By Brian Hefty

Thank you for attending our Ag PhD events this year!  We had about 8000 farmers join us at our seminars.  Here were some of the key take-aways for me.

Our Soils Clinics averaged about 700 attendees per event, so there is obviously a lot of interest in this.  We plan to do several more next winter.  We may even have a more advanced class offering, as well.

The number one thing people at the Soils Clinic talked about was potassium.  Most people don’t realize that soybeans have 1/5th the root mass of corn, yet soybeans need to take up far more potassium than corn during their period of peak need.  For soybeans, this is usually in late July and early August.  If your base saturation K percentage is less than 4%, you need potassium.  It might not always pay to do this in the short term, but the long-term benefits to yield, standability, and grain quality are huge.

At our Agronomy Workshops we talked about how we, as farmers, invest a lot of our time thinking and talking about things we can’t control, such as the grain markets, farm news, and the weather.  The more you put your focus into the controllables like agronomy, the better chance you have to raise a great crop.
Roundup-resistant weeds were probably the top issue at the Agronomy meetings, and our advice is two-fold.  First, you need to kill every single weed during your corn and wheat years so you have fewer resistant weeds when you rotate back to soybeans or sugarbeets.  Then, we strongly encourage you to use a good pre-emerge program on your farm.  In soybeans we suggest a three-way mix including metribuzin plus Authority or Valor plus a yellow (Sonalan, Prowl, or Treflan).

At the Tiling Clinics, dry years have meant slightly lower interest in tiling, but this is a mistake in our opinion.  Just like how the best time to install an irrigation system is in a flood year, the best time to tile is in a drought year.  We talk so much about tile because if you have poor drainage, nothing else you do and nothing else you invest in will pay off like it should.  Poor drainage ruins everything and slowly kills your soil.  Here is my Top 10 list for why tile has been the best thing our farm has ever invested in:

  1. Higher yield – typically 15% to 25%, more in some areas
  2. Less chance for soil compaction
  3. Earlier spring warm-up, allowing us to plant earlier, even in reduced-till or no-till
  4. Very slowly reduce high magnesium levels
  5. Speed all field operations from planting to harvest
  6. Reduce stuck situations, breakdowns, and repair costs
  7. Fewer seed & seedling diseases
  8. Spray more timely
  9. Lower high soil pH
  10. Reduce salt levels

The most important thing I hope you took from any of our sessions this winter is that even though commodity prices are down and many of your neighbors may be talking doom and gloom, there is still tremendous opportunity in agriculture today for good managers.  I closed most of our workshops with the following Bible verse, and I think this sums things up quite well:

There are some things that you cannot be sure of.  You must take a chance.  If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.  So begin planting early in the morning, and don’t stop working until evening. You don’t know what might make you rich. Maybe everything you do will be successful.
– Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6 ERV