Use this year’s misfortunes to fuel next year’s success
Do you remember which field had carryover herbicide damage? What about the field that was hammered by bean leaf beetle? Or the pocket that had waterhemp taller than the corn? If you can’t, you need to take better notes this year to keep from repeating the same mistakes next year.
Knowing a field is essential to getting off on the right foot, explains Todd Wentzel, Syngenta seed adviser. What is the soil type, cation exchange capacity, fertility level, drainage and typical moisture level?
No one knows more about your field than you. Provide your seed dealer with these essential details to make sure you place the right product on the right field. Referencing your notes keeps field specifics from blending in your mind and helps you get more bang for your buck.
Soil tests might indicate an opportunity to adjust your fertility program. If fertility is poor, you might be unintentionally sacrificing yield.
In addition to soil fertility, soil drainage and moisture levels are beneficial to know when making seed decisions. Some hybrids or varieties like wetter soils, while some do better in dry conditions.
“Hybrid or variety is probably the No. 1 decision farmers make that can make the biggest difference,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. “It’s not just picking the right hybrid—it’s the right farm, right soil type.”
“We need to know how hybrids will behave,” he adds. “There are things you can look at in the characteristics of a hybrid to minimize the guessing.”
This year, keep track of how each hybrid or variety performs on each field. If it underperforms, figure out why and select a product next year that will do better for those circumstances.
“Bring notes to your conversation with seed, fertilizer and chemical providers to place products where they will generate the greatest profit,” says Mark Querna, Minnesota FIRST (Farmer’s Independent Research of Seed Technologies) manager. “Set expectations for what minimum profit you want for each field.”
Scouting records help with all aspects of input selection. Track insects and weed pressure to plan next year’s decisions, such as a soil-applied insecticide, a traited variety or decreasing both if threshold is low.
“Look for profitable ways to rotate herbicides and pest management practices [to avoid spreading more resistance],” Querna explains. “Walk fields and see if programs work on your farm.”
Keep track of weeds, their locations, any resistance issues and if you need to change your chemical program. Refer to this when buying traited products and pre-purchasing herbicides.
Disease and fungus are often soil-borne or can overwinter in residue. Note the location, tillage practice, residue cover and if it can be controlled with a fungicide. With corn and soybeans, however, product selection might have the greatest impact.
“Know the weakness of your hybrid and then manage for that weakness,” Ferrie adds. “For example, you may select a hybrid for its ear and leaf type but still need to scout if it has poor gray leaf spot scores. Or if it doesn’t have a strong package against Goss’s Wilt, you have to rethink its placement.”
Set yourself up for a great 2016 by scouting and taking good notes so you don’t make the same mistakes twice.