Full speed ahead for River Valley Agronomy Center

Efficiencies highlighted during open house for legislators, leaders

Time can’t be bought, but it can be saved. And when farmers are under pressure to get their crops fertilized and sprayed, that time is precious.
That’s why efficiency was the focus when planning and constructing MFA’s new River Valley Agronomy Center in Higginsville, Mo. The $6.5 million complex features upgraded facilities and equipment that translate to a dramatically faster loading, unloading and delivery time for fertilizer ingredients and blends. For example, a tractor-trailer of fertilizer can be off-loaded into the building in 5 to 7 minutes, compared to 30 minutes under the old system. Likewise, a 24-ton tender truck can be filled with a blended fertilizer order in 5 to 7 minutes instead of 45 minutes.

“It’s pretty awesome to think about the technology, the tools that we have in place, and some of the things that are going to help us become more efficient and more employee friendly while being able to provide higher-quality service for our member-owners,” MFA Vice President of Agri Services Jason Weirich said. “It’s important that we keep our core value of customer partnering in mind with new facilities and assets that we’re putting into play.”

River Valley’s bulk fertilizer plant—the largest in the MFA system and one of the largest in the state—is equipped with a fully automated, declining-weight system that generates highly accurate, multi-product blends. The plant has a 14,000-ton capacity, significantly larger than the previous facility, built in 1977, which held only 2,000 tons. In fact, the largest bay in the new building has room for 3,000 tons of product, 1.5 times the size of the old plant.

The center will serve as a hub for row-crop producers in about a 70-mile radius, Weirich explained, consolidating smaller MFA fertilizer facilities into the larger, more modern operation.
“Most of the old green fertilizer plants you see scattered across the state were built in the ’60s and ’70s, and they’re coming to the end of their lives,” he said. “Stewardship is one of MFA’s core values, and when it comes to promoting safety and efficiency, being environmentally friendly and reducing waste and labor, this is the type of facility we need.”

An open house at the new agronomy center on June 28 gave legislators, state agriculture officials, media and special guests a chance to tour the state-of-the-art facility and learn more about its features. Along with Weirich, the event’s speakers included Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn and Congressman Mark Alford.

“This is going to have an impact not only on the Higginsville community but also this entire region,” Director Chinn said. “The dollars spent here are going to turn over time and time again, and that can help keep our young people coming back home to these rural areas, which is so vitally important. MFA is setting itself up to support Missouri farmers and ranchers well into the future.”

Alford, who represents Missouri’s District 4 in Congress, commented on the potential of technological advancements, such as those in the new agronomy center, to help transform agriculture and the U.S. economy.

“This is a historic moment for this town and for MFA, and I’m excited to be here in this new River Valley Agronomy Center,” Alford said. “It’s people from the heart of America—people like yourselves—who are responsible for the turnaround in the economy and the growth we’re seeing in productivity.”
Acknowledging the significance of the capital outlay, MFA Chief Executive Officer Ernie Verslues asserted that it’s the people in place who are ultimately responsible for the success of this investment.

“It’s not really about the cost. It’s about the team we have in place who can serve the producers in this area,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, the crew here is outstanding. And we have outstanding individuals across the state of Missouri and the other territories that we cover. People—that’s what makes a facility like this work.”

In addition to the fertilizer plant, MFA also built a new 2,640-square-foot operations center to house offices for MFA key account managers and precision agronomy personnel. The new location uses AgSync, a high-tech electronic logistics system that provides a comprehensive and interactive suite of scheduling, ordering and dispatch software for custom application services. AgSync helps streamline and organize daily operations and flow of information, from the moment a customer places an order to completion of the application in the field.

“This facility gives us the ability to capitalize on technology and gives this group the tools they need to move producers in this area forward,” Verslues said. “We have both speed and space here. These things also allow us to be better stewards in terms of providing the right product, the right time, the right place and the right amount.”

During a tour of the buildings, Ryun Morris, River Valley Agronomy Center manager, described AgSync as a “game-changer” and told guests that some 60% to 70% of the customers they serve are enrolled in MFA’s precision agriculture programs. He also said he considers the first spring of operation to be a success, allowing employees meet their customers’ needs while working fewer hours than they normally would during the hectic planting season.

“It’s all about being more efficient and getting across more acres in a shorter window of time,” Morris said. “This new facility will help us get more done in a day, and that helps farmers get more done in a day.”

CLICK HERE to read more articles from this August/September 2023 issue of Today's Farmer Magazine.

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Get ready for harvest

Before the rush of harvest gets overwhelming, be sure to have a plan for managing grain storage. There are numerous models to follow, but Johnny Wilson, technical services specialist for Central Life Sciences, recommends the S.L.A.M. method.

“These are all management practices that will not only have a positive effect on insect control but will also give you better control over your grain quality in general,” he said.
Steps to this method are:
  • Sanitation — Starting with a clean bin is the first defense against grain spoilage from insects. Grain-feeding pests can survive on residual grain, broken kernels, fines, foreign material and molds accumulated inside grain bins and around the bin perimeter. Trim vegetation around the bins, equipment and storage buildings to reduce any potential refuge areas between seasons. This is also a good time to check mechanical parts of the bin and conduct any maintenance needed before new grain is stored.

  • Loading — Practices such as slow rate of drying and conveying will limit physical damage to the grain. On the pest control side, this includes steps such as coring the fines out of the bin, watching for moisture discrepancies and minimizing overall handling to reduce breaks.

  • Aeration — Proper air-flow techniques will keep moisture content and migration in check. It will also aid in reaching cooler grain mass temperatures, which will cause stored product insects to die or go dormant. Keep in mind that as temperatures rise, the insects that went dormant or the eggs that were laid will start to show signs of emergence if there were no treatments in place.

  • Monitoring — This can be as simple as checking a temperature probe inserted at various points in the grain mass to acquiring grain trier samples and analyzing those for various metrics throughout the storage season. Part of this monitoring step also involves the facilities themselves and making sure to note when bins need repaired. A leaky bin can lead to rapid spoilage due to both moisture introduction and an additional entry point for pests. Seal aeration fans when not in use to prevent warm or moist air and insects from entering the grain mass.

    To learn more about Central Life Science's S.L.A.M method Click here: https://mfa.ag/SLAM

Click to read a related article HERE: https://www.todaysfarmermagazine.com/mag/2138

CLICK HERE to read more articles from this August/September 2023 issue of Today's Farmer Magazine.

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Plotting for success

The 2022 growing season is nearly a year behind us, but its challenges have not escaped memory. While the year was drier than average, our MorCorn and MorSoy lineup still produced outstanding yields in all 14 locations from which we collected data. Presented here are results from last year’s yield trials at MFA research sites in Boonville, Mo., and just east of Columbia.

Both sites are on a corn-soybean rotation. In Boonville, corn plots were planted May 12, 2022, at a population of 32,500 seeds per acre, and soybeans were planted June 13 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. The corn was fertilized with SuperU at planting with 300 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. Since this is a testing site, we push the nitrogen fertilization to attempt to eliminate the possibility of this nutrient being a limiting factor that affects yield. These research fields are located in the Missouri River bottoms, where the soil is well-drained silt loam. Screen Shot 2023 08 22 at 3.25.42 PM

At our research site east of Columbia, corn was planted on May 16 at a population of 32,500 seeds per acre, and soybeans were planted on June 16 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. The corn was fertilized with SuperU at 180 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. This site is an average-yielding location situated on clay pan soils that are poorly drained.

The 2022 growing season presented many of the same weather challenges that we’ve seen so far this year. While both locations were dry, they were not excessively hot through the entire summer. Boonville began the season 2 inches behind on rainfall, whereas Columbia was near normal to start. However, both sites ended well below the average cumulative precipitation for the May to October time period. By the end of the season, our research site east of Columbia was 6.5 inches behind normal, with Boonville 12.2 inches behind. The lack of rainfall reduced disease pressure at both locations. Except for excessive heat during June in Boonville, both research sites followed the average high and low temperatures fairly well last year. Timely rains in mid to late July helped produce typical yields in both corn and soybeans.

MorCorn Hybrids
In the 2022 growing season, a total of 26 hybrids were tested across MFA’s territory, including 17 experimental products under consideration as additions to the lineup. Two hybrids that caught our attention were XP 2141 and XP 2152. We are excited to bring both to market for the 2024 growing season.

MorCorn Hybrid Trials copyClick to EnlargeXP 2141, now formally named MC 4390 TRE, showed off in 2022 as a very attractive late-season product that offers excellent above-ground insect control stacked with the Trecepta® trait, which combines three unique modes of action for more complete control of above-ground pests.

Looking at the data in Figure 1, MC 4390 TRE outperformed our current lineup of late-season products at both locations. It yielded well with average productivity on our site just east of Columbia and excelled on the rich river bottom ground in Boonville.

XP 2152 is now officially MC 4412 TRE, another MorCorn option with Trecepta® insect protection. MC 4412 TRE is a highly productive hybrid in a variety of yield environments. In fact, across all MFA replicated trial sites in 2022, this product earned the highest average yield.

We are also excited about MC 4652 VT2P, a full-season product launched in 2023. This product has great late-season appearance with excellent grain and silage potential. When bringing new products into our portfolio, we focus on their ability to produce in a variety of yield environments and soil conditions. MC 4652 VT2P does not disappoint.

Our hybrid trials are now underway for the 2023 growing season, and we look forward to gathering yield data on 18 different experimental corn products from across MFA’s trade territory. This challenging season has brought many learning opportunities, including high winds and drought conditions, along with a new trial in gumbo soil.

MorSoy Varieties
In the 2022 growing season, a total of 40 MorSoy varieties were tested across MFA’s territory. These trials included 25 experimental varieties that we were considering for our product lineup.

MorSoyTrialsClick to enlargeOf these experimental varieties, XP 2408 advanced to our portfolio as MS 4623 XF. It replaces our previous 4.6 maturity XtendFlex variety, MS 4640 XF, beating its yield by 6 bushels per acre at our Boonville research site and performing better at our other replicated plots last year. Along with an increase in yield, MS 4623 XF also has a better agronomic package than its predecessor.

XP 2307 is our new 3.9 XtendFlex product, officially entering the portfolio as MS 3965 XF. This variety led the pack in yield at the East Columbia site and ended up being the top yielder of all the late Group 3 XtendFlex varieties that we tested last year. This product is suitable for tough acres as well as highly productive ground and is considered a place-anywhere type of bean in MFA territory.
XP 2401 became our new 4.1 XtendFlex product, MS 4130 XF. This product exhibited a strong performance and had the best yield at Boonville. MS 4130 XF is best suited on moderate- to high-yield environments.

For the 2023 growing season, we will gather yield data on 22 different experimental soybean varieties from our trade territory. Again, the challenges of the season will also provide learning opportunities. We will have a chance to see how the broad planting timing and drought conditions affected their performance. We also added a soybean trial in gumbo soil this year. Results from the 2023 trials will be presented in future editions of Today’s Farmer and available from your MFA agronomy specialists.

View the digital edition of this issue online at todaysfarmer.com for videos and additional content related to MorCorn and MorSoy seed. (Coming soon.)

New season of study
While results of MFA’s 2022 variety and hybrid trials are presented in this edition of Today’s Farmer, the studies continue for the 2023 season at MFA’s Training Camp research site as well as other replicated plots across our trade territory.

This year’s annual field day was held July 19 at a new testing location about 15 miles east of Columbia, Mo. More than 270 MFA employees and ag industry personnel toured the site and learned about the research at 10 different educational sessions. The event gives attendees an opportunity to get hands-on participation in MFA’s testing and product evaluation process.

In addition to yield trials on MorCorn, MorSoy and our partner brands, 2023 sessions included planter setup and diagnostics, fungicide effectiveness, sulfur needs, weed management in corn and native warm-season grass establishment. Other research considers how field conditions influence corn yield, how to manage early and late-planted soybeans and whether biologicals improve nitrogen-use efficiency.

Look for results and more information on MFA’s most current agronomic research in upcoming issues of Today’s Farmer and online at mfa-inc.com.

CLICK HERE to read more articles from this August/September 2023 issue of Today's Farmer Magazine.

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