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Don’t let field edges drag you down

Nutri-Track can help maximize profit by increasing yield, lowering production costs

In my 12 years at MFA, I’ve seen a lot of changes in technology, farming practices, yield and yield expectations. When I started, it was pretty common for farmers to tell me their yield goals were 150-bushel corn, 45-bushel soybeans and maybe 50-bushel wheat. They would attempt to accomplish those goals with a flat rate application of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

In 2023—now heading into the 2024 crop—I’m more likely to hear 190-bushel corn, 60-bushel soybeans and 80-bushel wheat followed by variable-rate applications of at least P and K and mostly likely the N, too. The hybrids, varieties and technology we use today make those yield goal numbers not only doable but also expected.

Are we aiming high enough or letting field edges drag down profit potential?

DavinI use the term “field edges” loosely, referring to areas that do not produce like the more productive parts of crop fields. Whether those lower yields are caused by trees, compaction at field entrances and equipment-staging areas, low spots where water sits longer, or clay knobs or sandy knolls, you cannot positively impact the productivity of these areas without major physical modifications and investment. Maybe those physical changes need to happen, but, in the meantime, those areas may be limiting your true field potential.

One physical modification would be taking these acres out of production completely. You might participate in a government program such as installing pollinator habitat, or you could remove those acres from the equation of your farming operation. Fertility could then be placed elsewhere to boost yields in areas that might benefit from a few more pounds of N, P and K. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to put a pencil to those areas and determine if you might make more money by farming fewer total acres with better fertility placement.

MFA’s Nutri-Track system works because it helps lower your cost of production per bushel through improved placement of fertility and better management practices. When you enroll in Nutri-Track, your local precision agronomy specialist will sit down with you and use yield data to analyze your true profit potential in those fields.

Spatially collected yield data is the key to this whole process. Accurate yield data is essential to develop the best fertilizer recommendations, determine where we need to apply more or less to promote the highest yields, and achieve the best nutrient use efficiency values we can get. When doing this, it’s important to focus on the areas of the field we can impact and push yield there, while not over-supplying nutrients to areas where they would not provide an economic return.

Analyzing yield data to produce yield zones can help you maximize profit through increased bushels at lower production costs.

When you sit down with your MFA team to make your fertility plan for next year with a yield goal in mind, are you including those areas that have maxed out their potential? Consider this. If your field averaged 200 bushels of corn per acre, and you included 10 acres of a 40-acre field that only averaged 150, the other 30 acres averaged 217 bushels per acre—not the 200-bushel average. What would happen if you fertilized for that higher yield? My guess is you might push yield even higher than 217 bushels per acre on that ground, further maximizing your production potential and profit levels.

Higher yields at lower costs of production can add profit to your operation. The Nutri-Track system is one way MFA can partner with your operation to maximize your bottom line at the end of the year. Don’t let your field averages incorrectly frame your thought process when it comes to your crop fertility plan for next season.

Retail Central precision manager
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