Why are Expectations quite possibly the “Make or Break” aspect of our business? To answer this, let’s take a deeper dive.
What were your expectations when you woke up this morning? Maybe you didn’t even have any, yet we should have expectations every day for every aspect of our lives and businesses.
What expectations do you have for the people you work with – banker, agronomist, seed salesman, mechanic, etc.? How about the equipment you operate?
One of our biggest downfalls in farming/agronomy is thinking that just because we apply any fertilizer, it’s automatically going to be plant available. Is this the correct expectation? Often times our plant nutrient deficiencies are created more due to the excess applied that suppresses the uptake of others. See this link for the ABS Nutrient Antagonism Chart. Just like a parking lot, a plant only has so many spaces to “park” nutrients. If say, plants are high in nitrates(NO3), the effect can and will likely be suppressed uptake of P, S, Cl, K, Ca, and B. All of these, except Cl, have a tremendous effect on how well are we photosynthesizing – ie, the factory that drives everything in plant growth and production, immunity, and resilience.
Foliar applications are gaining momentum and becoming a more common part of growers management. However, there are still many that look at foliar feeding as “snake oil.” Here again is where the proper expectations are key. There is a proper protocol for successful foliar applications. Once again, just because we put a tank mix together and do a foliar application does not guarantee it will be absorbed properly by plants. There are optimum weather conditions that are needed for successful foliar programs. Temperature, time of day, humidity, moon phase, quality of products being applied (not all fertilizers are created equal), and water quality all play a major role. We do tests every year and one recently showed that a foliar mix applied in the heat of the day did not work. This was done via SAP testing and just one more reason every producer should be using SAP testing on the farm.
We’ve had numerous cases this spring of plants showing high nitrates in soybeans where zero Nitrogen was applied and in cases of corn at V3 with only 45 units of N applied. This isn’t surprising at all. In the case of each grower, they were surprised. Why? No disrespect here, but it’s due to lack of understanding and the wrong expectations.
Do you have expectations that corn yields can consistently top 300 and beans 100 bpa or higher? There are some fields today that those kind of yields should be expected realistically, but only with the proper management. With this said, there are some fields that are so degraded and out of balance that these yields should not be expected.
For those that primarily split-plant hybrids. Is this to reduce risk of one hybrid falling apart or suffering severe damage such as greensnap? Or is this done to “see” what hybrid outperforms the other? If done to measure performance, essentially we’re setting ourselves up for a 50/50 shot of disappointment. Rather than setting ourselves up with a 50/50 chance of disappointment in hybrids, why not manage the entire system efficiently with the correct expectations and management.
In 2020, we had numerous cases of high yield expectations in corn where the crop struggled from the day it was planted, the crop never recovered and those expectations didn’t pan out. Corn is a determinate crop and when bushels are lost, they are gone forever.
How about the role that minerals play in synergistic relationships with one another? No mineral lives alone on an island. What this means is, no single mineral alone can do its job effectively without it’s necessary co-factors. All essential minerals need Ca and B enter the plant. Nitrogen specifically needs Ca, S, and Mo. Phos needs Ca, Zn, and Cu. Potassium needs Ca and Mn. These “co-factors” mentioned are not the only one’s needed, just the first on the list.
What role do enzymes play in plant growth?
How about the inefficiency of applied NPK fertilizers? It’s fairly well known that only roughly 10-35% of applied fertilizers make it into plants where they are “expected” to end up. If you’d like “good” science data on this please let me know.
What expectations do you have for your soil/fields? Are they to simply be the medium that holds plants upright(and often does a poor job of this), or are your expectations for your soil to be fully functional and provide all the benefits and resilience that a functional soil was designed to offer?
Any finally, expectations for seed prices going into 2022. There are several differing opinions on how much will seed prices increase. The only thing I can offer here is set your expectations high and hope that you are pleasantly surprised.
The only realistic way to improve success via improved and proper expectations is continued Education and Understanding. Keep in mind this Education/Understanding must be based on sound science, not some tightly held belief we’ve used as an excuse for the last several years.