As we start to wrap up the 2016 growing season it’s time sit back and reflect on what we learned this spring and summer. Most of us only get to grow one crop per year and the lessons we can gain, if we pay attention, will help with the coming year’s crops. Try to think about what worked, what didn’t and what you would do differently. Is it clear in your mind, did you write things down? If you can recall every instance in every field you are much better than I am. That is why “on-farm research” is so important and it’s as simple as pushing a button on most of our equipment today.

Most planters, sprayers, fertilizer applicators and combines have the ability to collect and record data. Your comfort level will be the only limit to what you can accomplish using this technology. I know it quickly boggles my mind as I think about the amount of data available to make good management decisions. But it is also very exciting to see how we can affect yield with differing practices and products. If you are just getting started on using this data, start with the basics. Look at one or two things to start with and gradually work your way into it. Start with side-by-sides and when you get good at it, add in replications.

Most only look at variety and hybrid selection. But seed enhancements, variable rate seeding and planting speed, down pressure and bounce are also easily monitored. When it comes to nutrition, with the application equipment we have available today, we can spoon feed the crop and show the benefits of intense nutrient management in our poorer soils here in SE Illinois.

The biggest issue facing us for 2017, in my opinion, is going to be weed control. How do we manage weeds with resistance to multiple modes of action? What do we do with the amaranth species that produce seeds in such huge volume? Even if we get approval for all the dicamba and 2,4-D technologies, how will we handle the regulations that accompany that program? Again, technology and research on YOUR farm will help you make better decisions. Injection units on sprayers are making a comeback and record keeping with as-applied data will become even more critical for growers to prove what they have done in each field. This data also will help you make better herbicide decisions by logging which product worked best as well as any crop injury issues.

In the past I have talked about the importance of research on your farm and I believe it is an important element in technology evaluation and adoption. Universities provide a valuable service in crop production practices, but most of their data is collected in a limited geography and is normally on very good soils with few variables or otherwise ideal conditions. With today’s technology farmers can test multiple products in each field if they so choose. As with choosing a good seedsman, choosing the right partner for on-farm research is the key to success. Find a trusted advisor and stick with them. Find someone who will be there at treatment application, walk the fields with you and be there at harvest.

Finding a good partner is essential to success. Be it a retailer, consultant or extension person, it doesn’t really matter as long as they fill the need you have on your farm. The bottom line is to do your own research where you can using University and industry information as a guideline, but nothing beats the results from your own farm for maximizing ROI. I think that might be pretty important come 2017.

Mike Wilson is a Specialty Products Marketing Coordinator at Wabash Valley Service Company. For over 20 years he has been working with farmers in ten counties in southeastern Illinois to improve economic yield in soybeans, corn and wheat. Mike has been a CCA since 1994 and is enjoying being a part of the Soy Envoy program.

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About the Author: Mike Wilson