Is Your Farm Ready for the Post-Planting Marathon?
James Solada | June 19, 2017
Advantages in post-planting task management or chemical management can drastically improve farm efficiency.
The time between planting and harvest is one of the most critical periods of the farming calendar. Spring planting was a mixed bag this year, but what farmers do over the summer separate great farms from average farms. How farmers cultivate crops and manage chemicals inputs post-planting will play a major factor in determining their ROI. Without the tools to organize all of the variables and work that go into these tasks, the risk of costly mistakes is high.
The old 4×4 farmer truck joke goes like this: farmers plant for 4 weeks, harvest for 4 weeks and then spend the other 44 weeks doing nothing. That overused joke gives the impression that farmers experience a lot of downtime; it also underestimates the importance of the summer months. To show all of the work that goes into the post-planting period, we did a deep-dive into completed work tasks among the customers of our farm management software in 2016. We categorized each task as Planting, Product Application, or Harvesting. Here’s what we found:
While planting and harvest are the most intense periods of time during the growing season, the majority of farm tasks occur between planting and harvest. While planting and harvest look like a sprint, post-planting looks similar to a marathon.
Data from our customers reveals that there is a greater volume of Product Application tasks (including spraying, aerial spraying, spreading, and injecting) versus Harvesting and Planting. Over half of all completed tasks in 2016 were associated with these post-planting Product Applications. The majority of these tasks occur in the one-to-two months post-planting, which shows the level of effort and coordination it takes to grow crops.
As depicted in the chart below, the breadth of chemicals & fertilizers used on the farm is extensive and complex. Based on our data from 2016, the average Granular farm has 30 unique chemicals and 11 unique fertilizers in their inventory.
Not only do farms have to manage dozens of chemicals and fertilizers, they also have to deal with mixes that require precise measurements. Looking at our data from 2016, the median Granular farm creates over 58 unique chemical mixes per year. Each unique mix accounts for the unique chemical & fertilizer combination as well as the unique proportions. Digging a little deeper, each spray mix averages three fertilizers or chemicals. Even if farmers grow the same crop throughout their entire operation, they may still have to create dozens of unique chemical mixes at different proportions. Products are also constantly moving in and out of inventory throughout the season. Effectively tracking those movements can help ensure that there aren’t any costly invoicing or supply mistakes.
Getting chemical sprays correct is critical to producing a quality product, ensuring soil health, and improving a farm’s bottom line. However, the cost of making a mistake can destroy profitability. Farms may be using herbicide-tolerant seeds such as RoundUp Ready 2. Making a mistake when spraying the associated pesticide can be disastrous to a farm’s crop or a neighbor’s. Because of chemical drift and runoff, a mistake could result in a 30-40% crop yield loss. This is just one farming mistake, but man-made errors can be avoided. Granular’s Farm Management Software helps farms eliminate mistakes and manage operations more efficiently.
Time is of the essence during post-planting, and not acting at the right moment can be consequential. Making applications at the right agronomic moment will always be difficult when variables include weather, the drivability of the field, and scouting practices that inform Product Applications. Having a real-time look at exactly what is in a farm’s chemical inventory removes a key bottleneck. It also helps reconcile estimated input costs with actuals, which in turn helps farmers discover billing or delivery mistakes. Clete Farms in Gering, Nebraska have benefitted from using Granular because the App provides more visibility into their chemical and fertilizer inputs, immediately catches errors, and improves team communications across all channels. Clete Farm’s data helps hold people accountable, and as a result, they have optimized farm tasks and improved chemical management.
With tighter margins than ever before, the difference between a good year and a bad year is razor thin. In Danny Kleinfelter’s article, “Sweat the Small Stuff,” the top 25% farms improved by only 5% in yield, prices and costs than the bottom 25%. The top producers sustain their advantage over time, and these gains compound themselves in accumulated equity. Any advantage in either field management or chemical management can drastically improve a farm’s long-term profitability.
While we can’t control the weather or the markets, Granular’s farm management software gives farmers control over farm operation and expenses, turning data into knowledge. Our customers are working with agronomists, bankers, and market advisors to utilize this knowledge and stay on top of it on a daily and real-time basis. While farmers realistically can’t take 44 weeks off every year, Granular can simplify farmers’ lives during the post-planting period.
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