As you get ready to head to the field, it’s likely that you’ve already completed your budget for the growing season. But, did you include everything? Mid-season expenses like rescue fungicides and replanted acres can cause major headaches. However, if you include them in your budget from the get-go, they can help you have a full picture of your cost of production.
According to David Widmar, an economist with Agricultural Economic Insights, budgets are not stagnate documents and should be revisited throughout the growing season.
“We are making projections and our projections are as of today,” he explains. “When we start actually putting seed down, once we start actually applying herbicide or buying fertilizer, there's always a difference. We need to update that budget through the growing season and always know where we are and how each decision impacts cost of production as we move forward.”
Not only should rescue treatments make sense within the realm of the budget, but the impact they have on cash flow should also be considered, Widmar says. What’s more challenging is farmers rarely know exactly how beneficial a mid-season treatment will be on yields.
“I think it's helpful to think about what might be the best case scenario for response, what sort of an expected response would be and what might be sort of a low case response,” he explains. “Then producers have to think about this is a range of potential outcomes outweigh the costs.”
Steve Hoffman, agronomist and owner of InDepth Agronomy, says more than just money, producers need to budget adequate time for scouting so they are able to catch these in-season issues.
“Time is money,” he says. “Often, the actual cost for things like weed and disease control are dependent on how early you found the problem.”
Mid-season disease pressure can have a huge impact on yield. According to Hoffman, fungicide application is one of those areas that is reliant on an operator having plenty of time for scouting. “There are a lot of reasonably priced fungicides and we've got some pretty good ways of applying it now with some of the undercover nozzles, drop nozzles or air planes,” he says.
While most farmers use a pre-emergence herbicide, the weather is a major factor on how effective that kind of treatment will be. “Sometimes we are in an area that didn't get a whole lot of rain early and then those herbicides aren't well activated and we get a bunch of weeds coming through,” explains Hoffman. It’s best to control resistant weeds like water hemp and palmer amaranth when they are small. Every day weeds grow, the harder they are to kill.
Cut worm damage can be a huge issue in corn. Hoffman says that even BT corn can succumb to cut worms under heavy pressure. “It only takes about 3% of plants being cut to merit treatment,” he says.
Inadequate nitrogen can be a huge robber of corn yields. Wet conditions early in the season can cause unexpected nitrogen loss, Hoffman says. “We can lose a significant portion of the nitrogen we put down that will require us to get in there and make a rescue application,” he explains.
It’s the last thing producers want to think about, but it’s possible that portions of early planted fields will merit replanting. “Germinating seeds subjected to cold, wet conditions, will often merit replanting,” Hoffman says. “Somebody needs to take the time to look for the problem because the earlier it’s found the less loss the farmer will face.”