walking a field and the corn on the inside where was narrower rows, was actually maturing differently because of the difference in temperature?

John Smith: (19:51)

Yes. So with corn we talk about growing degree days. Okay. And so growing degree days, I'll just state, is a formula that allows us to measure heat and compare heat between years, between geographies, et cetera. And the one interesting comment or the comment I would make about that, and this goes back a number of years, was at that meeting you and I were at and Fred Bellow was there and one of the really good growers that I know that was actually twin rows up in Lorain County, right up on the lake, got lake effect growing conditions. And Fred Bellow made the comment, 2012 maybe, that he was done with twin rows – too hot, too much heat candy, too hot. And I'm sitting next to this grower that twin rows up in Lorain County and the grower says, "I just had the best quarter I've ever had in 2012” and he's twin rows.

John Smith: (20:52)

Okay. So it's all about kind of where you're at, right? Lorain County, they all struggled to get that crop finished. Okay. If Fred Bellows got plots down at SIU, Carbondale, Illinois, you're a hundred miles south of I-70 – heat in Lorraine County, heat in Carbondale, Illinois are not the same thing. Right? So it's all about your experience. But anyhow, that's going back to the narrow row piece and then the row spacing on soybeans. So, I mentioned soybeans are a sunlight capture games, right? And so if you understand that soybeans are a sunlight capture game, then it's easy to understand why this big move was soybeans to plant early. Okay. If I can get soybeans, historically the textbook says soybeans flower on or after the first day of summer. Okay.

John Smith: (21:53)

They are photo sensitive. If I plant soybeans early enough, I can get them to flower before the first day of summer. Okay. And if I can get them to flower before the first day of summer, that's more sunlight in the longer days than we have in mid-late June, as opposed to waiting and getting the flower after 4th of July, and then my daylight's going away quickly. Right? So I think that's where my opinion and that's where some of the yield from early planet soybeans is coming from, is getting the right varieties planted in that situation to where they're flowering before the first day of summer. And I'm capturing it, more sunlight. That's where I think some of the high yield stuff from soybeans is coming from. On row spacing on soybeans, my comment, I go back to my Answer Plot meeting, right?

John Smith: (22:50)

So 30-inch rows are not the answer. So obviously if a farmer wants one planter and he wants to maintain one planter and he wants to plant corn and soybeans with the 20-inch row planter is very acceptable. I think when we look at the work I did with high-yielding soybeans, kind of on the e-business team, right? A planter unit is essential for high-yielding soybeans. We've drilled a lot of soy beans in the East. I mean the 750 drill 35 years ago was an amazing invention. But today – with higher yields, lower populations – I need a better plant-to-plant spacing. Today plant-to-plant spacing in soybeans is not as critical as it is in corn. Uniform emergence with soybeans is not as critical today as it is in corn. I believe the day will come where plant-to-plant spacing in soybeans becomes much more important, much more recognized, uniform emergence. Especially with early plant, soybeans will become something that people pay more and more attention to, right?

John Smith: (24:01)

You and I have done a lot of field days together. And you know my other passion tonight is around seed treatment. And so planting a lower population of soybeans is clearly part of the equation of growing higher yield in the soybeans but in order to make those lower populations successful, we need to get uniform emergence. We need to get an established healthy stand. And when we have drilled soybeans and some of them are planted at an inch and a quarter deep, and some of them are half an inch deep, and some of them were on top of the ground, that's just not a recipe for uniform emergence, regardless of the seed treatment that you use. Right? So again, it's a systems approach just like corn. We got to pay attention to different components in the system because the system that we've used to raise soybeans in the past, you're drilling soybeans, is very different than the system that we use to plant corn at 30-inch rows, right? So we're making some transitions, we're changing part of both systems possibly but the changes that we're making are not necessarily the same for both systems.

Morgan Seger: (25:15)

Well, I'm sitting here thinking we have algorithms where we can plug in row spacing and predict what our yield decrease is going to be in corn. We know after so many days of being a late emerger that that plant’s essentially a weed. So it does make sense that soybeans may have some of the same implications. I know that the plants are different, obviously, but as I'm sitting here listening to you, I was smiling thinking about if I were an intern, hey, that's a really easy thing to start looking at and trying to measure out to see if there's an impact. So, I appreciate that thought. And I'm just thinking all of the times I've heard you tell interns to think about things. It's just an interesting perspective. You're always a really great mentor and spend a lot of time helping the younger generation out in that. That always was something I really appreciated about you.

John Smith: (26:07)

So this is a personal note, but you'll chuckle at this. So with my infection in my back, I spent several weeks with again, my stepbrother's house and my granddaughter who's in kindergarten wants to write threes and sevens backwards. And so I was working with her one day and I wrote a bunch of threes. And I told her I wanted to write three underneath that. And I've done a bunch of sevens and I told her, I wanted her to write seven underneath that. And she looked at me and I said, "Now think, I know you can do this. You need to think." And the look I got back from her. I mean it was the same look that I've gotten from lots of young people that they needed to think. But no, I think my background is maybe a little bit unconventional, so I didn't tell you my start on my background, right?

John Smith: (27:03)

I was a biology major, went to a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire. So I didn't go The Ohio State, go to Purdue, got my master's. I went to a small Catholic college of biology major, so no agronomy, I mean a lot of plant science, plant morphology, plant physiology, but no soils, none of that type. So I came into agriculture with a very different outlook than a lot of people who are more classically trained as agronomy majors or soils majors and then they go on and get their master's or PhD in soil science or soil physics, whenever weed science, whatever it is, my path was a little bit different. So it allowed me to think, or to look at things through a different set of glasses.

John Smith: (27:52)

And I guess, maybe that's why I talk about sunlight because if you're trained as a soil scientist, so we've got sunlight. It's not a big deal, right? But if you do some of the academic plant physiology stuff and you understand the importance of sunlight, and then you look at how I have these soybeans spaced on this acre in 30-inch row and it's like, this is a crop that's about sunlight capture and we're just not set up to capture a whole lot of sunlight right now. Right? Because you've got five inches of soybean canopy and 20 inches of bare soil. Right? That's not really good. I mean, I look at things from that perspective, different than a lot of other people would.

Morgan Seger: (28:46)

So from where you sit today as a retired agronomist, what is one technology, it can be in agriculture or not, that you're most excited about?

John Smith: (28:56)

So I go back to the soil health piece. Okay. And where that goes. Okay. So I have the opportunity to substantially change soils in Ohio. And can I use a modeling tool like field forecasting, because that's the one I'm familiar with to better utilize nutrients. Right? And does that allow me to look at nutrients? So I think the whole water quality issue, I mean soil health is definitely step one. Right? Once we do that, we reduce the amount of runoff of phosphorus in Lake Erie and nitrogen down the Ohio River that's got from Mexico, then it's going to be about how do I feed this crop, right? I mean, 300 bushel corn is your lifetime. You're going to see 300 bushel corn. You're going to see a hundred bushels soybeans, God love Lee Wilkinson, but you and I both knew Lee Wilkinson...

John Smith: (29:56)

...right? And he made a very fundamental statement. If you're going to plant more plants, you have got to feed them. And so if you're going to plant more plants, if you're going to grow bigger ears on the same number of plants, if you're going to grow deeper kernels on the same number of plants to get to that higher yield, however you accomplish that, it's going to take more nutrition to do that. And how can I apply more nutrition while reducing, or at least not increasing the environmental impact of what I'm doing because the world is looking at agriculture and paying lots of attention. I get questions all the time from people totally unrelated, a couple that was very intrigued by what I did in my career and everything. And this woman asked me, she's like, "So I'm curious, what eggs do you buy?"

John Smith: (30:53)

I said, "I buy the jumbo eggs, the cheapest jumbo eggs I can buy. I bought a dozen eggs at Giant Eagle the other day, jumbo eggs for $1.50 now." And I didn't think a whole lot about that, but that's always what I bought. And I went to the grocery store and I looked, and you could buy a dozen eggs in the grocery store anywhere from a $1.19 to like $7.49. And I'm looking at the claims for these eggs and I'm thinking, I worked with Buckeye Egg and stuff back in the '90s. I understand a little bit about the egg business. And I don't understand half of the jargon associated with all these different price points on it. I mean, there's five X, $1.19 and $7.49 or something, five X. And I don't understand all the natural and free range and cage free and cage-free the sameness, I don't know organic; are organic eggs cage-free or are organic eggs

John Smith: (31:58)

free-range? I don't know. I think I know something about the organic business, but somebody thinks that they’re worth another buck-and-a-half a dozen if the more jargon you can add to the box doesn't... So I think clearly people are paying and this lady was just a guest, when I told her I buy the cheapest jumbo eggs I can find. I always tell people, it's like, aren't you concerned about this or that? And I'm like, the big comeback that I always have when to bring this thing back to reality is, when your kids were sick, did you give him cough syrup? Did you give them amoxicillin? Of course. You know what, if that chicken is sick, I want somebody to get it back healthy because I don't want to eat eggs from a sick chicken.

John Smith: (32:48)

And so I think, responsible use of stuff. I mean, a lot of times we all know that the pork industry was guilty of just medicating hogs whether they had an issue or not. And that was the way they did it for years. And so we're adjusting to that, but I think the water quality piece, I got off on a tangent there but the water quality piece clearly comes in. They're spreading manure in October with no live root system in fields that drain into the local river, probably not the perception that we want to create for agriculture.

Morgan Seger: (33:29)

And I think, I mean, so you said it kind of well is that there's a lot of things that even us who work in ag, don't totally understand. We don't understand what all of the consumers are asking for or wanting, and we don't always know how to meet them where they're at. So I think that there's a lot of room for us to improve on our education and also educating consumers and trying to find that middle ground to where we can be comfortable with the products we're producing and consuming. I really thought when I asked that question, you were going to tell me about a new golf club or something.

John Smith: (34:07)

I'll keep on point a little bit. But I just think that was an eye-opening experience for me when she got done asking me that question. I was on the way to the grocery store and I needed to buy some eggs when I got done playing golf with her. And so I went to the grocery store and I started to look, because I know where I always get like my eggs out of the cooler. And I started looking and I'm like, "Oh my God, they got eggs in here for $7.49. This is fricking crazy!" And I started looking and it's like, "I don't know how you connect all these dots right to your point." And there's a woman that thinks she's buying these $7.49 eggs because they've got to be, like, really good.

John Smith: (34:54)

And am like, "I don't know, eggs I eat are just fine." So anyway, that's my nickel’s worth. But clearly the challenge becomes when you look at some of this stuff and we have to do a better job protecting the environment. This is not saying that this doesn't matter but the trade off is, there's how many millions of people in this world that go to bed hungry every night. And then you have a very small segment of the world's population that has enough discretionary income to pay $7.49 for a dozen eggs, right? And so the trade off is, do I run production agriculture with the goal of trying to feed the world's population or do I run production agriculture to appease the people who have discretionary income and are willing to pay $7.49 for a dozen eggs and you and I worked for an organization that was what was much more geared towards feeding the world's population in a responsible way.

John Smith: (36:02)

And that's what you and I did. And that's the field forecasting tool, the R-7 tool. Again, those are just the ones I'm familiar with. Right? But that concept has got to play going forward. Whether you like the field forecasting tool or you're like somebody else's better using something to guide you into making responsible recommendations, it's going to be a winner.

Morgan Seger: (36:31)

Yep. I agree. Well, John, it's always a pleasure catching up. I'm so grateful that you took this much time to kind of share your thoughts with us. And I hope you have a great and healthy 2021.

John Smith: (36:43)

You do the same and we'll be in touch as always. Have fun with those kiddies.

Morgan Seger: (36:47)

Will do. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Precision Points. Like I mentioned in my conversation with John, we always appreciated his ability to push us to think critically about our problems and come up with interesting solutions. So I hope my conversation has inspired you to think about things a little bit differently. If you like what you're hearing, I encourage you to leave a rating and review. This helps other growers like you find our information so we can all work on spreading new ideas about technology so we can grow together. You can also go to to see our grower-sourced reviews. You can leave reviews on any products or services that you have experience with and read what other people have to say to learn more about those things before you have to make a decision. Let's grow together.

Voiceover: (37:40)

Thanks for tuning into today's episode. To hear more podcasts like this, please rate, review and subscribe to Precision Points. Visit for show notes from this episode and read expert advice on the blog, share your experience with the precision ag products you use and check out our network of farmer reviews. Let's grow together.


Host: Morgan Seger

Morgan Seger grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio before studying agriculture at The Ohio State University. She spent 10 years working with ag retail, specifically in ag tech, before coming to to host Precision Points Podcast. She lives and farms in western Ohio, with her husband Ben and their four children. Morgan has her own blog called Heart and Soil where she talks about her experience farming, gardening, and raising her family.


Guest: John Smith

John received a BA in Biology from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH and a MS degree in Plant Science with a concentration in Plant Pathology from the University of Delaware. John has been a CCA since 1992. John’s career spans 35+ years in the Agricultural Industry, residing in Ohio the entire time but with various roles in his career that included responsibilities in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, the Northeast to Maine, Southeast to Virginia and parts of Canada including Ontario and Quebec. He began his career with American Cyanamid as a Technical Service Rep, from there he joined Terra as a technical service representative. He moved into the Cooperative system and held various agronomic roles with Agriliance, Winfield and now Winfield United. Most of his career has been spent working with corn soybeans, wheat, and Alfalfa, but his travels and experiences have included such diverse crops as cranberries and melons. John also spent time contributing an agronomic perspective to Winfield’s ag tech offerings including their crop model, Field Forecasting Tool, with special emphasis on the soybean model. John lives in Grove City, Ohio and enjoys spending his spare time golfing and spending time with his step-daughter Ashley and her family.

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