Managing for profit: What do agronomists say?

Farming isn’t just a job to most growers. Farmers need to love what they do in order to deal with the uncertainties of weather, the market, and the lifestyle choice in general. But a passion for the job doesn’t change the fact that farmers are also trying to make a living. What are the best ways to have a successful season and manage for profit? Let’s look at some strategies and ways AgroLiquid can help.

First, let’s look at the difference between maximizing yield, profit, and return.

  • Maximizing yield focuses on the highest possible crop output, often using more fertilizer and additional nutrients.
  • Maximizing profit prioritizes overall financial gain at the end of the year, even if it means taking calculated risks and paying higher expenses.
  • Maximizing return strikes a balance between yield and budget, considering each fertilizer input and its potential return on investment.

Each of these objectives requires a different approach, and a successful fertilizer plan often involves finding a balance.

No matter their level of expertise, growers can sometimes overlook certain factors when managing for profit.

John Leif, Northeast regional agronomist, has worked with growers for years on getting the most out of their investment.

“With current commodity prices and input costs, growers need to think carefully about every dollar spent,” he said. “It seems easy to cut the extras that may pay when prices are high, but it might not pay when prices are low.  However, it’s important not to overlook some of the foundational inputs that can create a profitable crop.”

For instance, it can be difficult to choose where to spend money on inputs.

“With regards to crop nutrition, most growers see the value of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but it can be tempting to not spend the money on secondary and micronutrients such as sulfur, zinc, manganese, and boron,” Leif said. “Those secondary and micronutrients can often be the limiting factors in crop nutrition because they work with the macronutrients to produce a high yield, healthy, and profitable crop.”

Stephanie Zelinko, AgroLiquid agronomist, also works with growers facing this issue.

“When managing for profit, I think growers struggle with what is needed and what they feel they need,” she said. “Being profitable doesn’t mean cutting all expenses. Growers should have a good understanding of their crop’s need for nutrition and crop protection. Then apply by what is best for the plant health – and take their emotions out of the decision process.”

Since most farmers do have an emotional investment in their crops, it’s helpful to have cold, hard facts when making decisions.

Reid Abbott, Great Plains regional agronomist, sees the value in having the data.

When it comes to fertility and managing for profit, I believe in two things: soil testing and utilizing products that have proven themselves across a wide swath of acres and cultural practices.

The combination of both factors can serve growers very well.

“The soil test will give you the best idea of what your next limiting factor is and where your greatest potential for a strong ROI is in your program. And utilizing products that have proven themselves to have a high win rate in multiple situations gives a grower confidence that the investment they are making will lead to a return at harvest times.” (See more on soil testing.)

Achieving a profitable harvest depends on so many different factors, and putting it all together can take time and consideration.

Dan Peterson, AgroLiquid agronomist, boils it down to application timing and management.

“That’s the basic answer – not optimizing the application timing or method of applying certain inputs,” Peterson said. “For example putting all of their nitrogen in the form of anhydrous ammonia…they could reduce that by a third to a half and put liquid urea ammonium nitrate as side dressing or Y dropping later in the season to optimize the uptake and efficient use of that nitrogen. That would apply to some other inputs too, but that’s the basic answer.”

How’s your season going? If you’d like to talk with our experts about managing for profit, they’re ready and willing. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.