The Agronomists, Ep 96: Planning for profit with Chad Anderson and Edgar Hammermeister

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Welcome back to The Agronomists!

We’re kicking off 2023 with a focus on profitability. Is top yield the driver, or is long-term thinking a better bet for profit planning?

Joining host Lyndsey Smith to dig in to this topic is Chad Anderson, of Anderson Agronomy Services, and Edgar Hammermeister, Saskatchewan farmer and agrologist with Western Ag Professional Agronomy.

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Summary

  • Welcome to the 2023 season!
  • Let’s talk planning for profit — it’s actually about rotation
  • What does it mean to be the fourth man on the farm?
  • A trusted advisor on decision making
  • Where does planning for profit begin? Is it a yield goal?
  • Growing way too many “insert crop here” is probably not the plan for profitability
  • Working in diversity to the rotation can really mean just adding one crop. An alternation is better than continuous cropping, and a three-crop rotation improves things that much more
  • One decision always cascades to another — i.e. soybeans going in later bumps winter wheat from rotation
  • For Edgar, he starts with the land potential, not a yield goal
  • The land has to be capable of supporting the economics
  • A four-year rotation is the goal and working towards an extended rotations
  • A diverse rotation allows for flexibility, i.e. background fertility influencing which crop ends up where
  • Is it snow cover that kills wheat?
  • It’s freeze/thaw and heaving clays that really get you
  • A terrible-looking wheat crop can still yield
  • What’s a typical four-crop rotation for Western Canada? Canola/cereal/pulse/cereal
  • Cereal could be oats, barley, wheat, pulse could be soybean or peas, or could include flax to stretch to six years
  • Tight rotations means more pesticides (Bandaids!)
  • Biggest issue for Lambton County soybean cyst nematode and phytophthera root rot
  • Herbicide resistant weeds cascades from there. Waterhemp, especially. It’s a monster
  • For the west, clubroot of canola and aphanomyces for pulses is having huge impact on crop selection options
  • Aphanomyces is eliminating pulse being an option, and that’s not just a profitability issue, it’s a soil health issue (and rotation benefit issue)
  • Think longer term: overusing certain herbicides can mean buying the more expensive options is necessary, and that impacts profitability
  • Waterhemp is wide spread and spreading. And when it shows up, it’s already resistant to several modes of action
  • Waterhemp germinates all the damn time
  • What’s a sustainable rotation for the west? For the east? Cereal/pulse/cereal/oilseed
  • If you want to get real out there, intercropping of flax and a pulse can decrease disease pressure
  • For the east, adding winter wheat into a corn/soy mix has huge benefits
  • Winter canola is becoming more of an option, and that’s exciting
  • Compaction on clays is a huge issue, and a fall-seeded crop really reduces the compaction risk. Benefits!
  • Adding soybeans decreases so many soil health parameters, and really should be taken out of rotation vs. added in
  • Continuous cropping projects at Woodsley, Elora, Ridgetown — long-term rotation trials back up the profitability piece
  • The oldest and easiest agronomic tool is a diverse rotation!
  • Clip 1 — The value of wheat in rotation
  • Rotation costs you nothing, but adds benefits
  • What else can you do that costs nothing but adds 10 bushels per acre? Corn and soybean yields go up with wheat in the rotation
  • Nitrogen use efficiency increases in a diverse rotation because of soil structure, addition of red clover, and rooting depths
  • We do have some data that shows the benefit of one crop following another. Thank you, MASC!
  • All the same effort but more profitability
  • How do we balance diverse rotation benefits with the “need to pay bills” mentality?
  • Equipment doesn’t have to be an added cost, but it does depend on how diverse you plan to get
  • A diverse rotation vs. continuous of one crop. Diverse rotation= 50% improvement in yield in the long term
  • Stuck in a poor rotation, and things get bad, then bad is worse
  • Provides resiliency
  • Is more grain corn better? What about the cumulative effect of traits getting ‘worn out’?
  • We can’t control the weather, but it’s humans that make the decision to apply the selection pressure
  • Long-term is great, but that all changes when you’re renting land
  • Do land owners recognize the value of renters that think long-term?
  • Realistically, a renter could “ruin” a piece of land for pulse production, i.e. aphanomyces, because of thinking short term
  • That has a long-term impact on the owner, too — the asset becomes less productive
  • Are we always going to over-use traits? Too dependent?
  • Canola in Alberta and the clubroot trait: resistance was overcome in a short few years, however, the farmer had grown the same variety in a field for three years straight
  • Please don’t choose violence, but sometimes…
  • Pushing for “economics,” Mother Nature catches up
  • More share-cropping arrangements can incentivize better decisions
  • Adds manure, cover crops, invest in drainage — all more likely to happen in a share-crop arrangement
  • I.e. Fungicide in beans “paid” more on second-year beans…but really the fungicide wasn’t necessary in first-year beans. The better solution is to not have second-year beans

 

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