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The frugal farmer

POSTED May 11, 2018 11:24 a.m.

First, more beneficial rainfall this week to go along with last week. Did the Drought Monitor reflect much change (remember this is as of Tuesday morning)? Well, the area of exceptional drought retreated somewhat southwest as did the extreme and severe drought areas. Or in plain English, things are “less bad” then they were allowing wheat to keep going and providing some optimism for corn/soybean producers. And there are rain chances for several days this week so keep your fingers crossed.
With the climate of the agricultural economy over the last several years, combined with weather extremes and uncertain export markets, producers are constantly trying to figure out how to be efficient/frugal. How can you stay in business and even make money in difficult times. Two definitions may be helpful, with thanks to Merriam-Webster. Efficient: productive of desired effects; especially: productive without waste. Frugal: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.
And these ties into a key concept of plant nutrition, “Liebig’s Law of the Minimum.” This law states: plane terms growth and yield is determined not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource or the “limiting factor.” These factors include nutrients, moisture, temperature and any factor involved in plant growth. In simple terms, you must know the factors involved in growth, what amounts are present, and what you need to produce the desired outcome. For example, with a corn crop adding nitrogen to boost yields is futile if the corn needs a small amount of zinc. This is inefficient in two ways. You are wasting money on something you don’t need and that won’t increase yield while not providing what the crop does need. And you are limiting yield which is also inefficient. The other factor to consider with Liebig’s Law is that to grow fifty bushel wheat, you need the factors present to produce fifty bushel wheat. Producers know this and struggle with how to balance efficiency, frugality, and their economic circumstances with what they need to accomplish. After all that, where is this leading?
• Efficiency doesn’t mean not spending money but spending it wisely. It means not spending needed money is actually inefficient. Producers need to be frugal and use resources wisely. To use an old cliché, they need to be able to think outside the box and set realistic production goals, new and innovative ways to achieve them, and know what they have to work with and what they need to achieve realistic production goals.
• Efficiency and frugality entail meticulous record keeping for each field: cropping history, yield history, pest history, soil testing, equipment maintenance history, and so on. And each year constantly and objectively reviewing what has happened and making adjustments.
• Finally, efficiency means investment. Investment in equipment improving efficiency. Investment in personnel such as crop consultants, having adequate help for what needs done. And investment in themselves – their continuing education.
And Happy Mothers’ day to every mother reading this.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.

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