Volume 18 • Issue 2 • March 2008
O F F I C I A L P UBLICATION OF CROP Q U E S T A G R O N O M I C S E R V I C E S , I N C .
Adding VALUE To The Growing
VALUE Of Farms The timeliness of their recommendations regarding soil nutrients, seed purchases, fertilizer application, irrigation and pesticide use is generally recognized as one of the primary benets crop consultants bring to the planning process of a farm operation. Their expertise in calculating fertilizer requirements at the outset of the planning process, for example, or spotting an insect problem early is often cited as the difference between a break-even or low-prot yield and a bumper crop. “If you nd green bugs in wheat early enough,” explains Jim Gleason, Crop Quest Regional Vice President in St. John, KS, “the treatment will be about $8 – less than the price of a bushel at current prices.” If the treatment doesn’t take place until the wheat turns brown, the price of the pesticide will still cost the same, Gleason adds, “but the green bugs will have cost the farmer about 5% of the yield.” If timing is everything, then the time couldn’t be more crucial than it is right now to utilize the knowledge and skills of crop consultants, trained in agronomy and agricultural sciences as are all of Crop Quests specialists. The value of farmland is at an all time high with a record average price of $2,160 an acre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and agribusiness analysts anticipate farmland continuing to appreciate 6% to 12% annually over the next three years. While the value of their land increases, crop producers also have an opportunity to bolster their overall net worth as rising crop prices will elevate average annual farm income about 4% to 5% a year through 2010. In addition to these two important prosperity markers, some farmers – those who regularly engage the services of crop consultants - are holding yet another trump card that adds to their wealth.
“My estimate is that farmers who hire crop consultants receive returns of 10% to 20% annually against their expenditures,” says Terry Kastens, Ph.D., Extension Agricultural Economist, Farm JIM GLEASON Management at Kansas State University. Kevin Dhuyvetter, Ph.D., a colleague of Dr. Kastens at KSU agrees, but points out that the value or additional income from investing in the services of crop consultants will vary drastically from crop-to-crop and year-to-year. year-to-year. “But on average,” he says, “the return is something greater than what is paid.” Farm manager, Paul Evans, has relied on Crop Quest’s Precision Ag Services for more than a decade, rst to build a new farm in Kansas and currently in managing a 7,700-acre operation in southwest Colorado near the Four Corners region. Evans manages an all-irrigated farm – a tribal enterprise owned by the Ute Mountain Tribe – that produces alfalfa, corn, wheat and triticali (a cross between wheat and rye). “We’re “We’re like any other farm raising crops for a prot,” Evans points out. “There are a lot of factors and components to running a big farm that are certainly a lot harder without the expertise and technical knowledge that a crop consultant brings to the operation. We’re convinced – and our production records prove us right – that having a consultant is a major advantage that denitely pays off.” Among the advantages farm managers reap from crop consultants is the additional time they can allocate to other operational demands. “One of the biggest benets of hiring a crop consultant,” Dr. Dhuyvetter suggests, “is the time it frees up so that producers can focus their management efforts on other aspects of their businesses.” Continued on Page 2 C r op Q u es t P e rs p ec t iv e s
Adding Value ... Continued from Page 1 Part of the business of farming is keeping up with trends and being introduced to new ideas. “Another set of eyes is kind of a big deal,” notes Evans, referring to tasks like insect and weed scouting that is part of crop consulting, “but they also help us keep up with new technology and ideas that we can examine and implement.” John Hecht, the Crop Quest regional agronomist in Colorado, has lent a hand and his expertise to Evans in a variety of areas – soil testing and grid sampling among other services. As an example, Evans points to Hecht’s analysis in applying variable rate technol ogy to put fertilizer where it is needed. “When it comes to expensive fertilizer application, one size does not t all,” Evans stresses, “and we discuss with John what we want to do. John always listens to our production goals and together we develop a plan. It’s a total team effort.” Crop Quest’s Jim Gleason seconds the notion that crop consultants’ rst priority is to observe and note what crop producers have done and what they want to do. “Consultants need to listen to the farmers regarding their goals and performance history,” he states. He describes JOHN HECHT the relationship as a joint venture, w here the farmer has a goal and the consultant’s goal is to develop a plan that helps the farmer achieve it. “If a farmer has a business plan in mind,” Gleason reasons, “the crop consultant can lend his expertise – along with the expertise of our entire agronomic staff – to develop a plan of attack. Where the crop consultant’s experience comes in, however, is helping the farm man ager plan for the unseen variables that may affect his plan. Issues like bad weather, insect pressures and market shifts often happen. While we can’t stop or often forecast these issues, we are certainly bettered prepared to help the farm manager adjust in the most efcient manner possible. Those types of on-the-spot decision can be the difference in an operation’s cash ow and success.” Despite their listening skills, crop consultants, however, are not expected to be passive observers. Many farms contract consultants because they are encountering serious problems for which they have neither the manpower nor the technical background to handle. “To avoid having to hire fulltime agronomists,” Dr. Kastens adds, “farm managers hire crop consultants to ease labor situations during par-
ticularly critical growing periods.” He also suggests that consultants often ll a gap where farmers concede they have little experience or lack the technical skills. Dr. Dhuyvetter likens the use of agronomy consultants to having an accountant or hiring a tax consultant or bringing in a veterinarian. Crop consultants are valuable not only for what they know but also for what they have seen. “Consultants can provide more accurate recommendations,” Dr. Kastens explains, “because they are seeing many more agronomic situations on a regular basis, and they tend to have a broad network of specialists they can call on for opinions and assessments.” The Crop Quest staff of precision agriculture experts does not limit its consulting activity strictly to row crops on irrigated farms. Hal Palenske runs a feedlot in eastern Kansas and depends on Crop Quest’s Grant Havel to help with his USDA-mandated Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for the displacement and distribution of manure. “A big benet he brings,” says Palenske, “is the soil testing so we can apply the feedlot manure in accordance with NMP guidelines.” Havel also samples water from the lagoons and provides Palenske with routine soil/water phosphorus level reports. Another key valueadded contribution to the feedlot operation, Palenske emphasizes, is the record keeping programs Crop Quest has developed for his business. The feedlot business is not the only thing keeping Palenske busy. For the last eight years, his business also includes a 1,000-acre farming operation. “We haul a lot of manure from the feedlot to the farm,” Palenske notes. “We rely on Grant’s recommendations to stay within NMP compliance as we recycle the manure from the feedlot. GRANT HAVEL The way we look at it,” Palenske concludes, “is when you take your crop consultant’s advice and don’t have to purchase fertilizer to get bumper crops, you know you’re getting good advice. That’s why we look at Grant as more than a trained crop consultant – he’s a valuable member of our team and we take his advice seriously.”
LINES OF COMMUNICATION:
KEYS TO SUCCESS All of us have relationships we deal with everyday which require various levels of communication. Whether it be a husband and wife, parent and child, supervisor and employee, or agronomist and producer. In all instances, if lines of communication are not kept open these relationships can become strained and sometimes even broken down completely. By: Chris McInteer Division Manager As a Crop Quest agronomist, our main focus Silver Lake, Kan. needs to be in developing and maintaining good clear lines of communication with our producers to make sure both parties have a mutual understanding of the goals and direction intended. Just as all the members of a good football team follow the same playbook, so goes the relationship with an agronomist and producer. They must both “be on the same page” when it comes to making the key decisions during a growing season.
Crop Quest Perspectives
An agronomist must also be able to foster and maintain multiple lines of communication within his/her trade area to ultimately lead to success. Agronomists need to have working relationships with local fertilizer and seed dealers, implement dealers, chemical representatives, and others with direct ties to agriculture. These are sources of information that can help an agronomist be more efcient and better able to provide timely and benecial expertise. By maintaining these various lines of communication an agronomist has the ability to help a producer nd a specic variety of seed that may be in short supply, locate a certain type of tillage equipment, or know of some information that may help in the performance of a planter or grain drill. All these different resources of knowledge can be very benecial when utilized. Keeping these resources accessible is very important. The old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” can be a very important key to success.
CROP QUEST: As one of the largest independent crop consulting rms in the country – a top priority for Crop Quest is to maintain a staff of highly procient and technically qualied agronomists. To attract and train the best talent in the industry, Crop Quest conducts year round recruiting and summer internship programs. Interns learn the ropes working alongside Crop Quest’s seasoned professional
Cultivates The Best and The Brightest Agronomists
crop consultants. But coming from the nation’s best agricultural schools, they also bring important insights and perspective based on the latest research and technology they have picked up at their institutions. Early this year, Crop Quest brought on three agronomists to help our clients get the most out of their crops and business.
Brad Harding will denitely have a unique perspective to offer the farmers as he works out of the Dodge City headquarters ofce. Harding, who grew up in Northeast Oklahoma and worked with a small herd of cattle, received his degree in Wildlife Studies at Oklahoma State University, graduating in December. The program included a heavy syllabus of crop science, and he draws some similarities in how farmers have to be adaptable to changing conditions just as wildlife reacts to its changing habitat. The language might be a little different, he points out, but in the end it’s about creating better habitat for crops and wildlife. “Wildlife,” he says, “is constantly forced to be adaptable in different situations, to adapt different strategies to overcome the obstacles.” That is the attitude he expects to apply to his work as a crop consultant.
Nicolas Martin recently graduated from Fort Hays State University with a degree in General Agricultural Studies and will be working in Crop Quest’s Ulysses Division in Southwest Kansas. His territory covers the Oklahoma Panhandle north to Deereld, KS and into some parts of Colorado. Martin will be based out of Hugoton, KS, where he grew up working with cattle and spending some time in the feedlots. He emphasizes his academic major involved general agriculture, and he says, “I am looking forward to helping farmers improve their corn, wheat, milo, alfalfa and soybean production.” Martin is eager to meet new clients this spring and get out in the elds.
Justin Stoerner also joined Crop Quest in January after graduating from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX, with an Agricultural Business degree. His alma mater is part of the Texas A&M system and is known for its interdisciplinary research center developing solutions to environmental problems in agriculture. Stoerner was raised in the Texas Panhandle and will be responsible for further developing Crop Quest’s activity there as well as in Central Texas and New Mexico. “I grew up on a cotton farm and raised Angus cattle,” he says, “so I have a special interest in cotton, but I’ll be dealing with ‘solids’ like corn, alfalfa, hay and silage.”
Mission Statement Crop Quest is an employee-owned company dedicated to providing the highest quality agricultural services for each customer. The quest of our network of professionals is to practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound.
Crop Quest Agronomic Services, Inc. Main Ofce: Phone 620.225.2233 Fax 620.225.3199 Internet: www.cropquest.com cqof[email protected]
Crop Quest Board of Directors President: Director: Director: Director: Director: Director:
Ron O’Hanlon Jim Gleason Dwight Koops Cort Minor Chris McInteer Rob Benyshek
“Employee-Owned & Customer Driven”
PRSRT STD US POSTAGE PAID DODGE CITY KS PERMIT NO. 433