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Stick With the Basics or Try New Trends?

St. Johns, Mich. – Trying new inputs or methods is the best way to advance yield and efficiency – but is it worth the risk when times are tight? AgroLiquids Stephanie Zelinko says yes – as long as it’s done strategically. 

“Being successful as a farmer comes down to return on investment. 16-22% of a grower’s anticipated income typically goes to a crop fertility program. We need to spend those dollars wisely.” 

Zelinko says small-scale testing allows growers to try new inputs or methods while protecting themselves financially. She prefers a minimum of 20 acres per treatment. 

“Having your own research helps tie that whole package together,” says Zelinko. “You’re able to see at the end of the season how much that treatment brought in and how much the program cost, then use that information to make future decisions.” 

While it may be tempting to look to your neighbor’s success to predict your own, Zelinko says that may end up hurting more than helping, as how fields are managed historically can have a big effect on how they perform currently. 

“I worked with a grower here in Michigan who had 50 acres he had farmed for 20+ years, managing it his way,” she recalls. “The 100 acres next to him came up for sale and he purchased it. He was excited to have 150 continuous acres, but when he had it grid sampled, there were dramatic differences in the soil test levels between the existing piece he owned and the new piece he purchased.” 

Mistakes are bound to happen through the trial process, but AgroLiquid’s Galynn Beer says each setback provides data that can help growers make adjustments. 

“When you make a mistake, it’s easy to abandon trying anything ever again, but you have to balance it out,” he says. “Remember the things that didn’t work and learn from that, but you can’t let mistakes keep you from trying new things. You’re not going to advance your efficiency or your yield if you do that.”

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