Published on Friday, March 3, 2017
Last week the Daytona 500 officially marked the beginning of NASCAR season. This iconic race is not only the biggest race of the season, but it is also super important for multiple reasons. The first, obvious bragging rights and a confetti shower for the crowned champion. Second is that the Daytona 500 sets the stage for the rest of the season. It’s important for the drivers to get off to a good start, not only when that green flag waves in Daytona, but also for the remainder of the season as they sprint towards that coveted cup.
Likewise, it’s important for farmers to get a good start on their season while still ensuring that their crops have the greatest potential for success from the moment they are planted. As farmers look for new ways to get off that “starting line” quicker, they continue to plant earlier and earlier. And while early planting dates have their benefits, cold, wet soils can leave seedlings susceptible to emergence issues, pests and disease.
Enter in-furrow technology. The greatest advantage with in-furrow technology is the edge it offers when it comes to early planting, as these products start protecting the seed right from the start. Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team continues to test multiple in-furrow products to determine their effect on yield and profitability. You can read about some of these studies here, here, here and here.
In-furrow applications are so effective because farmers have the ability to place the crop nutrients, fungicide and insecticide directly in the furrow, bringing them closer to the seed. This maximizes the benefits the in-furrow products provide to the growing plant. In-furrow products promote faster, stronger seedling growth and set crops up for continued success throughout the season by providing additional benefits such as improved emergence and vigor.
In 2016, Beck’s PFR conducted their second year of testing in-furrow starter fertilizers across multiple locations in the Midwest. When starter fertilizers are placed in close proximity to the seed, they can provide young corn plants with various macro and micronutrients. They can also promote a more vigorous plant which translates into increased yields, especially when encountering substantial early-season stress.
The results of this two-year, multi-location study reflect what a lot of farmers experience year-to-year; that sometimes a starter pays and sometimes it does not. Even if the plants are taller and the leaves look greener, that doesn’t always equate to enough increased yield to provide a return on investment (ROI). The soil conditions at planting, rainfall, and temperature all vary from one spring to another, so these results were not surprising. Of the six products tested in both years of this study, three of them showed a positive ROI, but there was still variability year-to-year.
Unlike the rest of the NASCAR races, the Daytona 500 is the only race in which the entire starting lineup is not determined simply by speed. That means that only the two top performing cars secure a spot on the grid during the initial qualifying round. Likewise, farmers should only focus on the top performing products. What does this mean exactly? It’s important to keep your focus on the ROI delivered by the product, instead of just yield, as the highest yielding treatments do not always equate to more money in your pocket.
Take for instance, the 2016 results from Beck’s Kentucky PFR site. The highest yielding treatment (5 gal. NACHURS Rhyzo-Link®) only provided the third highest ROI. On the other hand, PureGrade® Diamond only delivered the third highest yield increase, but had the highest overall ROI increase.
In 2016, NASCAR revised its race format to include three stages to emphasize aggressive racing and strategy. The most important thing to note with this change is that even if a driver wins the first stage, he is not guaranteed to win the race. On the same note, farmers need to remember that there are a ton of products available that can help increase yields, but just because a starter fertilizer performs well during one season or in one region, does not mean it will be a win every season. Make sure to evaluate multi-location, multi-year research, like Beck’s PFR data, to ensure you see the highest return when that checkered flag waves at the end of harvest.
To see the regional results of this study, click on the links below.
Rhyzo-Link® is a registered trademark of NACHURS ALPINE SOLUTIONS. PureGrade® is a registered trademark of the Andersons, Inc.
Author: Jim Schwartz
Categories: PFR, PFR Reports
Tags: Beck's Blog, Practical Farm Research, Beck's Agronomy, Kentucky PFR, Fungicide, PFR, Insecticide, in-furrow