DECATUR, Ill. — The agronomic service team for Stone Seed focuses on developing systems that improve the profitability of their customers.
“We don’t want to be known just for selling stuff,” said Shannon Schultz, Stone Seed area business manager.
“There’s a big difference of practices that are being used in the countryside and the profitability is pretty wide,” said Schultz at the Stone Seed booth at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur. “We are focusing on things that are going to help their profitability and as our products fit into that conversation, so be it because if we help them become successful we will become successful also.”
Soils are quite different across the state of Illinois.
“In the northwest corner of the state, the topography is a lot like northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota and the recipe that works up there is different than the recipe as you go towards Chicago,” Schultz said.
“Going from I-88 down to I-74, there are totally different practices,” he said. “The recipe is different and our goal is to figure it out in all parts of the state to help that bottom line.”
One tool farmers can use to evaluate their operations is Climate FieldView.
“The goal is to have customers measure what is going on so they can validate things,” Schultz said. “We’re very proud of the products and systems we’re recommending and we feel confident in what they will do.”
Schultz compared two different recipes for planting a field of corn.
“A standard practice is to plant corn on 30-inch rows, at 27,000 to 30,000 seeds, with 160 pounds of nitrogen at one shot and no fungicide versus a farmer that is starting with a clean field and staying clean of weeds, pushing population to 38,000, putting nitrogen on at three shots where the last shot is 90 pounds over the top and applying fungicide,” he said. “I can easily say the average is 50 bushels between those two options.”
There is a cost associated with the change in practices.
“The cost could be $80,” Schultz said. “But getting another 50 bushels in yield, that’s simple math.”
Schultz encourages farmers to do side-by-side comparisons on their farm, by dividing a field in half and doing everything the same as they have in the past on part of the field and changing the practices on the other half.
“Do a complete systems approach and don’t try to break down each practice because there’s a synergistic effect,” he said. “I think a lot has to do with the technology in the seed.”
Previously corn plants took up 50% to 55% of the nitrogen applied, Schultz said.
“Somewhere around 2007-’08, it changed to 71% of nitrogen being taken up and when that happened, yields went to a different level,” he said.
Additional changes have been made by farmers.
“Farmers didn’t use fungicide on commercial corn; it was only used on seed corn,” Schultz said. “Now, fungicides are being used a lot, so the world has changed and farmers need to look at these things because there’s such a big difference in yield.”
Stone Seed field sales representatives are working with farmers to evaluate practices that work the best on their fields.
“We have increased our sales each year for the past six years,” Schultz said. “Our customers appreciate us doing this because a lot of companies are not and we’re providing information about things beyond what we sell such as nitrogen, fungicides or planters.”
Precision equipment that places the seed precisely at the right depth and evenly spaced is an important aspect of planting corn, Schultz said.
“When there are two plants close together, one becomes a weed to the other one,” he said.
“When you measure how the current planter is doing and compare it to where it’s done better, then you can put a dollar amount to it,” Schultz said. “Then it becomes easy to make decisions, but knowledge is the critical part.”
For nitrogen application, Schultz said, the issue is not about how much is applied per acre, but rather putting all the nitrogen on a cornfield in one shot.
“It takes more of an effort to put it on three times, but it will be beneficial overall,” he said.
Some farmers have switched to applying nitrogen pre-plant, at planting and the final shot of 90 pounds over the top of the plants.
“The plant needs more nitrogen to fill the ears than any time during the season,” Schultz said. “We’ve learned the third application of nitrogen puts on enormous kernels with a lot more test weight and you get paid on weight.”
“This is a fun business to be in,” he said. “I enjoy working with farmers and being part of the solution.”