Agronomist Joe Slosarczyk discusses “Driving your success: Preparing for a successful growing season”
It’s been said that success doesn’t happen by accident. Like most achievements, a successful growing season is a result of proper planning, thoughtful determination and teamwork. For crop growers, equipment maintenance and field management are two drivers of this success.That’s according to Joe Slosarczyk, agronomist and certified crop advisor with Landmark Services Cooperative based in Cottage Grove. In his role with Landmark Services Cooperative, Slosarczyk works with Wisconsin and Illinois crop producers throughout the year to achieve optimal yields and an increased bottom line.”A successful growing season begins long before you bring out the planter, baler or chopper for harvest,” he says. “Success starts with a plan. Having that plan in place before the season starts can help producers to best manage risk and work towards achieving their end goals.””Creating a plan for the season also helps producers to react to any sort of adversity that is thrown their way,” Slosarczyk adds. “If changes need to be made on the fly, having a plan allows them to have a clearer focus to make the necessary changes.”
Common adjustments that Slosarczyk has seen Landmark growers need to make throughout the growing season include equipment maintenance and upgrades, field and crop rotations and agronomic management decisions. He tells producers that a thought-out plan is easier to adjust than reacting to a problem during the busy planting or harvest seasons.
Slosarczyk encourages producers he works with to evaluate the yields of previous years, current feed inventories and market conditions and then to map out which crops will be planted in which fields.
This strategy will help producers to create crop rotations, schedule when planting, fertilizing and harvesting should ideally occur and set financial goals for the season. Having a bottom line objective and a strategic plan can help producers be prepared for seasonal or regional adversity.
“Working with an agronomist to develop a customized seed placement plan will help growers get a jumpstart on maximizing their crops yield potential,” he says, explaining that the customized seed placement plan should include proper hybrid placement, variety placement and planting populations.
After working with an agronomist to determine a long-term crop rotation schedule, changes may still need to be made based on environmental conditions.
So far in 2013, Slosarczyk says that some crop growers in southern Wisconsin have overcome the challenges of this year’s winter by adjusting their cropping strategies. With winter wheat and alfalfa kill-offs caused by a harsh winter following last year’s drought, some producers are switching fields to higher levels of forages to make-up for the lost winter crops and to rebuild feed inventories.
Beyond field planning, Slosarczyk says a key to a successful planting, growing and harvest season is to be sure field equipment is in high-quality shape before it hits the field.
“It’s easier to inspect equipment prior to the planting season rush,” he reminds. “We can come up with the best possible plan for success for the cropping season, but if the equipment isn’t able to do its job we have already set our end goals back.”
Slosarczyk says that the planter is the most important piece of equipment for overall crop success. He encourages growers to test planting meters and the overall function of the machine before planting season. Proper planting speeds also help to ensure proper stand establishment while a proper starter nutrition program can bring a producer’s yield potential to the next level.
Encouraging plant growth
Slosarczyk also advises producers to plan their additive programs for each field in early spring. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and inoculants may be useful tools based on past field performance and harvest goals.
Slosarczyk says that with proper management, fungicides have the ability to help growers produce higher amounts of high-quality feed.
“Fungicides can help corn and alfalfa crops to fight off possible problems through the summer, but they also have the ability to enhance the health of an alfalfa stand going into the winter, which can give that stand a better chance of withstanding the stresses of our northern temperatures,” he says.
Producers can work with an agronomist to determine which products will have the biggest impact on crop growth and success. Slosarczyk has found that a blanket approach is not often the best answer for the use of these products.
“Each year is different and good integrated management decisions need to be made for that individual’s specific cropping system,” he says. “If the possible scenarios are discussed before the season starts, both the grower and their agronomy or nutrition team have a high level of understanding as it pertains to meeting the business’ expectations.”
“Once you have your plan in place, the next step is to make sure you have a good scouting plan for the growing season to watch for pest, weed, disease or growth issues,” he recommends. “That way, when issues do arise, we can work together to find an effective and efficient resolution. After all, planning for success is no accident, but it sure can help prevent one.”