Post-harvest gives farmers a chance to finally sit down and take a break after a busy season. It gives them the time to track their inputs, meet with their trusted advisers, evaluate the decisions they made this year and see how those decisions ultimately affected their return on investment. Farmers must be both forward thinking and retrospective, understanding the big picture while still digging into the nitty gritty of each field, to produce the highest potential yield and drive profit.
According to Mark Callender, farm manager at Farmers National Company in Dighton, Kansas, optimistic growers have shifted from saving to spending — investing now to drive profits higher on good land. Callender encourages farmers to review input costs every year as they develop their plans. “We analyze all our farms annually for cost per acre and per bushel,” Callender explained. “By comparing production numbers with seed, fertilizer, weed control and other costs, growers learn their return on investment for quality products versus generics, for example.”
Callender said farmers know their break-even costs, using the data available today to provide better insight into individual fields. “Top producers spend more to achieve better weed control to drive top yields. By examining costs on a per-bushel basis, they can justify higher costs per acre when an agronomic practice delivers more bushels.”
Preparing for 2022
Many producers budget per acre for the whole operation, notes Lynn Sandlin, ag economist and business intelligence lead at Syngenta, but opportunity exists during more profitable times to budget directly at the field level — to maximize profit at the bushel level.
Sometimes it requires better tools, sound advice and a shift in thinking to manage each field’s potential at the bushel level. “Trusted advisers help growers increase field productivity with an eye on profit per bushel,” Sandlin said.
Fortunately, new tools are available to help farmers find growth opportunities. “Years of depressed prices pushed some growers to try to save their way to prosperity with cheaper inputs and generics,” says Paul Backman, commercial unit head for the West Heartland region, Syngenta. “Our Syngenta AgriEdge whole-farm management program lets growers see how better products can deliver higher productivity on a cost-per-bushel level.”
Reviewing 2021 decisions against actual yield helps growers understand real costs — shifting from a cost mindset to an investment mindset.
“Retailers also play vital roles across farm input decisions,” Backman says. “Our sales reps and AgriEdge specialists help growers see small gains in each field, adding up to more bushels. Good management plans evolve as more data drives greater field-by-field profits.”
Retailers trust agronomics
Syngenta sales representative Mark Dozler explained the input-cost-per-bushel method of thinking: “I worked with a retailer in Nebraska to build an input-cost-value spreadsheet, showing that if a grower removes a $30 fungicide from their plan, cost per bushel increases — because removing that fungicide reduces yield by at least 10 bushels per acre. The data proving that was eye-opening.”
Defining more yield-for-weed control challenges everyday thinking and requires digging into details beyond a $40-50 per acre herbicide budget.
Technical advancements in corn and soybean genetics also play a critical role in productivity per field and cost per bushel.
“Many retailers take pride in knowing agronomic details so they can recommend the best hybrid for each field,” said Brent Rockers, a Syngenta district manager in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“Our research provides growers with seeding rates, fertility and plant health advice that improves their ability to strategize and budget,” Rockers said. “And our Cropwise Seed Selector tool provides growers with a list of hybrids matching their soil classifications by field.”
Advisers help growers fine-tune their selections, following the crop through harvest — and use that data to help build more profitability.