(Family Features) Modern farming looks substantially different than it did a generation or two ago. Unprecedented pressures and challenges, only exacerbated by the past couple of years, make it increasingly challenging for growers to produce healthy crops with strong yields that also maintain profitability.
“Farming has always been a balancing act, but today’s growers are managing against multiple variables beyond their direct control,” said Jeff Divan, director, sales agronomy at Sound Agriculture. “Fortunately, taking steps like increasing nutrient efficiency can help address some common challenges so growers can dedicate their attention to other in-season needs.”
Divan points to four key areas where farmers can make changes that could positively affect their success and profitability:
Crop Input Prices Commodity prices are high and demand is ramping up, but those promising signs come at a (literal) cost. The cost of inputs is a leading concern for growers; in particular, input shortages, higher prices and supply chain issues are top challenges when it comes to mainstays needed for the growing season.
When possible, lining up chemicals early in the season is one proactive step against potential shortages. Basing calculations on data from past years is a starting point. In many parts of the country, for example, preemergence programs are increasingly important; the priority will be managing against waterhemp and other broadleaves, as well as grasses.
High Fertilizer Prices Unforgiving prices and limited availability in the fertilizer market have some growers looking to new ways to protect their profits. With fertilizer prices high, many growers are considering managing nitrogen as a way to reduce costs, improve nutrient use efficiency and increase return on investment. A solution may lie in assets farmers already have. Getting more nutrients from the soil can mean higher yields and a reduction in fertilizer.
Many nutrients applied to a field never make it to the crop, but a foliar-applied biochemistry like Source wakes up soil microbes and improves access to nitrogen and phosphorus. Once applied, it activates microbes in the root zone that fix atmospheric nitrogen and unlock phosphate. Crops get more nutrients at critical times throughout the season, reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizer without impacting yield. Improved nutrition also leads to healthier plants and increased yields. Use the product with no other changes to increase yield or add it while reducing synthetic nitrogen (up to 50 pounds per acre) to reduce fertilizer input costs.
Changing Weather Patterns Volatile spring weather creates challenging planting conditions for farmers. While navigating environmental stressors has always been part of the job, changing weather patterns make a farmer’s job more difficult. Spring planting is off to the slowest start in nine years, according to the USDA Crop Progress Report. Cold and wet weather has made it hard to get into fields and alters product usage and timing. Even as crops are quickly planted between rains, the cooler soil temperatures will still lead to delayed emergence.
Having a plan can help, however. Decide a strategy based on current conditions and be ready to adjust if things change. Working closely with ag retail partners can help farmers prepare for challenges that arise throughout the season and help adjust plans on the fly. In the long term, improving soil health can benefit soil structure by reducing erosion and increasing water filtration and retention. Consider adopting practices like reduced tillage and cover crops, as well as maximizing biodiversity.
Sustainable Nutrient Management Managing nitrogen run-off is a practical endeavor in terms of both cost-efficiency and sustainability. When nutrients are applied to fields, a portion goes unused due to timing and weather events. In fact, 30-50% of nitrogen is lost to leaching, runoff, denitrification and volatilization.
Unused nitrogen and phosphorus lead to waste, but there are ways to help plants access more of these nutrients. With a use rate of just a few ounces per acre, Source helps get more nutrients out of the field, supporting ample yields with less fertilizer and the additional benefit of decreased runoff and environmental impact.
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