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Volume 18 Issue 3 May 2008



From east coast to west coast, the story is the same, farms are getting bigger and farmers are getting fewer. The good news is 2008 offers unprecedented opportunities for efficient farmers with well thought out farm plans. Currently, farmers have wonderful options every crop it seems is at or near 10-year record high prices. Along with the high commodity prices, most of the inputs required by farming operations have also reached 10-year highs and are still climbing. Any product tied to fossil fuel is going to be high-priced for the foreseeable future. With the advancement in technology, other challenges have presented themselves such as widespread chemical resistance crops and larger and more expensive equipment. No-till farming has created an ideal environment for soil-borne diseases to form. Because of the demands these challenges have created, a crop consultant may be one of the best return on investment options for a producer. In the scenario farmers are facing in 2008 and beyond, the value of a welltrained, technologically well-connected crop consultant will likely be the difference in whether some growers survive this boom time. More importantly, having a trusted crop consultant will play a key role in helping farmers survive what comes AFTER the boom times that are in vogue today. In Rolla, KS, Crop Quest Agronomist Mickey Huddleston says he advises his farmers to farm the land and apply only the inputs needed. We work a lot of corn acres here in southwestern, KS, and I tell my growers dont go overboard because the price of corn is high. If you dont need to put on extra fertilizer or a preventative fungicide, take that money and put it in the bank, Huddleston says. In west central Oklahoma, Crop Quest Consultant Howard Bartel says high input costs and high prices for commodities accentuate the need for timeliness and efficiency. Ive seen real high dollar planters do a poor job, because the machine wasnt calibrated right. I always ask my growers to let me know when they get ready to plant, so I can Mickey Huddleston be sure their planter is calibrated correctly, the veteran consultant notes. In most cases its small adjustments in equipment or subtle changes in farming practices that make the biggest difference in profitability. The personal experience of Crop Quest agronomists and our access to a huge information
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Crop Quest Perspectives

Crop Consultant Expertise ... Continued from Page 1

base helps us help farmers make those changes that they might otherwise overlook, he adds. Crop Quest Agronomist Kent Davis on the Front Range of Colorado says often during planting season, growers tend to be under a great amount of stress, and thats when they are most likely to make mistakes. Being able to present them with viable options when things go wrong is a valuable service that we provide to growers, the agronomist notes. When we sit down with a farmer in the winter, we generally have a farm plan that will work at that time. Most of the time we change the plan in one way or another to account for changes in weather conditions, cost of materials and many other reasons. Having the flexibility to change what he is going to do, without doing so under a stressful situation, is a big asset for my growers, Davis adds. One of the biggest advantages of having a crop consultant is often getting sound advice HOWARD BARTEL on what NOT to use as much as what to use. Nitrogen costs have soared to over $600 per ton in some areas of the country. Despite the high cost of N, P and K, Huddleston contends the wise course of action is to use what you need, especially on high value grain crops. When one of my farmers asks me, can I cut my fertilizer rates, my set response is, At $5.60 or more per bushel, how much money do you want to lose on your corn crop? By the same token, other farmers want to use inputs that wont benefit their bottom line nearly as much as reducing fertilizer will hurt it, Huddleston adds. In our area we have some farmers with the potential to make $350 to $400 per acre profit on corn. High diesel prices and high fertilizer prices factor into our farm budgets, but still farmers have an opportunity to do really well in the next couple of years, if they market their corn properly and pay attention to production costs, Huddleston contends. Bartel adds, With the cost of everything from fertilizer to pesticides going up, proper timing is critical. Being a part of a large organization like Crop Quest gives me some resources that most growers dont have. We help our growers put together a flexible farm plan that allows them to choose the most cost effective chemicals to use and to get these materials where they need to be and applied at the precise time to maximize their value to the crop. Davis, who works with a variety of crops from vegetables, to alfalfa, with the biggest emphasis on sugar beets, adds, Crop rotation is a big factor when you have such diverse crops. In todays world of high fuel, fertilizer and pesticide costs, its critical to look at rotations two and three years down the road. Following budget plans can be difficult in boom times. For example, Huddleston says a few years ago we had high temperatures, low humidity, and we thought no problems with gray leaf spot on corn. But we were creating an ideal environment with our center pivot irrigation systems and disease problems just exploded. Because of that, a lot of fields were sprayed last year. More are likely to be sprayed KENT DAVIS this year and some fields that dont even need to be sprayed might be, Huddleston contends. Corn that sells for $5 to $6 per bushel makes it easier to make decisions on which inputs to use. The key to a successful bottom line, no matter what price corn sells for, is the wise use of fertilizer, pesticides and water. With the access we have to other Crop Quest consultants and our own experience, we can save growers a lot of money in water costs. Its not unusual for our growers to spend $300 per acre just for diesel fuel to pump water, he notes. Knowing when to irrigate and how much to irrigate subsequently can provide big savings on seed cost at planting time, he says, pointing out that ditches in southwestern Kansas are filled with fall wheat seed blown from dry seedbeds in the fall. Likewise, proper irrigation timing can help pesticides work better and generally gives the farmer better results from his input investments. Fall meetings with his farmers usually produce a rough game plan for the coming crop season, according to Huddleston. We talk about what did work and what didnt work, which varieties performed best and make some plans for the growing season, he says. On into the winter, they make more precise plans, which can allow the farmer to go ahead and make seed, fertilizer and pesticide purchases that can pay big dividends later. This year, several of our farmers bought glyphosate products in the winter for $15 to $20 per gallon. Now its selling for $40 to $45 per gallon. The math is fairly easy, if you plug in glyphosate at $4 per acre versus $8 per acre, Huddleston concludes. The information provided by Huddleston and his Crop Quest colleagues doesnt always save growers money in inputs, but nearly always makes money on the bottom line. With both input costs and commodity prices at record levels, not making mistakes can be the difference between a profit or a big disappointment.

Crop Quest Perspectives

Our company motto is EmployeeOwned & Customer Driven signifying the importance we put on doing what we feel is important for our clients. However, every now and then By: Ron OHanlon changes are required within our busiPresident ness that causes some disruptions and Member, National Alliance occasional clerical errors. of Independent Crop Recently, we had to upgrade our conConsultants, CPCC-I Certified tracting and accounts receivable programs by going to an entirely different computer program. The old program had become outdated due to continued improvements in computer programming, and we no longer had anyone on staff who could maintain and upgrade it. As with any new software, there is always a learning curve in understanding how the program operates and in modifying the program to help it meet our specific needs. The first major change was our agronomists going to a work order format using their laptop computers rather than using a page 2 for our contracting procedure. Most of you have already seen this format, except for those who contracted really early this past fall. This change has tremendously reduced the number of times the data has to be manually entered into the computer. This has also reduced the number of typographical errors that always occur with multiple entries. It allows our agronomists to serve you better by using more

Striving For Top Performance

appropriate billing schedules for the crops you are growing. Our billing system is not a simple process since we allow billings based on cropping season, delayed billings, and billings split among agronomists, landlords, and clients. Our learning curve reached a peak when the first statements were mailed to you. We received numerous calls from clients regarding multiple billings, partial billings, and in some cases no billings. This initial statement was based on how the software company had their program set up. We received many complaints that the billing was difficult to almost impossible to read and understand. A re-write has been completed on the program so those who received a more recent billing should be much happier with improvements that made the statements easier to read. We hope these issues have been resolved, but if you have any questions, please call our accounting staff. We ask your patience and understanding as we work through the glitches that have occurred in addition to a few more that may not yet be resolved. Please know that we are working to resolve them as quickly as possible, and we ask you to be sure and inform us if you have any concerns regarding your billing and statements. I wish to thank all of you for your patience and understanding while we complete this transition. Again, please dont hesitate to call if you have any questions regarding your contract or billing. We truly are customer driven.

Our Agronomists are trained to make regular visits to your fields. Many times, these visits are just check ups to affirm that things are as they should be. If a field plan has been implemented, and being carried out, there should be very few major surprises when your field checks are being made. Sometimes the lack of problems noted on a weekly basis appears to devalue our services, but in fact, the whole idea of our service is to create a situation where potential problems are averted before they have a chance to rob yields and waste operating expense. This is accomplished by incorporating good management practices and encouraging proper timing of all field applications. Mother Nature is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to throwing a monkey wrench into our plans. When we are hit by a weather event, an unusual pest infestation, or any other unusual


circumstance, that is when your agronomist is asked to come up with some creative solutions to help minimize any further yield loss. These situations can be very stressful to all parties. The agronomist and the producer struggle to make decisions based on the unknown. By: Dwight Koops But with good Regional Vice President information and proper reasoning, a new game plan can be devised and acted on. So, during this growing season, if you are blessed with boring field reports, and things are as they should be, think about the fact that you are probably doing a lot of things right, and a successful crop is on the way.

Crop Quest Perspectives

Mid-Red River Project

The Mid-Red River Valley describes where Southeast Oklahoma, Southwest Arkansas and Northeast Texas all meet, and the Red River divides the North and South. Agriculture in this area is characterized by highly-variable productive soils, very flat topography and spring rains followed by a dry season in July and August. These conditions cause various cropping challenges and problems. Drainage is a critical management task, and precision agriculture technology is helping address this issue. Variable rate application has proven to increase the crop input efficiency and crop yields within the variable river bottom soils. Tim Sharp is the newest addition to the Crop Quest team of agronomic consultants and is working with farm producers involved in this project. Sharp has been a leading research scientist who has been working with practical applied precision agriculture technologies since 1996. He has also been educating college students in both Tennessee and Oklahoma. He worked with Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee as Program Chairman for Precision Agriculture from 2005 - 2007. Sharp joined Crop Quest in March bringing a depth of skill and experience in the field application of advanced precision agriculture technology systems. The depth of skills in precision agriculture allows him to design, optimize and support a total precision farming system that is customized for the specific needs of each farming operation in the Mid-Red River Valley Project. Crop Quest combines the broad agronomic experience with Sharps depth of skill in precision agriculture to offer outstanding service to an initial group of six producers who collectively farm over 30,000 acres of corn, soybean and wheat. This group of farmers expects to adopt a total precision farming system to better improve yield and crop input efficiency. In the first year of this project, the focus will be on building a data base of information for each farm. Data layers such as a digital elevation model, soil electrical conductivity, crop yield, and NDVI will be developed for agronomic use in year two. The second year of this project will focus on RTK GPS land leveling and precision ditching based on the digital elevation model developed in year one. This addresses the critical drainage problems characterized in the flat alluvial soils. RTK tractor guidance will be further utilized to reduce soil compaction by use of controlled traffic lanes. RTK guidance will further allow for increased equipment efficiency and reduced fuel cost. The described data layers will be used along with the crop yield maps to act as diagnostic tools to allow Sharp to develop the needed variable rate application plans to deal with the highly variable soils found here. Initial economic analysis indicate that the final outcome will be a slight reduction in total cost, but an increase of over 20 bushels of corn per acre by combining precise drainage with precise crop input management. This project is a model for close cooperation between the producers, the consultant, and the overall depth of agronomic knowledge of the Crop Quest team to identify and find ways to solve producer problems and improve profit for the grower.


Crop Quest is an employee-owned company dedicated to providing the highest quality agricultural services for each customer. The quest of our network of professionals is to practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound.

Mission Statement

Crop Quest Agronomic Services, Inc. Main Office: Phone 620.225.2233 Fax 620.225.3199 Internet:

Employee-Owned & Customer Driven


Crop Quest Board of Directors

President: Director: Director: Director: Director: Director: Ron OHanlon Jim Gleason Dwight Koops Cort Minor Chris McInteer Rob Benyshek