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Tour tech watch: Looking ahead to '09

Agriculture.com Staff 09/19/2008 @ 12:17pm

The battle for acres that led up to the 2008 crop year will be in play once again for the '09 corn and soybean crops. And, in some ways, the stakes will be even higher this time around.

That's because input costs are squeezing margins even tighter. How will this affect the adoption of new technology that farmers employ in their fields once winter breaks? That's the $64,000 question for many certified crop advisers (CCAs) and Crop Tech Tour correspondents around the country as they work with farmers to plan their '09 crop attack.

Reflecting on 2008, fertilizer prices proved to be the biggest input challenge for farmers from the deep South to the Corn Belt. Some CCAs expect that to only grow in its influence on 2009 plantings.

"It is pretty scary when you get to plugging numbers in," says Jack Bridgers, field representative for Jimmy Sanders Seed Company in Tchula, Mississippi. "It looks like soybeans and rice are the best options as of today. The price of fertilizer is eating up 68% to 70% of the budget. We have tried trimming some of the costs here and there, but it keeps coming back to fertilizer."

This growing concern has thrust precision to the top of many technology to-do lists. As he worked with farmers in his area to plan budgets for 2009 crops, Marysville, Ohio, CCA Travis Rowe said site-specific fertilizer applications came up many times as a way to offset some of the two- and three-fold increases in fertilizer costs.

"In our location, I see another year where a huge number of acres see the benefits of soil sampling in a site-specific manner to help get a better handle on soil fertility," Rowe says.

The battle for acres that led up to the 2008 crop year will be in play once again for the '09 corn and soybean crops. And, in some ways, the stakes will be even higher this time around.

It's not so much initial cost, but efficacy in general that has Robert Pesek thinking of recommending changes for farmers in the coming year in his area of Gibbon, Nebraska.

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