Completely on track

Written by Kerri Lotven on .

Recently, brothers Jordan and Josh Bright started splitting their time between their family farm near Paris, Mo., and a farm they now rent south of Jonesboro, Ark. The distance between the two is a little over 350 miles—a six-hour drive. More hours on the road mean fewer hours on the farm.

When MFA launched the Crop-Trak Complete program in 2018, the brothers saw an opportunity to save time while increasing efficiencies on both operations. The program combines the benefits of MFA’s Nutri-Track preci­sion program with its Crop-Trak scouting services.

“We began working with Kyle [Besgrove, Crop-Trak area sales manager] a few years ago,” Jordon said. “When this program was introduced, he presented us with this idea, and we tried it on our corn acres primarily. We saw an add­ed benefit and did a better job overall with the corn, so we signed up all of our acres.”

The Brights grow corn, soybeans and wheat and recently added rice with their Arkansas operation. Jordon began farming in 2008 with his father, George, after college. Josh, who is three years younger, joined his father and brother soon after he finished school. They met Kyle in 2010 when he started as a precision specialist for MFA’s Centralia Group and began grid-sampling a couple of the Brights’ fields through Nutri-Track.

Even though the brothers were initially reluctant to add Crop-Trak scouting services, too, they soon saw the benefits of having someone in the field weekly.

“Kyle fills in where we feel like our weak point is,” Jordon said. “Don’t get me wrong—we like walking fields, but now we don’t have to spend as much time out there. We can dedicate more of our time to running the day-to-day operations. Truth be told, I get home earlier at night.”

And, to the husband and fairly recent father, family time is im­portant. The Brights said they also appreciate the added knowledge and resources they have access to through MFA. If Kyle doesn’t know the answer, he can consult with someone who does.

“We’ve been farming together for 10 years,” Josh said. “But there are so many diseases and bugs out there now. Kyle probably knows 100 times more than we do in that respect, and ultimately, it helps us learn.”

Farming new geography in Arkansas presents new chal­lenges, the Brights said. They also rely on Kyle’s Crop-Trak counterpart, Jesse Surface, in that region to service their acreage south of Jonesboro.

With Crop-Trak Complete, growers have access to Nu­tri-Track’s intensive soil-sampling and nitrogen-modeling programs, Crop-Trak’s weekly field visits, detailed scouting reports, and in-season pest control and fertility recom­mendations along with their choice of two other premium services. Those extra options include planting prescriptions based on normalized yield data, multi-year yield analysis zones, or Veris advanced electro-conductivity and organic matter sam­pling. Other services are being evaluated and may be added to the program in the future.

But, according to the Brights, one of the biggest benefits is that they just have to make one call.

“It just streamlines everything,” Jordon said. “Before, we had three or four different people we’d have to go through to get answers. Whenever Kyle came along, it gave us a direct line to one answer. It takes the guesswork out of it.”

The Brights have precision technology installed on their equipment, and they variable-rate spread their own fertilizer and spray their own fields. With so many moving parts to their operation, Jordon and Josh sit down with Kyle two to three times a year to go over plans for the upcoming season. These plans include nutri­ent levels, soil property data from grid-sampling and seed selection recommendations.

“We also lay out what our game plan is going to be for fall fertilizer and what we need to carry over into the springtime,” Jordon said. “At that time, we’ll work on planting plans and placement of varieties.”

Communication is essential to this partnership, Kyle said. Because he scouts the property weekly, he knows what’s happening on the operation at any given time.

“We usually talk about three times a week,” Kyle said. “It makes it a lot easier when we have continual communication. For instance, I know he sprayed one of his fields on Saturday. I scout on Monday or Tuesday, typically, so I know that field isn’t going to show full herbicide activity, but those weeds are probably going to die. Knowing what each other is doing is definitely helpful for all parties involved.”

The benefits go beyond just having a single point of contact. All Crop-Trak employees are independent consultants, and it’s their job to provide unbiased recommendations based on sound agronomics.

“You know you’re not talking to someone worried about making a sale,” Jordon said. “Where a salesman might say, ‘You need to spray this,’ Kyle might say, ‘You don’t need to spray this yet; let’s wait a little bit’ and the same goes for applying fertilizer or topdressing fields. With Kyle, we’re getting actual good advice that has our best interest in mind.”

And with a year like this one, farmers have had to make a lot of tricky decisions. 

“Some of the Brights’ fields have been planted three times this year,” Kyle said. “They’re so flat and have just held water. We can provide a third-party perspec­tive when it comes to tough decisions like replant. As a farmer, knowing you’ve already planted that field twice, you don’t want to tell yourself it has to be plant­ed again. It’s my job to act as a coach sometimes. We’ll go back to the plan and their goals to figure out how to accomplish what we set out to do.”

Moreover, the brothers said Crop-Trak Complete helps maximize their yields, which is the ultimate goal. They still anticipate 200-bushels-per-acre corn this year.

“If you’re not going to push yields, and you’re fine with the status quo, then there’s no point in doing all of this,” Kyle said.

“And we’re not getting crazy,” Josh added. “We’re just trying to set new plateaus that are attainable, and this program helps keep us accountable to those goals.”

According to the Brights, that’s the true value of Crop-Trak Complete.

“I would highly recommend this program, especially with our margins getting as tight as they are,” Jordon said. “There’s literally no room for error anymore.”

For more information on Crop-Trak Complete, contact your nearby MFA or AGChoice location, or call 573-876-5246.