Cattle and pig country, western bean cutworm, and managing your risks — a LIVE! with Steph Berlett

How have agronomists fared over this last year? Are growers changing their rotation plans because of such great commodity prices right now? And, how do you keep up with the agronomic information during this pandemic?

For this RealAg LIVE! episode, host Kara Oosterhuis checks in with Steph Berlett of Agromart Group.

Don’t miss a new LIVE! Q&A every weekday at 3 pm Eastern on your favourite social media channel!

SUMMARY

  • Huron east, cattle and pig country, 20 minutes away from Listowel, Ont.
  • What is Agromart? A network of joint-venture crop retail locations
  • Berlett’s path into ag retail? Normally people start out in ag retail in Ontario, and kinda go from localized to generalized. Berlett did the opposite, starting with the agronomy program for Agromart, then focusing in on one retail location
  • Never considered herself a numbers person, has fun focusing on capturing the best for agronomics, balancing for economics
  • Conditions in early 2020 were better than all of 2019, farmers were a bit hesitant to get out there at first in Berlett’s area
  • Harvest 2020 was “a blessing compared to 2019”
  • Commodity markets are fantastic right now. Notice anyone changing up their rotation and ignoring the agronomics? Some maybe.
  • Premiums in Berlett’s area are too good to pass up. Still early yet though to tell if a lot of people have changed their rotational plans.
  • Farming is such a person-to-person industry, feels criminal-like when you do have a chance to shake someone’s hand during the pandemic.
  • The upcoming spring is going to be more of a concern regarding COVID. Seed production and procuring seed for one. Some things that happened because of the pandemic were a bit overdue really, for example online bill payments.
  • How to keep up with agronomy? SWAC online, able to pick it up on her own schedule.
  • “Everything we do in farming is risk management”
  • Knowing that something needs to happen agronomically, but also knowing that it won’t happen, is a struggle for Berlett
  • The best part of the job for Berlett? Seeing farms reach their goals, helping them achieve their goals, knowing that the farm will potentially be handed down to the next generation in better shape
  • What’s on the horizon, agronomically speaking in Ontario? KISS mentality, crop removals, making sure those checks and balances are kept in line (soil fertility wise), proactively managing herbicide resistant weeds, keeping an eye on commodity pricing
  • Diseases? Tar spot. Berlett and Rob Miller from BASF had a small bet going on about when it would show up. It’s a disease Berlett wants all corn growers to keep in mind
  • IPM: integrated pest management, scouting, being proactive about scouting so fungicide is really well timed
  • Ok, what about insects? Berlett HATES western bean cutworm. Putting a dollar figure on the damage it can do, hasn’t been done yet
  • Rootworm is another one…
  • Berlett used to do some consulting even further east, in the maritimes! Whole different world out there. Good exchange of information! Blueberry “field”… a wild patch of blueberry bushes. Potatoes. Apples.
  • Most fascinating crop worked with? “Everyone hates on soybeans cause you can put the kitchen sink on them and you get nothing,” but soybeans are Berlett’s favourite because they’re a challenge.
  • Last words of advice: “Lock up your fertilizer prices”

 

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