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Let’s get back to the basics

For growers heading into a new crop season, there’s certainly been a lot going on. We’ve experienced interest rate increases, heard what we can and can’t Jessedo with dicamba in Xtend soybeans, dealt with market fluctuations and seen changes in chemical pricing. Even with all these complexities, sometimes the solution can be something as simple as going back to the basics.

The first “basic” to consider is soil fertility. That is the most important driver in crop production. Without the proper soil pH and fertility, we cannot maximize any in-season application. When I think about soil fertility, I recall watching my mom balancing the checkbook. She’d sit at the kitchen table several nights a week making sure family finances were squared away. Why did she do this? She didn’t want to overdraft and bounce a check. The same concept is true for our soil bank account. We must know the fertility levels, especially potassium and phosphorus, to make sure we don’t draw out more than we put in.

It starts with a soil sample, and there are different ways of getting this data. Composite sampling is as basic as you can get. It’s like calling the bank and asking how much is in your checking account. That’s fine and dandy. But what if you have uncashed checks or automatic withdrawals scheduled? If you don’t know that info, an overdraft can occur easily.
What’s better than composite sampling? That’s grid sampling, offered in our Nutri-Track program. Grid sampling is like my mother’s approach to balancing the checkbook. She tallied every check written and every cash withdrawal to know exactly what was in the account.

“Have a plan, cover the basics, make agronomically correct decisions and do what has been proven to make money on your farm.”

Next, let’s talk dicamba. We’ve all heard by now when it comes to XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium products, however much is in the retail space is all there is to be sold. There is probably not going to be enough to cover every acre. The best way to combat a shortage of dicamba is simple—don’t let weeds come up. And this advice goes for other technology platforms such as Enlist as well.

I recommend that growers spend more on their residual programs this year, specifically front-loading their pre-emergent herbicides. This can be done multiple ways. The product rate can be increased, you can add more actives or use more modes of action. The method depends on the driver weeds in a given field.

For example, you can use a standard rate of Boundary, which is 2 quarts per acre, spiked with 2.5-3 ounces of Zidua to get a longer length of residual. This does two things. First, you’ll see less weed competition early in the season. Data that shows early season is the most important time to be weed free. Secondly, when weeds do break, they won’t break as fast and as hard, which gets you further down the road and also lets you spray smaller weeds. We all know smaller weeds are easier to control.

Earlier, I mentioned weather. No one can control the weather, but a lot of meteorologists are saying we could have another drought year. Let me remind you that you cannot save your way to prosperity. Again, set the season up for success by making sure fertility is in order. In past drought years, we have looked at fields that were grid sampled and recommendations followed so that pH,

P and K levels were optimum. These fields may have not yielded “good” but always out-yielded fields that did not have optimum fertility.

Markets are also something we can not control. When talking about going back to basics, it’s good to know what you have invested in your crop before you start. This could change in season, but having a detailed spreadsheet of cost per acre and break-even levels is important. Use that information to contract enough to cover your inputs. This takes some stress off a grower in season. I guess it comes down to how much you want to gamble.

No doubt, there are a lot of pressures out there for growers. I encourage you to have a plan, cover the basics, make agronomically correct decisions and do what has been proven to make money on your farm.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

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