While you may not feel like a superhero, your farmers probably think of you as one. And, like all the famous superheroes, you’re equipped with an extraordinary superpower: data.
The data you and your farmers collect is the foundation for profitable decision-making. But, with so much information available, you need to decipher what’s helpful and what’s just extra noise. Here are a few ways to use data with your growers throughout the season.
Post-harvest is a time of reflection. It’s an opportunity to revisit the season to identify what went right and what could have gone better.
Evaluate plan performance
A comprehensive data review is one of the most important things you can do with your growers after harvest. Here are some helpful starting points for managing data and gathering insights to build a plan for the following season.
- Planting dates – While it may not seem significant, planting dates are critical information for planning. Review your growers’ planting dates to help them understand how their decisions may have affected yield potential. For example, did they plant too early into cool, wet soils that set them up for emergence issues? Or, maybe bad weather kept them out of fields too long, and their crops couldn’t capitalize on the long growing season they needed to optimize growth potential.
- Weed control – Review weed control data with your growers. Did they make a timely preemergence application? When did they apply their postemergence herbicides? What herbicides and adjuvants were used? Were they happy with weed control in their fields?
- Fertility – Skyrocketing fertility prices mean some growers are cutting back on applications, which could be a limiting factor for yield potential. Take a look at your growers’ fertilization records to evaluate program effectiveness. Were the applied nutrient amounts based on soil or tissue samples? Did application timing ensure nutrient availability at the crop’s peak uptake? What nutrient sources were used? Did growers plan their fertility program to match their yield goals?
- Crop protection – With commodity prices rebounding, it’s a great time to review crop protection plans with your growers. If they’ve held off on fungicide applications in the past, present them with data that shows the profitability potential based on current corn prices.
- Yield data – Yield data is obviously one of the most telling pieces of information you can use with growers. It’s basically a report card for how well growers managed their crops in season. Compare yield data across fields to evaluate product performance under various field conditions. How did this season’s yield compare to historical averages? Could zone planting increase the average on-farm yield potential? Were planting populations optimized? What seed products performed the best and worst?
After you’ve done a comprehensive review of the previous season’s production plan, it’s time to use those insights to fine-tune a strategy for next year.
Adjust the plan
Talk with your growers to understand where their plan failed to meet their expectations. That information is the starting point for making changes ahead of the next planting season.
Did their weed control plan fall flat? If so, present them with alternative product data that shows better efficacy in fields like theirs. Were farmers disappointed and inconvenienced by lodged crops? Share research data showing how fungicide applications can improve overall plant health and reduce lodging potential, even in the absence of disease pressure.
Pre-plant is also a great time to review input pricing information with your growers so they can compare options at different price points.
After planting, it’s critical that you and growers continue to collect data to guide more prescriptive decisions for the following season. As you generate more data over time, you’ll start noticing trends that can drive more reliable recommendations.
Keep a record of spray applications
Anytime your grower sprays for weeds, fertilizes or applies a fungicide or insecticide, they should document it. Having accurate records of when, how and why an application was made can be helpful as you’re analyzing yield data.
Keep track of any significant weather events that happen after planting. Document any weed issues or pest problems, along with specific field locations. Record any places where there were standing water or irrigation issues. All this information is valuable at the end of the season when you’re trying to remember what happened in every field.
Collect tissue samples
Tissue sampling data can inform in-season fertility decisions and offers a real-time snapshot of a crop’s nutritional status. Even if soil testing shows adequate nutrient levels, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will make it into the plant. Sharing accurate tissue testing data with growers can ensure crops have the nutrients they need ahead of peak uptake times.
While data is certainly important for pre-season planning and in-season adjustments, it can also be helpful for finding on-farm efficiencies, developing marketing plans and reviewing regional trends.
Find on-farm efficiencies
Farmers can improve their bottom lines in many ways, but finding more efficient ways to do things is often one of the simplest. Data plays a crucial role in identifying those opportunities. For example, sharing pricing data with farmers can help them understand how bulk or bundled ordering could save them money. Or, suppose your farmer’s data indicates that they may be overplanting. By analyzing information with a critical eye, you may find opportunities to save your customers time and money.
Support smart financial decisions
Marketing grain can be one of the most stressful and impactful decisions your growers make. When should they sell? Should they increase their input costs to capitalize on higher commodity prices? What’s the right balance? While you may not be a grain marketing expert, you can use data to support more sound investment decisions for your growers. Keep them updated as input prices change, so they always have the latest data to make informed decisions.
Review regional trends
Keep your customers up-to-date on regional trends by sharing relevant data for your area. It’s easy to access USDA records that can give you an indication of how growers are adapting their production practices. For example, are more growers shifting from conventional to conservation tillage? Are cover crops gaining more popularity where you are? How are weather trends impacting planting and harvest schedules? Based on local yield data, how is a particular seed product performing in your area? If you know where to look, this type of information can be insightful, relevant and valuable to your growers.
Last, but arguably most important is the use of the data you may have overlooked – sales data! Field data helps farmers make better management decisions for their farms. Sales data helps you make better management decisions for your business. By using all the data you’ve collected on your customer’s past purchases, rates, and what has worked and what hasn’t, you should be perfectly set up to make the buying process quick and painless. Using this information can not only help you create a better customer experience, but it can also help you make better business decisions by helping you plan inventory, set better price points and be more knowledgeable about the relationships you’re managing with your customers.
Data isn’t just a buzzword in ag anymore. It’s what reliable decisions are built on. If you could use help organizing and implementing data into your grower recommendations, check out GROWERS Guide™. It’s a comprehensive data management and consulting service designed especially for busy ag retailers like you. Don’t know how to start collecting sales data? Check out GROWERS Rally!