Overcoming Today’s Agricultural Economy with Increased Profitability

agricultural economy

 

As growers look for ways to survive and grow in the current agricultural economy, their efforts go hand-in-hand with trying to produce better yields and increase their profitability. Smart input decisions are a way growers can improve their operation’s efficiency to ensure a high-quality crop that results in increased yield and profitability for their overall operation.

Below are some of the inputs every grower should consider as they make smart and strategic purchase decisions for the benefit of their operation.

Seed

It all starts with selecting the appropriate seed for your geography and for your farm management practices. There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the appropriate seed, including its maturity rating, yield potential, plus pressures from disease, weeds and insects. 

Fertilizer

It’s crucial plants receive the necessary nutrients from the moment the seed is planted, so they can have a quicker and stronger emergence and maximize their genetic potential. This is why using an effective starter fertilizer as part of an overall crop nutrient program is so beneficial.

For a starter fertilizer to be the most impactful, it needs to help make the nutrients in the soil and in the fertilizer, available for uptake to the plant. An ortho ortho EDDHA chelating agent used with the starter or as a key ingredient in the starter fertilizer is a proven way plants start off stronger and result in a better yielding crop at the end of the season. Levesol™ from West Central is the purest ortho ortho EDDHA chelating agent on the market today.

Fungicides

Applying a fungicide can help growers increase yields by preventing disease and providing additional plant health benefits like improved seedling emergence, enhanced growth efficiency and better tolerance to hot temperatures. But it’s not good enough for growers to get any kind of fungicide, choosing an appropriate fungicide is essential. Before deciding what fungicide to purchase, growers should ask themselves some key questions, starting with “what spectrum of disease control are they looking for?”

Insecticides

Insecticide is another critical component of a successful crop protection strategy. Growers need to protect their plants from insect pressure, so they can take advantage of all the nutrients, soil conditions and environmental conditions to produce as much yield as possible.

Adjuvants

Once a plant starts growing, they still need additional protection throughout their lifecyle. Weed resistant management is a huge concern to many growers and ag professionals. New trait and herbicide technologies are being approved, and there is a growing need for the appropriate adjuvants to work alongside the new technologies to combat resistant weeds and help these herbicides be as effective as possible. It’s important for growers to pick an adjuvant that is compatible with the new herbicide technologies and one that will still work with conventional herbicides. The new Elite adjuvants contain water conditioners without any ammonium sulfate so they will not increase the volatility of the herbicide and will not affect the pH of the herbicide solution.

To further discuss how growers can overcome today’s low economy, we caught up with Steve Roehl from West Central Distribution during our LIFT Summit in June 2016 to get his thoughts. Check out a clip from our conversation below.

Transcript:

In today’s [agricultural] economy we always have to be careful about [and encourage] buyer beware. There are a lot of different products out there and I alluded to this in my presentation. There’s a lot of information and different people trying to solve high yields and profitable crop production. That’s why we have important meetings like the one we had today. There are a lot of intelligent people here, and Dr. Below does really do a great job of pulling all of this stuff together. So, try to think about how you’re going to compete which is the real ticket here. You have to compete within the next 10 to 20 years, and you have to make money to survive, and we’re all doing this to try to feed the world and make a living. We need to carefully examine all of these inputs and try to figure out which ones as Dr. Below alludes to are going to have the greatest impact on your particular farm.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

Avoid Cold Weather Diesel Problems

cold weather diesel delivery

 

It’s that time of year again, cooler mornings, frosted windows, which means it’s time to winterize your stored diesel fuel. If No. 2 diesel cools during colder, overnight temperatures, it may reach “cloud point,” when wax crystals develop in the fuel. The fuel will look cloudy and crystals can plug the fuel filter, resulting in poor starts, engine hesitation, stalling and even engine damage. Use the below guidelines to winterize fuel left over from harvest.

Know When to Blend

The cloud point for No.2 diesel is approximately 14 degrees F. A good rule of thumb is to switch to a winter blend 15 degrees above cloud point. When overnight temperatures begin to dip down near 30 degrees F, it’s time to blend in No.1 diesel with additives for winter. For every 10 percent of No. 1 diesel added, the fuel cloud point will drop by 3 degrees F.

Don’t let cloud point surprise you – crystals can quickly accumulate in the fuel during a cold snap but may still run fine. Even if the fuel is blended after reaching cloud point, those crystals will remain and can clog your equipment. An engine that runs well on a chilly Friday could leave you stranded on a warm Monday. For this reason, an early-season move to winter-grade fuel is always recommended.

Factor in the Heel

When blending fuel, don’t just pour No. 1 diesel on top of stored fuel. First gauge the heel – or the total volume of No. 2 left in the tank before you begin blending winterized fuel – and reach the proper blend before bringing in the first delivery of winterized product. If No. 1 diesel is added to the storage tank without proper blending, farmers will actually dilute the winterized product and negatively impact the fuel quality.

Ask Questions

When done correctly, fuel blending will improve diesel engine performance. But since it’s a scientific process that can vary based on expected regional temperatures and your specific operation, you may have a few questions along the way. Your local Cenex® dealer can help answer your questions and help you achieve the right winter blend for your equipment. Our cold weather diesel fuel, Cenex® Wintermaster®, offers operability to minus 30 degrees F with a cold filter plugging point of minus 55 degrees F.

An early switch to a winter blend diesel fuel will help keep your operation and equipment running smoothly this winter.

Original Source: Cenexperts® Blog

CHS reports $209.2 million first quarter earnings for fiscal 2017

 

ST. PAUL, MINN. (January 12, 2017) – CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, today reported net income of $209.2 million for the first quarter of its 2017 fiscal year.

Earnings for the period (Sept. 1 – Nov. 30, 2016) declined 22 percent from the same period of fiscal 2016. The decrease was primarily attributed to lower pretax earnings in the company’s Energy and Foods segments along with Corporate and Other. These declines were partially offset by increased pretax earnings in the CHS Ag segment as well as earnings from the new Nitrogen Production segment.

“We’ve been in business for nearly nine decades, so we’ve experienced these types of cycles before,” said CHS President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Casale. “Although it’s not possible to predict how long the current down cycle in the ag and energy industries will continue, we’ll navigate through this period by continuing to run our businesses efficiently and effectively, by maintaining a strong balance sheet and by ensuring we serve our owners’ and customers’ needs in all we do.”

(more…)

Three Considerations When Purchasing Used Equipment

used equipment

 

Equipment can be one of the largest investments farmers make on their operation. And with today’s lower grain prices and tighter budgets, many are considering used machinery as an alternative to buying new. However, the hours logged on a piece of machinery are not always a reliable indicator of the health of the engine. Be sure to pay extra attention to three considerations to help make a final decision and protect your equipment investment.

  1. Get an oil analysis.
    Potential buyers can look for leaks and damage when inspecting used machinery, but even if a piece of equipment looks good on the outside, it’s harder to tell the condition under the hood. That’s where an oil analysis can be a valuable tool for the buyer. It is like a blood test for a machine’s engine, transmission and hydraulic systems. The cost of an oil analysis kit ($15 to $25) is minimal considering the valuable insights it can provide on a machine that likely costs tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy.
  1. Consider the age of the engine and the fuel it’ll need.
    Most equipment found at an auction will have logged hundreds or thousands of hours. Tier 3 and Tier 4 engines require a higher-quality fuel to run at peak performance. Traditional #2 diesel fuel can leave deposits on vital engine parts, which may clog fuel filters and cause injector failure. A premium diesel fuel like Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® is specially formulated to protect modern engines from deposits and buildup. Investing in a premium diesel fuel is essential to protect new and used equipment and ensure your machine runs efficiently throughout the year.
  1. Enroll the equipment in a warranty program.
    There are very few quick fixes on today’s modern farm equipment. When a system fails or a critical engine or hydraulic part is damaged, repairs can cost thousands of dollars and can take days to complete. The Cenex Total Protection Plan® Warranty Program covers both used and new equipment that use Cenex premium diesel and lubricants products and conduct regular oil analysis. Used equipment can be registered for up to eight years or 8,000 hours for a one-time fee of $399 and no deductible. The warranty is also transferable for future sales.

For help with specific equipment performance issues or to purchase an oil analysis kit, contact us or a Cenex certified energy specialist. To learn more about the Cenex Total Protection Plan and Cenex products, visit www.cenex.com.

Original Source: Cenexperts® Blog

The Importance of Soil Sampling

corn soil sampling

 

Most research today supports soil sampling and testing as a best management practice. Growers should take the opportunity learn as much as possible about their soil in order to produce their best yields. This includes knowing what nutrient deficiencies exist in their soil.

The following explains the process of soil sampling, and highlights key data growers will learn from testing and analyzing their soil.

The Soil Sampling Process

The primary objective of soil sampling is to provide a representative sample of the fertility within the field.

Based on the variability throughout the field, the number of acres per sample will vary.

  • If soils are similar in texture, slope, previous crop and production practices, then the number of acres per sample can increase.
  • If soils within a field are variable, than those areas can be sampled separately to determine the needs in those specific areas.

Most research suggests that growers choose 15 to 20 random areas to be sampled within the field.

  • These individual areas should have multiple cores taken at six to eight inches deep for common soil samples.
  • The cores can be collected using any number of tools available for this purpose.

Field composite samples, normally 8 to 16 oz. of soil, can be co-mingled and then a sample of the collection is sent to the lab.

If the field is divided into different zones, repeat the process for each zone. Samples need to be labeled for tracking purposes. Field maps can help with tracking.

Once samples are collected, they can be submitted to a local university or commercial lab via their submission guidelines. Charges for the samples will vary depending upon the testing requested.

What Will We Learn From the Samples? 

The more data collected, the more information growers will have available to help them make decisions. With soil sampling, an abundance of data is available, but for growers the most valuable information will boil down to five broad groups:

  1. Organic Matter – The measurement of plant and animal residue in soil, which often serves as a reserve for nutrients.
  2. Soil pH – A measure of acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Soil pH can affect nutrient availability.
  3. Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – measures the soil’s ability to hold cationic nutrients. CEC can also be used as an indicator of soil texture.
  4. Nitrate-N – This form of nitrogen is water-soluble and is readily available for plant uptake. This information will help growers determine nitrogen needs.
  5. Extractable Macro and Micro Nutrients – These results provide the essential nutrients that are available to the plant. Normally listed in parts per million, these results can help to determine nutrient applications needed by the crop to produce maximum economic yield.

As growers and their nutrient advisors receive more information about these five areas, they will be able to make more informed fertility decisions. They will also be able to address potential issues during the early stages to help attain their overall goal of achieving better yields.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

Big Data Innovations in Agriculture

drone technology in agriculture

 

The agriculture industry not only provides food, energy and products that we all use on a daily basis, it is also often a leader in technology. Agricultural companies, professionals and even individual growers are often at the forefront of new technology concepts as they continue to work to make this very busy industry more efficient in costs, production and labor.

The industry continues to grow and evolve – making growers’ lives easier while still allowing them to produce the food that feeds the world. A few of the newest innovations are stemming from the big data trend that’s making a huge impact across most industries. 

What is Big Data?

From advancements in GPS tools that let us know when we’ll run into traffic to social media algorithms that display content designed for an individual’s preferences, data solutions have made their way into our lives in so many ways.

Agriculture companies have also seen the impact that data can provide, and are working to develop big data solutions to help growers make informed decisions about their operation for the upcoming growing season.

Below are a few trends and tools to look for. These advancements and more are expected to change the entire landscape of the ag industry.

Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – otherwise known as drones – are being used within a lot of different industries for a variety of reasons. Many people even own them for recreational purposes, but they can also be a great tool for precision agriculture. UAVs make it more convenient and economical to capture data that was previously only available through manned aircraft imagery or satellite imaging.

One example is aerial imagery. Aerial imagery can help growers in a number of ways, namely spotting irrigation, pest/disease, or soil issues that may not be visible from the ground. Data taken from drones can also show the progression or change in the crops throughout the growing season since UAVs make it more economical to take images more often.

Certain drones can develop orthomosaic images, which can then be synced with programs that create prescription maps. Prescription maps are a streamlined way for a grower to tell what’s needed on his or her farm, and where. These maps can be digitally transferred into some applicators, saving a lot of time and manual effort for growers.

Sensors

Sensors in agriculture can be used in a variety of ways, including monitoring soil nutrients, analyzing water availability, taking leaf temperature, watching for insects or disease, etc.

Terrain robots are being researched and outfitted with these sensors so that they can autonomously move about between rows, collecting information on soil and crops. This information will allow growers to make maps showing which problems exist in specific areas of their fields.

The aim of these sensors is to help growers cut down on unnecessary applications. If the map shows one area of the field is doing fine on moisture, the grower will know it doesn’t need water at that time. This type of data will help growers save time, money and resources.

Data Analysis

Growers often lament the weather, and how it’s unpredictability can make or break their crops. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the weather, but there are options for making the most of the hand dealt by Mother Nature.

Companies like Climate Corp. are giving growers access to data analysis that can offer projections and recommendations based on the information collected. Using in-season and historical field imaging, crop health issues can be identified before they impact yield.

The data provided by Climate Corp FieldView™ products can provide insight on topics such as nitrogen availability or how many seeds to plant in various areas of the field.

These analytics help growers make data-driven decisions that can help them increase yield and turn a better profit.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

3 Challenges Growers Face in Current Agriculture Landscape

 

It’s easy to look around and see how agriculture impacts our world. This might be one of the reasons you chose a career in production agriculture. Even though you love your chosen career path, it doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges out there every day. The difference between the successful growers and the ones who aren’t as successful is how they approach the challenges that come their way.

The best way to solve a challenge is by looking at the opportunities behind the challenge and then taking control of your own destiny. The following are three very different challenges, but each with opportunities for you to succeed.

1. Shrinking profit margins

We will start with this one because it is a big one and most likely related either directly or indirectly to all your other challenges. This is a great opportunity to take back as much control as you can. We understand that you can’t control the prices of commodities directly, but you do have an opportunity to manage the price volatility.

The first step is to understand your breakeven cost of production. Do you know what it costs you to produce a bushel of the product you plan to grow next season? If not, today is the day to start figuring it out, as that knowledge will help you with this challenge and many future ones.
If you need help, consult a professional who can help you look at your individual scenario and figure out the numbers. Your lender might be a great place to start, but there are also other farm management resources you can look to such as the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA). They have offices in every state and in many counties within those states.

Once you know your breakeven, take the appropriate marketing options when pricing hits that level or higher. There is not one correct answer for all growers, so look at a plan that will make you successful. If you need help, there are professionals who will help you or attend a class or meeting on crop marketing in your area. The Cooperative Extension Service has county offices throughout the country. Many offer these types of classes or can provide you with information about how to find them.

2. Determining What Crops to Grow Next Season

As you are looking at your own business situation, you will review the different crops for your area and your breakeven cost of production for each of these crops.

This will be a big step in helping you determine what the best crops will be for you to produce next season.

In addition, consider other variables related to that crop as you make your decision, including equipment needs, crop nutrition and crop protection inputs that will help you achieve your yield goals.

You will also want to look at historical yields for the crop to see what opportunities exist. A best practice is to not always count on higher yields to offset lower prices, but to always strive to get the best yield possible. With that in mind, make sure you keep fertility and crop protection as an important part of your plan.

Plan early so you have a chance to take advantage of any seasonal or pre-pay discounts that your retailer may offer on seed, fertilizer and crop protection products as it may be financially better for your operation if you are able to make commitments earlier and save money on input costs.

3. The New Herbicide and Trait Technologies

Sometimes bigger decisions within our industry create challenges for you as an individual grower. An example of one important challenge currently facing many soybean growers is the new herbicide and trait technologies that have been approved or are in the process of being approved for the 2017-growing season.

As with any changes, there are always a lot of unknowns out there. However, there is also the opportunity to achieve better things with the new opportunities that technology brings. Weed management is very important topic within the ag industry. Information on this topic is available regularly from a variety of resources including university researchers and industry organizations, large manufacturers and the USDA. Make sure you stay informed and use the knowledge from these resources to help you make decisions for your own operation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or don’t understand all the requirements and procedures related to the new products and technologies, reach out to our team. We can help you use the information to help you achieve your own operational goals.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

CHS Annual Meeting delegates approve amendments to articles and bylaws

Delegates to the CHS Annual Meeting have approved amendments to the CHS Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The amendments created a new membership class structure and criteria.

“We appreciate our owners’ commitment to the governance of the company they own, as evidenced by their strong interest in the proposed changes to the core CHS governing documents” says CHS Board Chairman David Bielenberg. “Having a voice in the governance of the company you own and do business with is an essential point of difference of the cooperative business model.”

The two resolutions – one amending the company’s articles and the other amending the CHS bylaws – each received a “yes” vote of more than 86 percent.

When the CHS Board reconvenes in 2017, it will work to develop procedures regarding implementation and for members to periodically certify their ongoing eligibility for their membership class. “We are committed to keeping members fully informed,” Bielenberg says.

Steve Fritel, chairman of the CHS Board’s Governance Committee, says the board took its commitment to communication seriously by listening to owners, keeping the proposed changes simple and ensuring there was time for learning and conversation.

“Our goal is always to ensure that CHS remains an agricultural-focused and producer-governed cooperative,” Fritel said. “At the same time, we also recognize we must accommodate our current members as they change to stay relevant to their customers. Our articles and bylaws need to line up with the ways our members do business today, while recognizing the strong heritage of the member cooperatives who built today’s CHS.”

View details of the new membership classes on the CHS Governance page.

Technology Helps Growers with Environmental Stewardship

environmental stewardship

Growers are often called stewards of the land, and with the supply and demand increasing at a rapid pace they are also looked upon to produce higher quantities of food and grain in the same amount of time, all while protecting the environment.

Thanks to today’s innovative technology, environmental concerns including soil erosion, animal welfare and nutrient runoff can be minimized or prevented.

Farms are becoming increasingly progressive and the use of technology has made farming practices more sustainable to the environment than we have ever seen in history.

Improvements in technology continue to help growers with their environmental stewardship efforts, including:

Precision Maps: Growers are using location-specific information about soil, nutrients, moisture and yield to help them make educated decisions about fertilizer placement and application levels. This contributes to smarter use of nutrients such as nitrogen, which helps reduce nitrogen runoff and leaching.

  • GPS: Today, most tractors and many other types of farming equipment are guided by GPS signals, improving the accuracy of their route for planting, fertilizing and harvesting crops.
  • Farm Equipment: Improved equipment features help growers work faster, but also smarter. Upgraded planter technology allows growers to adjust seed rates and plant multiple varieties throughout their fields without stopping their planter – improving the yield, but also allowing farmers to account for different soil types and conditions throughout their fields to improve environmental stewardship efforts. Tractors, combines and other equipment have been designed to be more fuel-efficient and operate with lower environmental footprints. Sprayers have been designed to provide more accurate product application and more efficient product usage to help farmers maximize the products they are using in their fields.
  • Soil Sensors and UAVs: Growers are also using sensors to measure moisture, chemical and biological properties in their soil and drones (UAVs) with cameras and sensors attached to them to help leverage environmental stewardship practices and improve crop yield to meet the growing demand for food production.
using precision maps to improve environmental stewardship

An Industry-wide Priority

Growers and ag business professionals know the importance of protecting our environment and leaving it in better condition for the future.

To recognize these efforts, many state organizations have implemented agricultural environmental leadership awards to annually highlight innovative farm practices throughout the country. National industry associations such as The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) have also implemented programs to recognize environmental leaders. Their 4R Advocates program encourages ag retailers to recognize their growers who are leading the way with exceptional nutrient stewardship practices. Winners are named 4R Advocates and help TFI share insight and success stories from the field level.

Environmental stewardship requires using fewer resources, developing new ideas and managing current resources provided by the environment to help protect the land. Protecting the world we live in is everybody’s responsibility, but farmers, ag retailers and ag industry professionals and trade organizations are proudly leading the way.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

How Growers Can Overcome Low Commodity Prices

Dr. Fred BelowThere are many issues growers face in today’s agricultural industry. One rising to the top of the list is low commodity prices.

Growers across the country are facing the harsh reality of a decrease in income forecasted for the third straight year due to an extended decline in corn and soybean prices. According to the USDA, net cash farm income for 2016 is forecast at $94.1 billion, and net farm income at $71.5 billion – following the declines in 2015.

One way growers can help their profitability during this time is to make sure they are getting the best yield possible, so they simply have more crop to sell.

Growers should make sure they are maximizing their production practices to help capitalize on the best potential yield:

  • Proper soil preparation, prior to planting
  • Applying crop nutrients and fertilizers as appropriate to help with emergence and throughout the life of the plant
  • Applying crop protection products as appropriate to help combat disease, weeds and insects
  • Proper irrigation, as appropriate
  • Effective harvesting practices and techniques

Secondly, growers should make sure they are using these efforts in collaboration with the appropriate seed genetics to get the best yield they can, which will give them more bushels to sell at harvest time.

In this video clip from June 2016, Dr. Fred Below with University of Illinois, explains that low commodity prices are one of the most important issues facing agriculture today and explains how growers can best deal with this issue.

Transcript:
Low commodity prices are a real problem, and the only way I can see to overcome those is to be able to produce more. If the price is low I need to have more of it to sell. So, I don’t think I’m going to save myself to prosperity because that would imply that I’m wasting money.

I think it comes down to having the basics to production correct, and make sure you’re using those to get as much yield as you can out of today’s genetics.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

© 2019 CHS Inc.