Farm Horizons, May 2008

Exciting times in agriculture

By Dave Schwartz
Gold Country Seed
Soybean Product Manager/Agronomist

I talked with hundreds of farmers this winter at various meetings and farm shows. Their outlook for the most part was, and still is, very positive.

Growers are excited about the future. This is quite a contrast to the mid-1980s, when farms were being foreclosed on. Some farmers and economists are comparing this period of time with the early 1970s, when grain prices and land values soared upward.

A comment I heard from growers many times this winter was, “It’s scary.”

When you consider all the changes we have seen over the past 12 months in grain markets, escalating land values, and rising input costs, it’s understandable.

Dr. David Kohl of Virginia Tech has used the term “dangerous times” to describe the current agricultural environment.

The year 2008 has the potential to be very profitable for growers who make good management decisions. In my mind, one good management decision this year to reduce risk is enrolling in a crop revenue insurance plan.

This gives growers income protection on up to 80 percent of their crop. It comes, of course, at a cost, but it may be the best risk management tool available. Another simple management tool, and yet very important, is soil testing.

When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, I recall a sign that hung above the entrance to the soil testing lab stating, “Don’t guess, soil test!” We can’t afford to guess the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that is available in soil for crop production.

A simple, inexpensive soil test provides growers with valuable soil test information on which to base their fertilizer application decisions. This is an extremely important tool growers need to use, considering the cost and value of fertilizer.

In conversations with growers, I get the feeling more will be experimenting with alternative products such as soil conditioners, foliar fungicides, seed inoculants, seed treatments, products to enhance fertilizer uptake, etc.

When considering these products, remember the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” There is no question that products such as soybean seed inoculants and some of the foliar fungicides for corn and soybeans have value and should be used in certain situations. But, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion, and always ask for research-based information.

If you would like to contact Dave Schwartz, you can reach him at

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