Regional Solutions Roundup: Kick Off The 2021 Growing Season

Posted June 25, 2021 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

Crop Consultants Share Expertise for Maximizing Every Acre

Nutrien Ag Solutions has over 1,700 retail locations around the world. Our crop consultants and salespeople are equipped with the expertise to help growers get the most out of every acre. Our proactive approach includes our partnership with the Echelon™ crop planning tool while scouting crops early and often. These tried-and-true methods help us ensure growers are able to produce a high-quality crop. 

We asked local experts to share what’s important in their region to stay ahead all season long. Here’s what they had to say.

Corn Belt Region — Gregg Schmitz

Changing weather patterns can make or break plant health early in the season. Gregg Schmitz, marketing manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions in West Iowa, Eastern Nebraska and Southeast South Dakota, shares how staying on top of nutrient applications is critical to a high-yielding crop. 

“As we make our way through a roller-coaster spring, the biggest advantage we bring to our customers is the speed with which we can help them make an adjustment,” advises Schmitz. “The information available today is the key component to our approach. Today, with the modeling, precision technology of Echelon and the layering of all this information, we can develop a consistent recommendation — with a high level of confidence that what we recommend is going to deliver the outcome the grower needs. It’s a huge opportunity to maximize profitability.”

Using information collected from harvest, crop consultants create a baseline of the soil nutrition that exists in the individual field to set the stage for putting together a sound nutrient management program. 

Field by field, Echelon uses tools including infrared imagery, tissue sampling and early in-season soil tests — all to reach the 4R principles: the right source, rate, time and placement of nutrients. Many growers pursue a spoon-feeding approach, splitting their nitrogen applications into two or three feeding periods throughout the season. Our experts can design an approach that ensures nitrogen is being applied to acres when they need it most. 

Nutrien Ag Solutions tissue sampling program, Nutriscription, offers the capacity to make in-season adjustments based on what is happening now. 

“We talk a lot about Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, or NPK, liming and even sulfur needs, but Nutriscription has really opened our eyes to the role that micronutrients can play in the equation,” Schmitz says. “When it first started in the mid-’90s, we went out and tissue-sampled corn for three years in a row. The trend we identified was that boron was one of the most limiting nutrients we had, from about V2 through V10. More than 80% of the time, those tissue samples would be low or deficient. We’ve also seen nutrients such as zinc and manganese showing up low a high percent of the time. When we started doing follow-up soil testing, we validated the same observation.” 

To fine-tune micronutrient applications, we’ve created a line of NUTRISYNC® products designed for foliar application, where nutrients can be applied through the course of the plant’s development. The yield impact through in-season applications is based on applying the right nutrient at the right time.

South Region — Bobbitt Jenkins

In the Delta and southeastern United States, agricultural outputs are as diverse as they come. Cotton, corn, soybeans, peanuts, rice and tobacco are all part of the region’s crop mix, not including the wide-ranging specialty crops, including pecans, onions, blueberries and citrus. Bobbitt Jenkins, chemical marketing manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions covering North Carolina to New Mexico, shares how growers are using Echelon to pivot and adjust their plan all season.

“Growers and consultants use the crop planning tool to review historical data for informed decisions on how to best prepare and manage pests and diseases,” Jenkins says. “In the past, the knowledgeable agronomist could make those recommendations based on experience, and today they still do. The difference is today we’re backing up that decision and plan with science and data.” 

The crop planning tool isn’t just a “start the season and walk away” program. This is a full-season guide that growers and their crop consultants can turn to if the season goes sideways with strong support. “For example, we can identify and share when a different cotton variety might be the better choice if the planting date changes,” Jenkins adds.

Northeast Region — Chris Diener

A delay in planting date can mean an adjustment in hybrids to meet the required growing degree units. Chris Diener, seed sales agronomist at Nutrien Ag Solutions in Central Indiana, describes how growers are evaluating the best hybrids for their acres using precision agriculture. 

“As growers review their crop risk profile and work to maximize their yields, I’ve seen more farmers planting later hybrids like 115- to 118-day maturities in the southern part of Indiana,” Diener says. “They’re looking at the probability of first frost, or hard freeze, and broadening their approach to GDUs can expand their choice of hybrids to plant.” 

The strength is in the 108- to 115-day hybrid, but growers are making the stretch of relative maturity more than ever. “Growers planning to plant a 116-day maturity hybrid need close to 2,800 GDUs,” he shares. “With that longer maturity choice, growers must be confident they can get the crop in the ground by April 15.”

By using the crop planning tools with the technology platform, Echelon, growers experience solid support. Integrating crop consultants’ expertise with precision agriculture, Diener and his team have access to soil fertility profiles to be well-informed as planters hit the field. 

“Our customers are using more variable rate technology, and we want to match the seed to the nitrogen need,” Diener says. “With the crop planning tool, we can help a grower manage variable rate nitrogen and variable rate seed, and have mapping capabilities and historical NDVI images.” 

West Region — Henry Hinkle

In the western region, a dry season can happen suddenly, forcing growers to pump more acre-inches of water through irrigation systems to protect crop yield. Henry Hinkle, crop consultant at Nutrien Ag Solutions in the Central Valley of California, advises growers to be nimble with the evolving conditions to ensure their nutrient management plan stays on track. For example, rising salinity and increased boron levels can mean trouble for a thriving almond crop.

“Nutrient management of any crop requires attention to detail,” Hinkle says. “Boron is an essential nutrient almond trees use when flowering, but if levels rise too high, the element becomes toxic. Annual soil sampling helps us head off a boron problem and is key in making application decisions.”  

Focused nutrient management decisions can make a difference of hundreds of pounds of production per acre of trees. 

“No matter the size of your operation, can you afford to leave all that money on the table?” Hinkle asks. “A relatively small investment can yield a very large return if we’re using the right inputs at the right time.” 

Nimble in-season decisions in changing conditions can change crop input needs, too. During weekly grower meetings, Hinkle sits down with growers to adjust the program in real time to make sure that everything applied is exactly what the tree needs, exactly when the tree needs it. 

The Central Valley has a range of cropping systems at work, including row crop producers who must consider making a change from annual to permanent crops. That switch isn’t an overnight decision, but more are looking at switching to nuts, tree fruits or grapevines. Transitions like these start with a soil sample and evaluation of all the characteristics of the soil to build a solid crop plan. 

Bringing It All Together

Nutrien Ag Solutions is committed to providing whole-acre solutions to growers from coast to coast. As growers make their way through the growing season, crop consultants and advisors recommend incorporating technology into their day-to-day operation. Start experiencing the benefits now with the Nutrien Ag Solutions Digital Hub.

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