In light of a tough year, farmers are re-examining their production and management practices. They’re getting creative and being intentional about every dollar they spend. From across the country, these farmers offer tips to move the bar forward on profitability.
1. Consider switching crops.
Andy Carthel of Friona, Texas, is not planting corn this year. “We’re sticking to what we’re good at, cotton and forage sorghum, and cutting back on population and fertility. We also won’t need to irrigate as much, saving money and the aquifer.”
For Terry Smith of Clayton, Ill., king corn is losing some ground, but not all because he sees soil health benefits. “We’ll still do a lot of corn on corn, mainly for soil erosion control and the residue is helping to change my soils quite a bit.”
2. Get input timing right the first time.
He’d like less rain, but since Blake Lauristen, El Campo, Texas, can’t control the weather he’s focusing on plant health. “We’re going to spray more for Bollworms since it was a mild winter.”
On his Peru, Ill., farm, Dan Arkels pushes the limit on planting to take advantage of the full growing season. “Get that plant blooming around the summer solstice. I liked what I saw planting early, though I wouldn’t push it much before mid-April in my area.”
3. Be willing to try something new.
On Jim Stillman’s Emmetsburg, Iowa, farm he’s focusing on getting his crops the necessary nutrients while protecting the environment. “I invested in a 24-row strip-till unit to help control water quality in the lake near our farm.”
Waylon Keller in Clarion, Iowa, is looking at new weed control methods. “We’re trying LibertyLink soybeans for weed control. Waterhemp is our biggest problem, so I thought it was time to try something new. Clean fields should bring better yields.”
4. Prioritize the factors that impact yield.
Don’t settle for the status quo, says Casey Hook of Lake City, Ark. “If I’ve got to take a plane through [for pesticides], that’s what I’ve got to do. It costs me more not to apply at the right time.”
Steve Albracht of Hart, Texas, takes advantage of new technology and prioritizes getting the factors that affect yield right. “I try to do it right the first time, this ain’t the 40s; tech has changed and you have to change to get higher yields.”
5. Manage costs and marketing efforts.
In Logan County, Ohio, Bill Bayliss is re-evaluating everything to see if he’ll get his money’s worth. “We’re figuring our inputs very carefully—I know we’re reducing our bean seed rates. We will keep the same population on our corn seed.”
Gary Neimeyer in Auburn, Ill., is focusing on selling his crop. “I’m going to do a better job of marketing. You have to use crop insurance, but from what I see from year to year we need to sell a majority of our grain by midsummer.”