Ag PhD. Television show host Brian Hefty, discusses ways to increase profitability
Can farmers realistically double their yields in the next 20 years? That was the question posed by Brian Hefty, co-host of the popular television program, Ag PhD. The show focuses on profit tips for farmers, and Hefty presented at the 2012 Precision Ag Conference, sharing some of the lessons he has learned from his own farming experiences and from meeting others on his show.
“As my brother and I travel around the country, and even around the world, talking to farmers, we always ask their secrets for a great crop,” said Hefty. “The truth is, there really is no secret. The big thing is paying attention to details, no matter what part of the country you’re farming in.”
There are new trends around the pike that will help farmers to get there such as better seed genetics, new improved seed traits, new fertility products to potentially enhance plant growth hormones, enzymes and biological products, better equipment to help you plant better, spray more effectively and reduce harvest loss, and new pesticide technologies to further improve weed, insect and disease control. While these factors play a huge roll in the success of the crop, Hefty said there’s more to it than that.
“Make the commitment to dedicate yourself to studying and testing new methods,” he advised. “Visit other farms, attend seminars, scout your fields more often, increase your credit line, adopt a positive attitude and don’t be afraid to have small failures.”
Looking at modern farming practices, tiling can be a huge game changer.
“Why tile?” asked Hefty. “With tiling, you can gain 15-25 percent in increased yields, for starters. There is less chance of soil compaction, a longer, more predictable growing season, a slow reduction of high magnesium levels, helps to warm things up in the spring and speeds all field operations from planting to harvest.”
Additional benefits include: reduced breakdowns, stuck-in-the-mud tractors, and the ability to maintain the ideal soil composition, fewer seed and seedling diseases, less need for tillage to dry out soil, lower high soil pH and reduce salt levels.
Yet, there are many who object tiling, and Hefty offered some talking points.
“Tiling reduces erosion and flooding,” he said. “It also improves downstream water quality, as well as improves roads by redirecting water flow. Farmers aren’t removing wetlands; they are simply tiling farm ground.”
Along with tiling, there are other steps to double yields. To reduce compaction, increase organic matter, stay off saturated soils, manage traffic patterns and add gypsum and lime when needed.
Another issue facing farmland is fertility. “Fertility is key,” he said.
“Improve soil life; get pH in the 6.3-7.3 range,” Hefty said. “Get ample calcium in the soil to balance out the magnesium. The more organic matter a soil contains, the more nutrients it can hold.”
Increasing organic matter takes time, but there are top five ways Hefty suggested producers consider.
“Reduce tillage to keep roots intact, and plant high-residue crops with lots of roots such as corn instead of soybeans,” he advised. “Use manure and plant cover crops.”
For the best stand, focus on the seed.
“Give each seed its best possible chance,” he added. “Have a great seed treatment with fungicides, insecticides and biological inoculants. Use plant growth hormones. Manage residue in the seedbed. Pay attention to seed spacing and depth. Pick the right seed variety, and harvest the crop at the appropriate moisture.”
Finally, be sure to improve your pest control of weeds, diseases and insects.
“Round-up resistant weeds are getting to be a larger problem,” Hefty said. “Keep fields weed-free. Grass weeds such as barnyard grass, green foxtail and shattercane are known as Goss’s Wilt, which is a bacterial disease, so fungicides won’t control them. Plant tolerant hybrids; rotate crops, increase tillage and be sure not to damage your plants.”
Most insecticides are fairly inexpensive, and Hefty recommended farmers pay attention to the pests. “Keep in mind that every time a bug takes a bite out of your plant, it opens it up for disease.”
From tiling to tillage, to improving organic matter and managing pests, there are many considerations to keep in mind to have a successful corn crop. For more information about raising higher yields, check out agphd.com and watch Ag PhD TV. Hefty invited the farmers to an open house field day of his farm near Baltic, SD, on July 27, 2012.