Knowing What Limits Yield Could Help Manage Input Costs
With cash crop prices low and margins tight, it can seem like the words ‘Manage your input costs’ is on repeat and coming from every angle. The problem is this is much easier said than done. To most effectively manage input dollars, it is important to take time (maybe some of the free time we find during cold winter months) to dig into what are the controllable yield limiting factors on each farm and how does each of your inputs help control those issues. Knowing these factors is crucial because yield limiting factors are like holes in a water barrel, if they aren’t managed first then the barrel will never fill up, no matter how much water is put into it. Limiting factors vary widely between operations and even between fields within an operation so time and energy are needed to look into data such as yield maps and soil samples to figure them out. Luckily lots of yield limiting factors can be managed and areas made more profitable. Examples of limiting factors include fertility, disease pressure, insect pressure, planting date, population or planting depth, weed control, or drainage. Once the factors have been identified, focus input costs on managing or correcting them while cutting costs, if needed, from other areas that do not have as large an impact on yield. Talk with your Jacobsen Seed Representative or other trust agronomic adviser about what might be limiting yield on your farms and what can be done to manage them to regulate costs and increase profits.
Some examples of limiting factors that can be hard to see with the naked eye are –
Nutrients – We are asking fields to produce an ever increasing amount of grain which makes it important to stay up to date on fertility levels. Regular soil or tissue sampling can quickly give you a snapshot of field fertility so you can focus on nutrients that are at sub-optimal levels compared to high or very high levels.
pH – Soil nutrient availability and microbial activity are maximized when soil pH is between 6.0-6.8. Regular soil testing is encouraged to keep track of soil pH. Fields that are testing low can be treated with lime to raise the pH and although it is tough to lower pH in high testing areas, different genetic choices may help maximize yields especially in soybeans.
Insect Pests – Underground insect pests such as Corn Rootworms or Soybean Cyst Nematode are hard to pinpoint just using yield maps, scouting is a must! Luckily these pests are relatively straightforward to deal with if present with traits and seed treatments.
Compaction – Whether across the field or in furrow, compaction can quickly rob profits from a field. It takes time to break through established compaction but limiting creation of new compaction is easily controlled by watching field conditions and planter settings closely.