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5 Ways Ag Retailers Can Add Value at Harvest

There’s a lot at stake at harvest time. 

It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of decision-making and investments. It’s the moment of truth farmers have waited for all season, and they watch anxiously as the yield monitor registers their season’s productivity.

As a trusted advisor, the harvest season presents an opportunity to reinforce your customer commitment and celebrate their success. Here are some ways to create value for your farmers this harvest season.


Scout late-season fields

Late-season scouting provides a final opportunity to assess the season’s management plan. As crops mature, you can evaluate productivity and begin to piece together a story about what went well and what may need improvement for the next season. As you’re scouting, here are some things to look at:

  • Root health: Dig plants to evaluate root development and health. A small root mass could indicate that the planting depth was too shallow or that insects, such as corn rootworm, could be a problem. Often poor root development is tied to unfavorable planting conditions, which could lead to a discussion about optimizing performance next season. If your farmers tend to plant early, a conversation about seed treatments or starter fertilizers may help them mitigate some of the early-season planting challenges.
  • Grain quality: For row crops like corn and soybeans, evaluate grain quality. Insufficient in-season nutrition or other environmental stresses, including foliar diseases and ear rots, could contribute to lower grain quality and test weight. If you’re noticing problems with grain quality, it could be an opportunity to discuss fertility management or fungicide options with your farmer.
  • Weed control: As you’re walking late-season fields, take note of weed pressure. These observations can give you an indication of how the farmer’s weed management program is holding up. What weeds are most prevalent? Are you noticing late-emerging weed escapes? Are there differences in weed control across the field? 

Use this information to recommend a postharvest burndown strategy or to help tweak the weed control plan for next year. Maybe farmers need to switch to new modes of action to get better weed control, or perhaps they just need to adjust their application timing. It may be that an adjuvant is required to improve herbicide spray coverage or that sprayers need extra calibration attention. A late-season field evaluation can help you determine the best path forward.


Prioritize harvest order

As costs for drying continue to increase, farmers may be tempted to leave their crops in the field as long as possible to dry. While this strategy can be effective in some situations, farmers should use it judiciously to avoid unnecessary grain losses. As part of your scouting effort, assess overall crop standability to help farmers prioritize their harvest order.

Do push and pull tests to assess stalk integrity in a corn crop. If more than 15% of stalks in a field show signs of poor health, farmers should prioritize those fields for harvest. Help farmers test moisture levels because earlier maturing hybrids dry down quickly and could be prone to harvest losses if they’re combined at less than 15% moisture.

Grain moisture is the most significant determining factor for soybean harvest prioritization, but you should also assess lodging potential due to weak stems or insect damage.


Ride in the combine

Harvest is a busy time for farmers, but once they are in the combine, you’ve got their full attention. Try to set up a time to ride with your customers to show them that you’re invested in their operation and are interested in learning more about how they do things. 

As you travel through the fields, a view from the combine can help you gather insights you may not get from the yield data. You’ll be able to compare differences across the field to help identify management zones and see how yields fluctuate to brainstorm new solutions for your customers. 

Riding in the combine is a great chance to foster relationships and reinforce your committed partnership. 


Discuss the post-harvest strategy

Farmers are laser-focused on the task at hand once harvest begins. That’s why it’s imperative to discuss the postharvest strategy with them before they hit the fields. 

  • Do they plan on doing primary tillage? 
  • What is their expectation for fall fertility? 
  • Do they want to knock down weeds before the ground freezes? 

Understand their postharvest plan and when you’ll need to help execute it. If harvest is delayed, there may be short windows to complete postharvest fieldwork. In that case, you’ll need to be prepared for action when you get the call to go. 

Communicate with your farmers to plan for the best case scenario, but be adaptable as the harvest season progresses and know that you may have limited windows to get work done.


Encourage equipment maintenance

Farmers should plan harvest equipment maintenance well before the time they plan to get into fields. Supply chain issues may create challenges for getting parts, so your customers should prepare for longer lead times to get replacements. Remind your customers to have commonly-needed parts on hand so they aren’t slowed down in the field when something breaks down. 

Poor combine adjustments can lead to poor grain quality and even losses due to beating, pinching or shearing, which can break and crack grain. It’s estimated that just 20 corn kernels left behind in a 10-square foot of field results in a bushel per acre of yield loss. Ensure your farmers have tweaked their machines based on their field and crop conditions to avoid losses. 

It can also be helpful to do a test run to measure kernel loss from the combine. Help farmers mark off a 10-square-foot area of the field that has been harvested and count the number of kernels to determine how much grain loss is coming out the back of the combine and from the head. If you notice significant grain losses, your farmer should work with their equipment manufacturer to fine-tune adjustments or optimize harvest speeds.

Another essential factor in equipment maintenance is ensuring that data collection software is updated and calibrated correctly. Once data is collected, it’s hard to fix. And, inaccurate or missing data certainly doesn’t help develop next season’s plan. Help farmers develop a plan for collecting and managing their data so it’s simple to access and analyze after harvest.

Harvest is a time for reflection and celebration, but it can also be challenging and hectic for farmers. They will appreciate your support, partnership and expert advice as they close another season.

For more tips on how you can add value during seasonal peaks, sign up for the Elevate newsletter.

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