Steve Cubbage: Learn From 2019 and Get Back In The Saddle

09:43AM Aug 14, 2019
As a precision ag consultant, Steve Cubbage works with farmers to implement and manage hardware and data and bridge the gap between the two.
( Farm Journal Media )

So much for the old saying “rain makes grain.” For that to be true, the crop has to be planted in the first place. And even if it passes that hurdle, then it must keep its head above water. For 2019, putting a crop in the ground was one of the greatest struggles against Mother Nature in decades — some say centuries — just about everywhere.

The whole depressing docudrama exposed a couple of concerns:

  • No amount of horsepower and technology is any match for Mother Nature in a full-blown smackdown.
  • Farmers faced some of the hardest, most complex decisions when deciding between throwing a Hail Mary and trying to plant or taking prevented planting and try again in 2020.

Leverage Tech For Next Year

In terms of technology and Mother Nature, the challenges of 2019 were not brought on by a failure of technology but rather they exposed its limitations. The key will be to leverage technology to get back in the saddle for the next crop season.

On the fields that didn’t get planted, we now have a much bigger window to do soil sampling and even more complex testing, such as electroconductivity mapping.

While many planters sat parked much of the spring, consider upgrading to row clutches, downforce controls and electric drives or just getting a simple tune-up before the machinery is parked in the back of the shed for winter.  

The message is simple: Use this time to prepare for next season. Odds are corn will be more than $4 per bushel next spring. You need to be more ready now than ever to knock it out of the park.

Know Your Costs

You need to be armed with the best and most complete data when it comes to your costs on each and every field, even down to the acre. That’s why real-time historical field data are so important. Understanding costs and profitability on a field-by-field basis is extremely helpful in knowing which fields to plant first and which ones to leave behind.

I believe this year’s tribulations will spur an accelerated focus on precision services that concentrate on profitability and economic decision-making rather than yield alone. Plus, there might be a resurrection of secondary insurance products — sort of how Climate Corporation originally started. It’s clear there is a need for it, but it’s going to take real ground-truthed data from growers to make such products and options viable in the future.

There Will Be A Next Time

This year changed the course of agriculture. The bigger questions are what changes do we make as an industry and individuals to ensure we are more prepared when we have similar challenges the next time. And by the way, there will be a next time.

How are you keeping up with this brave new world of technology? Attend the Farm Journal AgTech Expo.
Dec. 16–17, 2019
JW Marriott, Indianapolis
For details, visit