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Missouri Farmer Tracks Inputs to Make Custom-Tailored Crop Plans
Risk is a classic board game that involves both luck and skill. To win, you must be adept in deploying both offensive and defensive strategies and aware of the underlying probabilities of your decisions.
The same can be said about farming. In this risky, ever-changing environment, Peter Rost knows he has to be tactical with every move he makes across a field. Yet, the New Madrid, Missouri, farmer admits he was sloppy when times were good.
“I used to apply fungicide every year, no matter what. When corn prices are $7, it’s really easy to say yes,” says Rost. “Before I knew it, I was spending a lot more per acre than I had originally planned.”
Some experts say a fungicide application is beneficial year in, year out. DuPont Pioneer research has shown the value depends on disease pressure, hybrid susceptibility, and previous crop and tillage practices. In the more than 1,200 on-farm trials it conducted, corn yield increased an average of 7.9 bushels per acre in response to a foliar fungicide.
“I’ve never seen that bump in yield,” Rost says. “If the crop doesn’t need it, I shouldn’t be spending an extra $30 per acre on it.”
As commodity prices dipped, implementing a record-keeping system that would let him dig into the details, Rost felt, was the best way to get a handle on production costs.
While he tried various farm-management software systems in the past, they were either too complicated or too basic.
“I wanted to account for everything that goes into growing a crop to give me a more accurate picture,” he says. “I also wanted a system that would let me evaluate each of the 70 fields I work.”
Quizzing Todd Hall, Ag Connections, Inc., about record-keeping software led Rost to Land.db. A component of AgriEdge Excelsior, the software is combined with Syngenta’s product portfolio and on-farm service from a trusted adviser.
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With a budget of around $600 an acre for corn and about $350 an acre for soybeans, the program lets Rost craft very detailed maneuvers.
“Peter has 70 unique crop plans that are custom-tailored to each field in which he has all inputs accounted for,” says Hall, who is an AgriEdge specialist. “He was running the Land.db Plan Variance analysis function nearly on the day of its release.”
This feature allows Rost to look at everything from crop protection to fertilizer to seed. “I know what I’m putting into a field, and then I make a decision based on what I’m seeing in the numbers,” he explains.
In 2015, for example, crop scout Wendell Minson told Rost that southern rust was coming and suggested spraying. “I didn’t budget it in, but I was able to look at other inputs where I was under budget and find a little wiggle room to cover the extra fungicide,” Rost says.
The year before, Minson had advised against it. “I went back to my analysis and realized I was tight on the budget. I decided not to apply,” says Rost. “If it’s just a good-luck application, I can’t see spending the money. I do that knowing how much it will impact yield. I don’t want to sacrifice yield to save a few pennies.”
As the production ag landscape continues to change, tracking everything that goes into producing a crop will become a necessity.
“Increased consumer scrutiny is causing food companies to implement more restrictions on ingredients, and it could require more detailed production records,” says Hall. “Farmers will undoubtedly have to defend their operations. Programs like AgriEdge will provide that mechanism.”