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Upward trends

The first computer David Backer remembers seeing was in the office of his family’s machinery dealership, Wise Bros., in the 1970s. His uncle, J.O. Wise, used this state-of-the-art technology to buy and sell commodity futures long before the practice was common on Midwest farms.

Being on the leading edge of the agricultural industry has been a hallmark of the Wise family through six generations of farmers and entrepreneurs. Today, David, who took over management of the family business in 2014, is carrying on that progressive tradition with his two oldest sons, Harrison and Matthew.

“Wise Bros. was always into the next big thing, and somehow that’s turned into us,” David said. “We’re continually looking to the future and trying to be forward-thinking. The stakes get higher with every generation.”

The current operation is divided equally into equipment sales and farming, David said. He and his sons buy and sell farm equipment and host machinery auctions at their facilities, advantageously located alongside Interstate 70 a few miles outside King­dom City, Mo. The Backers also farm around 2,000 acres, producing corn, soybeans and wheat along with beef cattle, hay and straw.

With so many enterprises running simultaneously, the Backers say they need all the help they can get, especially when it comes to managing their crops. MFA’s Crop-Trak scouting program provides that extra support. Since enrolling in Crop-Trak in 2016, David said the service has not only increased efficiencies on the farm but also keeps him on top of the latest trends and technologies.

“Our business has been growing so much over the past few years to make room for these kids of mine, but sometimes the room is made before they’re here,” David said. “That’s where Crop-Trak comes in. It’s relieved a lot of my stress. It’s the best thing we’ve done, honestly. I can get the crop fertilized and planted and harvested, but I can never find time to walk the fields. MFA gives me a guy who is looking at our crop every week and letting me know what we need to be doing.”

For the Backers, that guy is Crop-Trak consultant Cade Shiflett, who scouts around 900 acres of their farm. One of his recommendations that paid dividends last sea­son was a fungicide application paired with MFA’s Gold Advantage Trend-B, a proprietary product introduced for the 2019 season. This foliar-fed, slow-release nitrogen is combined with boron to provide targeted nutrition when the plant needs it the most.

Beyond disease protection, fungicide benefits include stay-green, stress tolerance and standability. Working in synergy with the fungicide, Trend-B boosts these benefits by promoting plant growth, resulting in more gain with higher N efficiency.

“When Cade recommended we put fungicide on our corn because there was some southern rust coming through, he also said Trend-B was something we should try,” David said. “I trust his advice. If it had just been me trying to scout and figure things out, I may not have known we needed the fungicide, and I probably wouldn’t have known about the Trend-B, either. But I’m glad I did. That application more than paid for itself.”

Even though the season got off to a shaky start with last spring’s excessively wet weather, David said both his soybean and corn crops produced record yields with good standability into harvest. He largely attributes that success to the fungicide and Trend-B. In fact, he said the treated corn yielded 25 to 30 bushels more than an untreated field on his homeplace.

“I look at things like Trend-B from an agronomic stand­point—what will give my growers an edge to take yields to the next level,” Cade said. “The benefits of fungicide are proven, but adding more nitrogen over the top gives you an even better return. So, in a year like we had in 2019, I was really eager to try it. And it worked. I never really saw any stress in the plants, and the yield difference was amazing.”

Trend-B not only adds the small amount of available N necessary to help a fungicide improve plant performance, Cade explained, but it also helps maintain optimal boron nutri­tion, which is often needed late in the season. Boron is essential for grain development but commonly deficient in Midwest soils. The issue with boron, unlike many plant nutrients, is that it is very mobile in the soil but not in the plant. Adding boron to a foliar application reduces its need to move from the soil through the plant and ensure it is where it is most needed.

The most reliable measure of boron deficiency is tissue test­ing, a practice that proved Trend-B’s benefits in soybeans last season on the farm of Derek Twenter in Smithton, Mo. Because of the spring’s weather challenges, he said not all of his fertilizer applications went out as planned. His Crop-Trak consultant, Taylor Birdsong, advised treating half of the bean crop with a fungicide/Trend-B combination.

“When we took the tissue samples afterward, the boron had gone up to the level we wanted,” Derek said. “I have no doubt it helped yields, too. The beans with the Trend-B did better than all the others, averaging more than 70 bushels. We definitely saw results. In fact, I wish we’d done more of it.”

MFA agronomists warn, however, that foliar feeding is not sufficient to meet all the plant’s nutritional requirements and must be part of a sound fertility program. Proper timing is also crucial to maximize the benefits of both fungicides and Trend-B. In corn, applications should be made typically at tasseling, when the plants are rapidly using nitrogen for growth. Corn takes up half its N supply between the V8 and VT stages and needs boron for silking and kernel fill. In soybeans, the combo should also be applied in the reproductive growth stages, from about R2 to R4. That’s when a soybean plant takes up 70% to 75% of its boron, which is important for pod-set and fill stages.

Using his own high-clearance sprayer, Derek made the combined application on about 500 acres of soybeans at R4, based on Taylor’s guidance. Since enrolling in Crop-Trak about five years ago, Derek said such recommendations have been invaluable to his family’s operation. The 28-year-old farms with his grandfather, Arthur, and father, Greg, growing around 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans, backgrounding cattle and raising 600 cow-calf pairs.

“Working with Taylor is almost like having another employ­ee on the farm, someone I can trust,” Derek said. “He knows all our fields, and if I’m busy and need something, I just call him up and he’ll take care of it for me, no questions asked. We bounce ideas back and forth, and he’s always bringing new things to the table that he thinks will help us.”

Derek, who returned to the farm full time 10 years ago after studying diesel mechanics at Grand River Technical School in Chillicothe, Mo., bought his own acreage in 2014 and is hoping to build the operation for the next generation. He and his wife, Emily, now have an 18-month-old daughter, Laken.

“Since buying this place, margins have gotten much tighter, and it’s tougher to make a profit,” Derek said. “We have to do more to increase yield, and that’s where something like Trend-B comes into play. We spend our money where our crops have the most potential and just keep pushing them, trying to get to the next level. It benefited us last year, and if it makes sense this year, we’ll do it again. Anything that can gain us extra bushels and still be in the black, we’re going to try it.”

Talk with your Crop-Trak consultant or other MFA agronomy experts about the opportunity to improve your crop’s health and increase yields by combining fungicides with Trend-B foliar nutrition.

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