Details for More Bang for Our Buck

More Bang for Our Buck – How to put Specialty Products to Work

Every year at this time, I know that you take on an operational focus. I do the exact same thing. But, while we are worried about the business at hand, you know, how full is bin 3? What is the moisture on the corn on the NW quarter? How many bushels have to go to the elevator? And so on, there is a lot of research coming to a culmination. The starter trials, the variety, and hybrid comparisons. But I know many of you are also trying to use specialty products on your operation. Biologicals, inhibitors, and many other products are seeing the culmination of a growing season. And while we are operationally focused, there is a wealth of data streaming into out monitors to feed a winter worth of study and decision making.

You might expect me to continue down the path and talk about the importance of harvest monitors and data. Instead, I am going to take a left turn and talk about specialty products.

Every year as we comb through the data from the season, we get to evaluate the success and the failures. All too often, however, we look at the results of plot data in the wrong way. In college, when there was a class that was not going the way that we wanted, we would consider changing it from a graded class, to pass/fail. What that meant in simple terms was we were confident in our ability to pass the course, but not to do so without some significant difficulty. So instead, we decided to bypass some of the pressure and declare that we wouldn’t judge each chapter, each homework assignment, and each test on its own merit, but instead, put a blanket over it and judge it as a whole body of work.

All too often, as we judge the use of specialty products on our farm, we look at them in the same manner, as a pass/fail judgment, when in fact that just smoothes out the data. For argument's sake, let’s look at a product that minimizes Phosphorus fertilizer fixation. Without getting into soil chemistry, I can tell you that there are two cases when phosphorus availability becomes a big problem for us in real-world conditions, and that is when our pH gets too low, or our pH gets too high. In both of these instances, phosphorus is less readily available to plants because of chemical forces that occur in the soil. So imagine that we apply a product to our Phosphorus fertilizer across the entire field to deal with this issue, but on any given field, not every acre will have a severe problem of this type. That means that if we judge the field as pass/fail, it probably fails and we dismiss the value of the Phosphorus fertilizer fixation product. But if we judged every acre separately, we would have acres were this product failed to pay for itself, acres where there was a modest benefit, and acres it was a home run. If we look at each acre or even portions of an acre on its own merit, the product is no longer a fail, but a “fiscal no-brainer.”

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