Southern Spotlight: Wins, Losses, and Lessons

James Banahan

James Banahan

That’s the title I’d put on this year.  Agree?  To be honest, it’s probably the title to put on any year in this industry.  Every year will bring you some of each, but with a little reflection and plotting, I’m just putting it out there that you can add a few tics to that W column, and take a few L’s away.

The Wins on the year, from where I’m sitting:

Nitrogen stabilizers and your VRT program:  These showed their value this year.  They either increased your yield or decreased your bottom line.  For the luckiest among us, they did both.  By helping you to better manage your inputs, particularly fertilizer, you were able to raise the same bushels as before with less input, or keep input steady and raise more.  What more can we ask for?

Grain marketing: There’s no doubt that it was a tough year on the markets, but there was yet a chance to market smart and come out ahead, and many of you did just that.  Smart grain marketing = W.

Renting more acres: 1950 was the peak year for the number of farmers in the U.S.  Our ranks have been shrinking ever since.  While our number is reducing though, everything else is getting bigger.  Equipment is getting bigger as well as farm size.  We live in an era where you have to grow to survive (just look at what’s been happening with our co-op as of late!) and acquiring more acres is the ticket.

The Losses:

Fast planting: This is a L in any year, but with prices lower than we’re accustomed to, each kernel becomes all that more important.  Fast planting reduced your yield.  So did…

A poor fertility and/or chemistry program: Sometimes it’s tough to recognize these as a loss because you don’t realize you lost.  To understand the full impact of the loss caused by these things, you’d have to see what your fields can produce given a robust fertility/chemistry program.  Fortunately, that’s information that our RD plots can supply, if only you’ll lend us your ear.

Grain marketing: This one might have gone in your W column or your L column, depending.  As an L, it’s the flip side of what I wrote above: it was a tough year with a few chances.  If you missed those chances or second-guessed or waited, your marketing might go down as an L for your operation on the year.

And the Lessons:

If you’re recognizing some of yourself in those losses, don’t despair.  Losses are learning opportunities, and here’s where the reflection and plotting become important: if you saw a Loss this year, change it up for next season.  At this moment, you’re working hard to finalize your cropping plans, seed purchases and such for 2015—never is there a better time to mend the missteps of the year.

Also, in just two short weeks, we’ll do our annual RD wrap up in York.  We’ve got Answer Plot hybrid info to share.  Our very own Mike Zwingman will talk, as will the good Dr. Fred Below, who has lessons coming out of his ears.  I hope that you’ll join us and share some of your victories from the year, or commiserate your losses in good company, and, as always, learn a thing or two to help you secure a heftier W percentage for the future of your operation.