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Agronomist urging farmers to take more scientific approach


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — To meet the challenge of a down agriculture economy, farmers are urged to be more like scientists, to maximize to the greatest extent possible the health of their crops.

That will be the focus of a presentation during next week’s Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo from Brian Bush, an agronomist with Pioneer. He’s scheduled to speak for about 30 minutes on Dec. 13, at 10:30 a.m.

Bush said he can’t recall in his lifetime a more critical moment for farmers to put aside old methods for taking even high yields of corn and soybeans to the next level. ‘’We’ve got to be raising more bushels per acre in order to keep that profitability going in the right direction, than what we ever have in the past,” he explained.

He said having samples of the soil and tissue from crops tested on a regular basis throughout the growing season will identify the nutrients lacking and how much to apply at each stage during the growing season, to achieve the best possible outcome.

Testing will also reveal if pH levels in the soil at the start of the growing season require adjusting so that the needed nutrients added to the ground work to their greatest potential for the crop. In addition, Bush said testing can achieve the right balance of nutrients at every moment before harvest so one doesn’t work against the others for attaining maximum yields.

As an example, he said applying the traditional 250 pounds of nitrogen to achieve 200 bushels per acre of corn – even if needed by the soil – can limit the ability of potassium and phosphorus already in the dirt. Those can be more effective than nitrogen on the crops depending on the circumstances.

The same applies to calcium, which can work against nutrients more effective for increasing yields, he noted. Bush said he will also address the percentage of each additive needed in the soil throughout the season for optimum results.

“If we farm the same we way did 15 years ago, we’re probably not going to be as successful in today’s economy,” he said.

Farmers can save money from buying just the right amount of nutrients required to unlock a crop’s true yield potential. “It’s ‘how do we spend our dollars effectively at a time we don’t have unlimited resources?’” he explained.

Bush said it’s an exciting time in agriculture because of technology including drones and satellites helping with efficiency – but knowing exactly what to feed the soil and crops periodically can still stretch production and cost reduction even further.

Without such knowledge, ‘’We’re kind of throwing darts out into the darkness and hoping we fill the right numbers. Hoping and praying is not a very good plan for high yields,” he pointed out.

Any farmer thinking about regular testing should first address problems like yield limiting soil compaction before going ahead with it. Bush also expects to touch upon changes farmers should think about making in 2019, and what should remain the same.

Other ag companies that will have presenters at the show include the Atlanta, Ind.-based Beck’s Hybrids and The Climate Corp. Certified Crop Advisor Travis Burnett will provide an update on Beck’s Practical Farm Research program at 2:30 on Dec. 12, and Caroline Currie of The Climate Corp. will talk about its FieldView system at noon on Dec. 13.

This year’s Expo from Dec. 11-13 is the first since ag broadcaster Hoosier Ag Today and MidCountry Media, the owner of Farm World, purchased the show from Richard Sherman. Sherman operated the Indiana-Illinois Farm and Outdoor Power Equipment Show for almost four decades.

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