I recently had a chance to sit down with Gene Mitchell, Agronomy Division Manager at East Central Iowa Co-op in Hudson, Iowa. Mr. Mitchell and I discussed how growers are responding to the summer's drought, and how to plan for next year's crop.
According to Mitchell, growers are approaching their nutrient buying cautiously, maintaining a wait-and-see stance as yields are wildly variable this year. The season has only just started, but dry DAP and Potash are being applied by a few growers - most have yet to make nutrient purchases. He notes that seed is already moving surprisingly well. I asked if growers were figuring drought into their seed purchase and Mitchell replied that some are, but most are going with what has worked for them before.
Nitrogen carryover may be tricky after the dry growing season we have had. Soil tests so far look pretty close to normal. Mitchell points out, "One year really won't have that much effect on the soil profile."
This year, growers all over the Midwest have reported yield variations from 10bu. corn to nearly 200bu. per acre corn, even within the same fields. In an effort to save growers money, Mitchell has implemented a grid system which allows for more efficient nutrient application, "We are finding that when we target certain areas in the fields, we use the same total amount of fertilizer, but get better yields with less waste. Some areas of a field need more [fertilizer] than others and we can adjust for that."
Mitchell told me the story of a skeptical farmer who used the grid system to distribute fertilizer last year. The targeted increases and decreases in application yielded improved consistency down the rows and increased his crop yields while minimizing fertilizer waste. "He was so happy he drove all the way down here to tell me about it," smiled Mitchell.
Mitchell offered his two cents for growers saying, "Plan for success - don't be too reactionary. Take some extra time and figure out exactly what you want to do and buy early while the price is low and the supply is good. Anything growers can do now to get a jump on next year will help them save money." He stressed once more, "Plan for success."
Thanks to Mr. Mitchell and all the folks at East Central Iowa Co-op in Hudson, Iowa for their time.