One aspect of grower meetings that has been timeless is the importance of understanding your crops.
When I was younger I’d ask Dad what he admired about certain successful producers and he’d say they were the ones who always were able to raise a crop even under the most difficult of years. Those crops were not always bushel-breakers but they were profitable. I probably should have followed up with a companion question about their secret to success. Yet the answer is no secret; those producers put the pencil to the paper and evaluated all their resources available to them and did their homework long before the seeds were planted.
The recent Sorghum U/Wheat U, an event undertaken by High Plains Journal, was filled with many nuggets of information that can be applied to sorghum and wheat and applied to all aspects of managing an operation.
Josh Lofton, an assistant professor and cropping specialist at Oklahoma State University, noted that in addressing sorghum, a crop with continuing interest, particularly in areas where growers are looking for a spring planted crop that requires less water than corn to grow.
Lofton, in a story that was written by Journal Field Editor Lacey Newlin, told growers, “When we talk about the mentality of inputs, we don’t want to fall into this idea that sorghum is a low-cost crop,” Lofton said. “Being an agronomist, I call it a low-input crop.”
Lofton noted that in studies that sorghum yields can be competitive with corn but it does take a mindset that means avoiding pitfalls such as cutting corners on any number of factors such as buying inferior seed or only planting the crop in lower quality soil or trimming back on nutrients or treatments.
Wheat also faces similar challenges. Field Editor Kylene Scott reported that Romulo Lollato, Kansas State University associate professor of wheat and forages productions, discussed the importance of nitrogen and answering tough questions about attacking disease pressure—when and how to target treatments particularly in wheat. One of his studies looked at the interaction between wheat varieties and nitrogen management and another looking at fungicide timing at various growth stages possibly influencing yield.
Certainly all High Plains producers, particularly those who are dryland operators, regardless of crop, face tough decisions each year because no growing season is identical. Low prices, drought, hailstorms, insects and disease are challenges for growers they have to consider when they prepare to plant seed and plan for an entire growing season. Today’s producers have many more resources at their fingertips. No analytical model can take the place of the instincts of a grower but he can rest a little bit easier knowing that he has the opportunity to raise a profitable crop even in today’s challenging economic climate. In many ways the question I posed to my dad many years ago remains as valid today as it was then. The answer remains the same.
Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.