Four Strategies to Keep Your Crop at the Top
As this growing season winds down, there are several key evaluations to consider going into the fall harvest in order to secure the best return on your investments.
Sam Knott, director of central U.S. crops for Atticus, shares four strategies to keep your late-summer and early-fall crop management decisions strong.
1: Continue Due Diligence
Due diligence can apply to many practices on the farm. Knott says it is a year-round practice, whether applied to herbicide decisions or seed selection.
“The idea is to do the right things so that they prevent a bad day from ruining a corn or soybean crop,” Knott explains. “When we do the right things, we prevent weeds, bugs, or diseases and set our crop up for its best return on investment possible.”
Seek out input for your agronomy decisions and establish relationships with local experts. This will ensure you use the right product at the right time and rate to get optimal control without blowing up the budget.
Just like your own health, making preventive appointments and maintaining an active lifestyle is a long-term investment for the better.
2: Fight Weed Pressure
Knott says, “We continue to see more pressure each year from summer annual broadleaf weeds, especially waterhemp. The best way to control waterhemp and other tough-to-control weeds is to prevent them from ever getting established in a growing crop.”
Postapplications can be limited and regulations can change quickly, which in turn limits postapplied herbicides. Knott recommends using your time between now and harvest to evaluate how herbicides performed this past season. When it comes time for next year’s planting, start with clean fields, either from mechanical tillage applications or from the proper use of burndown herbicides.
“In addition, the use of strong residual herbicides with multiple modes of proven active ingredients are a must at the time of planting especially in soybeans,” Knott says. “I encourage farmers before even harvesting the 2020 crop to start thinking about how to improve on their weed control plans for the 2021 crop. Take the time to talk to your seed provider and your local ag retailer about what’s working for other growers – seek out their recommendations for next year.”
While the growing season has been relatively calm, the economic climate has posed many challenges. Making smart investments, especially in the late cropping cycle, is key.
“Farmers may choose to spray premium programs, but what we’re seeing today is a lot of farmers coming in and asking for good, proven products that are maybe a more economical purchase for them,” Knott explains. “The good thing is our industry has many herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides that still give farmers a good yield increase without a high cost, lowering their return on investment, and making it a more profitable acre.”
3. Keep Fields Clean Through Harvest
Knott says post-applied herbicides can be key to keeping weeds at bay and fields clean all through harvest.
“As we get into the later applications of the summer, we encourage farmers to have conversations with their ag input suppliers about the appropriate products to use,” Knott says.
When the growth stage of crops is past the recommended application timing for herbicides, Knott recommends moving into a conversation around fungicides.
“We know that growers can increase the return on investment for every bushel they produce with a preventive fungicide,” Knott says. “Even if a farmer planted early, late, or if they’re in a wet or dry season, they can use any of the fungicide products that are on the market today with multiple modes of action for consistency.”
4: Analyze Nutrient Deficiencies and Plan for 2021
“When it comes to nutrient deficiencies in our growing crop, fertilizer is one of the biggest inputs a farmer is going to make on an annual basis,” Knott says.
He explains that when the crop is close to tasseling, the following weeks are critical as the crop experiences its biggest demand for macro and micronutrients.
One popular method is to pull tissue samples, which allows you to identify how the macro and micronutrients are being taken up and the amount of return on investment from a fertilizer purchase.
“This is a great time for a farmer to look back at what they’ve done so far for this crop year to see how the crop has been able to take up nutrients and produce bushels. A late-season tissue sample is like a year-end report card. I want to know that I did everything humanly possible to set my crop up for success all year long,” Knott says.
“Farmers can use that to dial in on their nutrient practices,” Knott explains. “As the crops matures this fall and harvest takes place, they really need to be looking at fall tillage or fall applications of herbicides to control tough weeds. Begin to identify best practices for 2021 to improve yields and reduce costs for next year.”