Farms today are complex, capital intensive, and constantly evolving. The obstacles that farms face are also complex and evolving. This article addresses some areas that farmers can address the risks of input costs and erratic weather from an agronomic perspective.
Organization leads to simplification
Lack of organization leads to missed opportunities. Many farmers are trying to carry their entire farm business in their head and as their farms continue to grow and evolve it becomes increasingly difficult. Outside of farm finances, some key farm records to organize are listed below.
- Cropping Plans: How many acres of what, where, seeds planted, herbicide traits, insect traits, etc. *Note herbicide traits in particular need documented and shared with whomever is spraying the herbicides.
- Intended In-field management practices: Is a post emerge application of Glufosinate in the plan? At what point is it off label? Split application of Nitrogen? Corn for example can put on a leaf collar every 3 days. The window of opportunity may close rapidly if we are not organized and ready.
- Farm improvement plans: Many farmers are good at analyzing yield maps, but lose track of the intended changes/improvements until they arrive at the field to plant. Documenting those intentions along with who is responsible can help keep these on track.
Take control of your inputs
Higher input costs are not going away, the inputs we use for growing crops are being used globally. As a result of the global marketplace, the manufacturer of the product is rewarded to sell the product whenever and wherever they can at the greatest margin. Also consider lessons learned from the Covid19 Pandemic: unforeseen events can challenge the supply chain at any moment, and when they do, people will hoard what they can. What are some ways I can take control of my inputs?
- Plan ahead: what acres will you be farming next year? What will next year’s crop rotation look like? How many lbs., gallons, or tons of input A will I need?
- Collect data about your farm, collect it, analyze, and apply. Soil samples, yields, populations, nutrient applications, test plots, etc.
- Identify your capabilities and limitations, what inputs are you capable/comfortable storing, or applying and what are you better off to let the supplier take care of? Does the product freeze, degrade, or draw rodents?
- Track input pricing and identify buying opportunities before you need the product.
- Work with input suppliers you can trust and communicate with. They can give you market information that will help you make decisions beyond simply cost.
Mitigate the effects of erratic weather
Erratic weather patterns can be prolonged drought, flooding, hail, or as we have recently seen, drought followed by excessive rainfall causing flooding. One of the most effective mitigation techniques for erratic weather is maintain soil health. Healthy soils allow more water to infiltrate, have superior soil structure, and hold more water. What can I do to ensure I have healthy soils?
- Work with your agronomist, extension specialist, or NRCS office to assess the health of your soil.
- Identify opportunities to foster additional soil health, explore practices such as no-till or utilizing cover crops.
- Evaluate crop rotations.
- Plan for extreme rainfall events, utilize erosion control techniques such as grassed waterways, terraces, tile, perennial crops, and silt fencing.
- Plan for drought by adopting moisture preservation techniques, monitoring fire risk, and locating backup water sources.