After every growing season, it’s a best practice to evaluate successes and dissect input decisions that didn’t pan out as well as hoped. Here are some considerations as you reflect on 2019 and make input decisions for 2020.
Seed treatments can play an important role by assisting in crop emergence and stand establishment early in the season. When making seed treatment decisions, first consider the threats present in each field. Then, select the most useful and economical treatment, after carefully evaluating all options. There are several types of seed treatments available ranging from a basic single mode-of-action fungicide to versions with multiple modes of action including fungicides, insecticides, nematicides, inoculants and growth regulators.
You may be able to make less expensive treatments without reducing yield potential based on crop history. For example, if soybeans have been part of a crop rotation within the past three years, an inoculant may not be necessary. Or, planting a soybean variety with good tolerance to sudden death syndrome will preclude you from spending money on additional fungicide that will be less likely to pay for itself.
Pay close attention to the disease rating of hybrids. If you plant a hybrid with weak disease scores, make it a priority to monitor and scout for signs for disease throughout the growing season. This prepares you to make an in-season economic judgement call about potential yield loss and standability issues in lieu of the cost of a foliar application.
Exercise caution when considering cutting back on weed control programs. Of all the factors that can adversely affect yield, weed control is the greatest. The cost of an effective herbicide program — regardless of weather conditions (weeds will grow every year) — is the most likely to pay big dividends come harvest time. If you’re looking to save money, you may consider making herbicide applications yourself versus spending dollars for custom application. This, however, depends a great deal on whether you have application equipment capable of doing the job in the timing window necessary for effective control.
Try something new.
A new growing season brings new opportunities. One way to try something new on your farm is to do your own on-farm research trial. If you collect planting and harvest data, you’re already halfway there. The next step is to set up a meaningful experiment.
Several land grant universities have published bulletins outlining best practices and opportunities to collaborate, which can be helpful for some. If you prefer to work on your own, Mycogen Seeds Agronomist Melissa Bell recommends focusing on a single variable while keeping all else the same. For example, try a seeding rate trial where the only variable that changes across the field is seeding rates. Another simple test involves trying a new fungicide or seed treatment. Such trials, especially when repeated year over year, can help you make more informed input investment decisions for future years.