Today we will wrap up this brief discussion regarding crop production efficiencies. First, we discussed soil testing and proper fertilizer recommendations. Then was the discussion of efficiency and water, including irrigation. We will wrap production efficiency up this week with a few more thoughts.
• As farming operations, conditions and resources allow, develop as diverse a crop rotation as possible. This helps spread agronomic and economic risk. In addition, it will allow for a decrease in tillage, reduce pest pressure, and should under normal conditions increase crop yields with the same level of inputs or allow for the same level of yield with lower input levels.
• Carefully study and then select the best possible hybrids/varieties for your operation and long-term growing conditions. For significant acreage, select several adapted cultivars. Spread risk by staggering planting dates a bit and/or through cultivars of slightly different maturities.
• Do everything practical and within the power of the producer to eliminate/avoid stress. This includes proper fertility, pest control, planting date, crop maturity, etc. You can’t eliminate stress but you can minimize stress through cultural practices ranging from a balanced fertility program to proper seeding rates and pest control.
• Split fertilizer applications of nutrients like nitrogen. Be patient. By splitting nitrogen applications you achieve to efficiencies. First, you can evaluate the crop and fertilize accordingly. Second, you minimize the chance of fertilizer loss and help insure the crop will have nitrogen when it needs it to optimize yields.
• Monitor crops and then monitor them some more. And not from the pickup. Don’t be afraid to take plant samples for nutrient analysis. Check for diseases and insects.
• Keep detailed records of everything by field. This allows producers to evaluate and adjust. If possible develop accurate yield maps over years by field to identify the high yielding areas that could benefit from increased inputs and those areas that are low yielding and not only won’t benefit from increased inputs but may allow you to decrease inputs without affecting yield.
The overall idea here isn’t to equate efficiency with not spending money but spending it as necessary and wisely. Efficiency isn’t aiming for maximum yields or purposely lower yields but to be realistic and flexible in cropping decisions to take advantage of better than expected conditions and conversely to not be hurt agronomically any more than necessary by worse than average conditions or unexpected events.