Crop checking: what you may not be seeing

For the past 30 years I have been working with farmers who are trying to improve their production and profit by using different seeding equipment, new seed varieties, and different fertilizer and soil improvement programs. We have found that some farmers who try something different or using something new on their fields do not take the time or effort to properly evaluate the results. For most farmers everything is always relative to something they think is a standard. For some a quick drive by visual observation is all that is done and for some their only point of reference to production performance is coffee shop talk.

In reality there are some things a farmer can see and many which he cannot. For example, what can a farmer see?

The typical farmer plants his crop when he feels it’s right. He may be guided by the weather, the trees coming into leaf, the neighbors, or the weeds. He can then watch for emergence or check for germination in the field. He can also see rainfall, weed growth, stooling and some other obvious things relating to physical growth. If he sprays he can check for weed kill, or visual crop damage. He can visually see the colour changes as the crop matures,etc. An experienced eye can see the more obvious visual effects of disease, insect infestation, salinity, drought, excess water, etc. all of which limits crop production.

Now let’s take a look and list some the things we cannot see:

  1. The actual yield or a 5 bu difference in yield in a heavy crop
  2. Weight
  3. Protein
  4. Oil content
  5. Actual dockage
  6. Actual moisture at seeding
  7. Available nutrients and nutrient balance
  8. Nutrient excess or depletion – can only see severe effects
  9. Weed potential
  10. Overall germination – no, emergence – yes
  11. Residual chemicals
  12. Chemical damage to soil organisms
  13. Chemical damage to crop -can only see in extreme cases
  14. Disease resistance of plants
  15. Allelopathy – combating weeds naturally
  16. Glucose rating
  17. Root development
  18. Residual effect on the soil
  19. Residual effect on the seed
  20. Production of polysaccharides
  21. Mychorrizal effects
  22. Compaction – Harpan
  23. Salinity – can only see extreme cases
  24. Moisture retention
  25. Fertilizer efficiency or losses
  26. Lack of oxygen

The above are the more obvious things we cannot see and yet all can affect crop quality, quantity and cost of production. Please remember some things which you cannot see this year will affect your crop next year.

In conclusion, when making any evaluation, take the time to examine all that you can actually see and do the necessary testing to verify the results of many of the things which your cannot see.

Basic Assessment Guide: Walk the fields, dig up the soil, check for hardpan, earthworms, root development, nodulations, etc., etc., smell the soil and be observant. Take note of everything that is visual. Attention to detail is critical.

Good analysis is necessary to make an informed decision. It does not make much sense to start doing something different or to stop using something just because at first glance “I did not see any difference”. The success and failure of your farming today depends on how exactly you evaluate all aspects of your farming operation, your cultural practice and the products you use.

Monitor all that you can and keep records. Its enjoyable, educational and rewarding! Something to think about. If you would like to discuss this further, contact us.

Edward Mayer, President