News from Your Federated Agronomists | November 27, 2018
2018 corn at harvest
Seed Choices Today Determine Herbicide Options Tomorrow

It's time to lock in seed choices for 2019, but before that happens, consider weed control.

“The seed and seed traits growers purchase now determine the herbicide options for 2019,” said Kevin Carlson, Federated’s senior agronomist, “for soybeans and corn alike . . . though soybeans are much more challenging.”

“Spend some time thinking about the herbicide program [you plan to use] for ’19,” said Carlson, especially for soybeans. Ask these questions:

  • What varieties and traits are needed for weed control in ’19?
  • What is the weed history in ’18 and previous years?
  • Consider the recent and past weed challenges.
  • Look at fields throughout the area, “on your own and other farms,” said Carlson.
  • Are there any resistance problems?
  • Resistance will spread through harvesting and tillage operations (“combines are the worst culprit,” said Carlson), and there’s no way to avoid that.
  • What treatments have and have not worked?

Seed traits are chosen for the post-emerge program and the problems that lie ahead, but, said Carlson, “they all start with a good pre-emerge program for weed resistance management.”

Carlson shared a quote he’s heard in agronomy circles: “Post-emerge programs are just a clean-up of the pre-emerge program, not the primary way to control weeds.”
Federated Agronomists focus their time and training on weed resistance management because “no matter what trait comes out in the marketplace [and there will always be new traits], it doesn’t matter . . . it’s all about weed resistance management and using a good pre-emerge program.

“While things are fresh in your mind about weed resistance and control in ’18, think about what’s ahead. You have to have a solid weed control program,” said Carlson, acknowledging that it’s very difficult to cut costs out of a good weed control program. Trimming that budget is really difficult.

From a crop budgeting perspective, especially for corn, lime and crop nutrients are a very large budget item. Carlson noted the importance of making good decisions that “maximize the return on investment in that category.”

Crops that get a good start with the right nutrients prove themselves worthy of the budget expenditures with significantly improved yields. “This is a fundamental basic that we need to address,” said Carlson.

Check the “sufficiency levels” in the soil by soil test and apply the nutrients to “get the crop response we want,” he said. Nutrient and input budgets have to be based on real information – soil tests and previous results.

“Nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) rates really drive bushels,” said Carlson, and phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) have to be in the soil to get the N and S response. “We see the response in the corn crop today,” and it’s especially demonstrated in fields using Federated’s precision platform. “There is a very good ROI on nutrient management and input costs,” he said. Growers need to consistently factor those costs into their budgets.

See this link for a valuable report from the University of Minnesota on P and K response in corn.

“Bushels are pulling growers into the black in 2018,” Carlson observed. A little better crop price and better than expected yields translate into more profit for growers who managed their crops well.

“Bushels matter,” said Carlson, noting that there is generally a “very good corn crop” across Federated’s service areas (with some exceptions due to spring weather and poor emergence). Watch the Agronomy Update for results of an emergence study done in cooperation with Rosen’s.

Talk to your Federated Agronomist with questions about seed and seed traits – and the herbicides to go with them – before you make your 2019 purchases.
Federated plot harvest
Corn Discovery Plot Results

Discovery Plot harvest is done, and the results are in, but none of that would be possible without the plot cooperators who “donate their time and resources to make the Discovery Plots possible,” said Craig Gustafson, Federated’s director of agronomy operations. Thank you! (See the Nov. 13 Agronomy Update for soybean results.)
The value of Discovery Plots is found in the data – it’s all local data from local farms, Gustafson said. “It’s pretty hard to beat that information,” he said. "With the large volume of seed choices, information from the Discovery Plots can help eliminate the confusion," said Gustafson.

Check out these local corn plot Discovery Plot results, and contact your Federated Agronomist with any questions.

Corn harvest results are not yet in for the Nathan Nelson Plot in HInckley. See the Nov. 13 Agronomy Update for soybean results.
Craig Gustafson
Federated Focus: A Service, A Person
Agronomy Services Work in Harmony Between Federated Co-ops Locations

When Craig Gustafson took a job pumping gas at the Polk County Co-op during high school, he never imagined he’d someday become the director of agronomy operations of Federated Co-ops. But that he did.

“I went from working at the station to working in [the co-op’s] feed mill,” Gustafson said, recalling that people said the idea of people – especially women -- pumping their own gas would “never work because it’s too stinky!”

At that point, it was the heydays of dairy farms and livestock production in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, but as herd numbers thinned in the 80s, Gustafson turned to agronomy. He worked at the old Chisago Lakes Co-op as a feed and agronomy laborer when that co-op merged with Princeton Co-op and Isanti County Co-op to form Central Rivers Co-op, which later became Federated Co-ops.

After many years of spreading fertilizer and operating a sprayer, Gustafson became the fertilizer plant manager at Federated’s Osceola location, not far from the farm where he grew up and now owns with his wife. In 1997, Gustafson was promoted to eastern agronomy division manager, a role he held until this past summer when Federated restructured some key roles in agronomy following Mike Melberg’s retirement. In July Gustafson became the director of agronomy operations.

Gustafson’s strong history with the co-op helps him, as he described, “bring all the locations together to work in harmony.” As he oversees all six Federated agronomy locations he “identifies opportunities . . . for running the business efficiently.” Those efficiencies may come in the form of better communication, placing people in the right place, helping managers run their facilities, or finding ways to allocate resources.

He said he focuses on “building a network of communication between all locations.” Sometimes that translates into addressing the challenges of retaining good workers throughout the agronomy system. Sometimes that means finding ways for the locations to share equipment. “The replacement costs of [state-of-the-art] equipment are skyrocketing,” he said. As a result, it’s essential to use equipment to its fullest capacity across Federated’s service areas. And, Gustafson said, “We have to have true professionals, top-notch people” to provide Federated’s key services.

“It requires quite a balance to come together and remain profitable,” he said, and that’s where “fielding the relationships with all the managers comes into play . . . the more efficient we are adds price savings to our customers.”

“We are trying to get a good return back to our customers, [co-op] owners,” he said.

Gustafson’s open door mentality, willingness to listen, and his easy-going nature help him get location managers involved in agronomy decisions. But, “in the event of a tie, I’ll be the tie breaker,” he said with a chuckle.

Gustafson truly understands the business of farming. “You don’t just take anyone and make ‘em a farmer.” As the son of two farmers (his parents), Gustafson has farming in his blood. Today he calls farming his “hobby” as he and his son manage 350 acres of corn and soybeans. “My son takes care of things on the mechanical level, and I make sure everything is there [for the crop] on a nutrition basis.”

“There’s just something about farming, he said, adding that his “hobby is a lot of work, but I enjoy the rewards of the labor.” And that pretty well sums up his goal for Federated growers: Finding the rewards in their labor.