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This is How We Listen

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“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” — Henry David Thoreau

Introduction

At Golden Harvest, we firmly believe everything we do should start with listening. There’s no better way to understand the wants and needs of our farmers. The Agronomy in Action 2022 Research Review started with listening as well, and we wanted to share what we learned when we asked a group of farmers to rate the importance of several agronomic management practices.

We surveyed 101 Midwestern corn and soybean farmers about what management practices most influenced yields on their farms over the last 10 years, and what practices they felt would be most important to drive increased yields over the next 10 years. Most participants (92%) agreed that crop yields are increasing at or ahead of the normal 1.9 (corn) and 0.5 (soybean) bu/A per year genetic gain rates.1

Pie chart showing Most important factors increasing yield in soybeans and corn.
Figure 1.

Not surprisingly, farmers say continued improvement in corn and soybean genetics has been the largest contributor to increased yields (Figure 1). Although new technologies have been extremely important, the farmers we surveyed felt improved management practices were the second greatest contributor to yield gains after improved genetics. To better understand what specific management practices farmers believe will be most important in the future, they were asked to prioritize a list of agronomic management practices for productivity gains in corn and soybeans (Figures 2 and 3) over the next 10 years. There were similarities in farmer prioritization of agronomic practices across crops, such as the importance of more precise planting practices. However, there were many differences in the importance of specific management practices by crop.

Farmer Insights on Corn Management Practices

  • Fertility management has been and will continue to be key for future productivity gains in corn. 3 of the top 4 ranked practices were related to fertilizer placement, in-season management and use of micronutrients.

  • The use of foliar fungicides and biologicals to enhance growth and plant nutrition will be even more important in the future than it was over the past 10 years.

  • Surveyed farmers deemphasized the need to plant any earlier and the role of further increases in corn seeding rates for future productivity gains.

Bar graph of farmers ranking corn management practices over the next 10 years.
Figure 2. Survey participants’ ranking of corn management practices importance for next 10 years. Numbers in parentheses indicate ranking of importance from prior 10 years.

Farmer Insights on Soybean Management Practices

  • Increased fertility management was viewed as less important for soybeans compared to corn.

  • Seed treatments, foliar fungicides, more precise planting practices and earlier planting have been, and continue to be, viewed as the most important management practices for soybeans.

  • Soil management practices for soybeans are viewed with less importance in the future compared to the prior 10 years.

Bar graph of farmers ranking soybean management practices over the next 10 years.
Figure 3. Survey participants’ ranking of soybean management practices importance for next 10 years. Numbers in parentheses indicate ranking of importance from prior 10 years.

Learning from What We Heard

Pie chart showing results from farmers on how critical customizing management practices are to specific corn and soybean hybrids and varieties.
Figure 4.

After listening, we drew upon the perspectives and insights from the farmers we surveyed to help focus our 2021 Agronomy in Action research initiatives. 1 new trial we specifically added in 2021 to better serve management needs expressed by farmers in the survey was designed to understand how corn hybrids respond differently to fertilizer placement in and around the root zone. Another trial developed based on the growing interest of biologicals and plant nutrition looks closer at some of the newest microbial products which help provide supplemental nitrogen to the plant. Look for more about both of these trials and many others in the Agronomy in Action 2022 Research Review.

Many thanks to the farmers who participated in the agronomy survey for helping us better understand where to place our research emphasis. We are excited to bring to you, all of our customers and Seed Advisors, another insights-packed edition of the Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action Research Review.

Thank you for partnering with Golden Harvest in 2021 and well wishes for your best crop ever in 2022!

— Bruce Battles, Technical Agronomy Manager

References
1USDA-NASS Crop Production Reports

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