Farmers and agronomists are bombarded daily with the “buzzwords” and buzz topics of the day, week, month, or year. We are also hit hard by several testimonials or “slivers of science” that most of the time are not presented with hard research or statistics to back them up.

Why? Because numbers are boring, and a good story isn’t.

I pondered the question of why the proven basics of crop production are often ignored for the sensational.  I then remembered a class I took a few years back in which the instructor encouraged us to be “thinkers” first and then be “people of action” or “Think of Being Thinking People”.  He introduced me to the “Possible/Plausible/Probable” concept.


The red area represents everything that is possible about a topic, hobby, industry, job, etc.

The white represents things that are plausible about the same topic.

The black area represents everything that is probable about the topic.


Notice how each area gets exponentially smaller from Possible to Plausible to Probable.

An example of this is you trying to make a budget for your expenses this year. You work a 40hr week job and get a 5% end of year bonus. Where is your money coming from to pay your bills?  Well, it is PROBABLE that if you show up to work, you will get paid for a 40-hr week. It is PLAUSIBLE that based on the last 8 out of 10 years getting a year-end bonus, that you will get a bonus of 5% this year.  And it is POSSIBLE that if you buy a lottery ticket and win the lottery, you will never have to work again.

Just because it is POSSIBLE to win the lottery, are you going to quit your job? NO.

BUT WHAT ARE WE CONSTANTLY SHOWN ON THE NEWS? People who just won 10 trillion dollars from the lottery or slot machine.  WE ARE NEVER SHOWN ALL THE PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT A LOTTERY TICKET AND LOST.  We are never shown a person who goes to work and on Friday gets a paycheck. We are shown the POSSIBLE because it is sensational, it’s exciting, and it is ABNORMAL AND LIKELY NEVER TO HAPPEN TO US!!

Now let’s apply this to soybean (or any crop) production: (You can make or apply this matrix to any crop you grow)

Factors that are PROBABLE to affect my bean yields in 2023: (in no order)

  • Weather
  • Drainage
  • Hybrid or Variety Selection
  • Proper Soil pH
  • Weed Control
  • Population
  • P and K Fertility
  • Soil conditions at time of planting
  • Seeding Depth.
  • Seed Treatment
  • Seedling Disease
  • SDS
  • Soybean Cyst Nematode

Factors that are PLAUSIBLE to affect my bean yields in 2023: (in no order)

  • Insecticide
  • Fungicide
  • Split Fertility Applications
  • Drought/Wind/Hail or lack thereof
  • Compaction
  • Sulfur
  • Boron
  • Deer/Turkey Damage or lack thereof
  • Supplemental Nitrogen
  • Herbicide Carryover
  • Herbicide Drift Damage

Factors that are POSSIBLE to affect my bean yields in 2023: (in no order)

  • Biologicals
  • Foliar Feeds
  • Soil or Plant Stimulants
  • Availability Products
  • In Row Fertilizer
  • Carbon
  • Micronutrient Applications
  • Solar Flares
  • Meteor Shower

SO, in no way would I ever trade an activity or product in the PROBABLE for one in the POSSIBLE. I would focus all my activity and resources on things I can control in the PROBABLE with the largest ROI or bang for the buck. I would then invest time and resources in the PLAUSIBLE. Again, prioritizing what I can control and what gives me the greatest ROI first.

I MIGHT TRY A FEW ACRES OF THE POSSIBLE. Put out some test strips and see what maybe works and what doesn’t. But I am not going to invest whole hog into something that isn’t proven by research or on my farm and in my management system just because someone I don’t know “won the lottery” with it.


  • “Thinking Agronomy” is just that: thinking before putting into action.


  • IMPLEMENT the PROBABLE and the PLAUSIBLE. Put action into what is a good ROI or what affects your yields the most.


  • Experiment with the POSSIBLE. See what a PLAUSIBLE option is for your operation or management in the future.



  1. There is nothing sexy, flashy, or sensational about a person who gets paid every Friday and maybe gets a bonus at the end of the year. (Probable and Plausible)
  2. Lottery winners are sensational, sexy, and flashy, and make the news every time, but are 1 in a million. (Possible)
  3. And no one ever shows the millions of people who bought a lottery ticket…….. and lost……………


Think about it.


Think about “Thinking Agronomy”.

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About the Author: Kelly Robertson

Kelly Robertson has been a soil fertility agronomist and precision agriculture consultant since 1989 and also spends time in farm/agronomy management roles for farms in Southern Illinois. In 2012, Kelly and his wife Lori started Precision Crop Services in Benton where they provide agronomic services for their customers including soil testing, crop scouting, data analysis, GPS/GIS services including variable rate seeding and fertility recommendations as well as farm and agronomy management for their customers. He is a Certified Professional Agronomist, Certified Crop Advisor, Certified 4R Nutrient Management Specialist, 2015 Illinois Soybean Association Double-Crop Specialist, 2016 Illinois CCA of the Year and the 2021 Illinois Soybean Assoc. Dave Rahe Excellence in Soils Consulting Award winner.

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