Try Something New!

Phil Long, Precision Agronomy Specialist

Precision Agronomy Advisor, Phil Long

A common theme you will hear when listening to national corn/soybean contest winners is they always use a few acres to try something new. Latham’s Forage Products Manager, Corey Catt, has written numerous articles, encouraging growers to use a few acres to experiment on their own farms with products, seeding rates and management practices.

While third-party research plays an important role in helping us choose seed products, it’s also important to conduct your own on-farm research. Here are a few ideas to try this growing season. If you have acres that struggle with Sudden Death Syndrome, try treating a few soybean units with Latham® SoyShieldTM Plus with Saltro and run a side-by-side comparison. Another idea is to apply sulfur to soybeans and measure your results. Experiment on a few corn acres with Xyway® 3D in-furrow fungicide or try a phosphorus-enhancer, such as Encompass from TALC USA.

You could create quite a list of new products, different tillage/planting practices, in furrow fertilizers, or in-season practices that you could try to break your farm’s yield plateau. Here are some tips to make the most of your on-farm research efforts:

  1. Use a decent farm, or part of a decent farm, to do your research. Use a farm that has soil types and drainage/topography characteristics that represent a lot of your acres. Don’t pick the less desirable ground in terms of fertility. If pH, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), levels are wacky, you won’t learn much when trying a new in-furrow treatment, biological or fungicide. Basic needs must be taken care of before you can add more yield.
  2. Keep it short and simple (K.I.S.S.). Weather and soil types cause enough variation in any research that you don’t need to add complexity. Try one thing at time, so you’re not adding multiple factors into the equation. For example, run a planter pass with Xyway mixed in your starter fertilizer and then shut it off the next pass. Do these two “treatments” at least three more times across your field to reduce the influence of soil types on your results.
  3. Garbage in, garbage out. Make sure your monitors/globes/planting equipment have the latest update, so you can capture the data when it’s go time. Layout your research, so your combine can capture it. This is very important! For example, if you harvest with an 8-row head, change “treatments” on 20-foot increments.

Mapping what you do this spring will allow you to analyze it next fall. You will want to look at how that new product did in your heavy soils, lighter soils and whether it is worth expanding on more acres next year. Every year is different, so keep weather in mind as it is usually the #1 influencing factor. Start small to find out what works best on your farm. I am happy to help you figure out what new thing to try on a few acres. Give me a call and we can chat more about it at: 641-692-0370.