Harvesting More than Yield

Published Nov 28, 2022 

There’s one thing time, soil, and money all seem to have in common…they’re all disappearing faster than we’d like them to. As farmers, we need soil to make money and we need time to improve soil, but unfortunately money can’t buy us back any of our lost soil or time. So we’ve got to be diligent about choosing the right path forward to slow the disappearance of all three.

We sat down with Monte Bottens, northwest Illinois farmer and Founder/CEO of Ag Solutions Network to have a conversation about 2022 harvest and his diligence with prioritizing soil health on their farm.

“It's all connected,” he said, “the crop’s health, our livestock health, and our health. It all starts with what’s happening below the surface and as farmers, we’ve got to pay better attention to how we impact the ground we rely on. It matters more than yield and bushels do,” Monte said.

“You’ve got to wrap your head around the fact that nothing happens overnight. Adjustments I made three days ago and changes I made three years ago both bring new issues to light as often as the sun comes up. But for me, solving some of those issues and figuring out the next right step is what has made farming fun again,” Monte said.

2022 Harvest at Bottens Family Farm.
2022 Harvest at Bottens Family Farm. Photo courtesy of Robyn Bottens.

From monocultures to decades of deep tillage, the farming industry has become so efficient and focused on what’s going to maximize yield that many farmers and ranchers can’t see the forest through the trees. We know things like loss of topsoil, nutrient availability, erosion, and poor water infiltration are REAL problems. We also know those problems have REAL solutions and that’s where Ag Solutions Network (ASN) is here to help. Monte explained,

“We’re in the business of shifting the mindset and helping farmers bring their soil back to its glory days while maintaining profitability.”

Not only does ASN offer a lineup of biologically based plant nutrition products designed to work together to optimize plant and soil health, but “we also bring experience and know-how for adoption of regenerative practices to the table,” Monte said.

A common observation from Monte and the ASN network of leaders is that some mistakes lead to discovery and those mistakes can shape a redesign, bring about a new idea or simply become a learning experience that impact the next harvest and generations to come. “Sharing that knowledge we’ve gained over the years is truly one of the only ways we’ll be able to move the needle on regenerative adoption.”

But as exciting as it has been to see the improvements in the quality of soil and crops over the years, Monte recognizes it still all boils down to being able to turn a profit. “It’s about profit per acre, not just yield, first off,” he said. “I think we have to look at premium opportunities on the crops that we grow. So whether it's a commodity crop, produce, almonds or whatever, all of them have the ability to get premiums related to soil health or the production practices we’re doing; regenerative or whatever it is.”

Bottens Family Farm brings in their 2022 harvest.

Monte added that the market is demanding more and more transparency to how their food is grown. “People want it,” he said. “There are opportunities for that – Opportunities to increase our revenue streams…but we have to be aggressive in looking for them.”

Harvesting More than Yield

He also mentioned programs such as RIPE100 coming down the pipeline and the Pheasants Forever program already operating in a few Midwest states. It’s these types of financial incentives that can help growers continue down the path of soil health and conservation efforts.

“I honestly think the ecosystem portion of what farmers do is going to be a significant revenue stream in the future,” he said. “Not just a nice little additive revenue stream. You talk about that RIPE at $100/acre, that’s real money in commodity acres. We need to stack those opportunities.”

Monte said it’s all about lowering cost per acre and increasing revenue per acre. “Revenue is a function of yield and price, I think we tend to forget that not all price is the same anymore and there are more and more opportunities for better prices all the time.” Growing non-GMO beans for instance has added an opportunity for his farm to increase profits by selling at a premium and lowering input cost since non-GMO seed is less expensive to buy.

Additionally, on the input side, Monte explains that, “improving your soil health and applying proper nutrition with bio-stimulants that are helping to speed up the process of changing the soil environment can also lead to decreased input costs in the long run.” By feeding and stimulating the beneficial microbes that are already in your soil, you’re improving nutrient cycling and creating a healthier environment to grow a healthier more resilient plant. Healthy plants are not as susceptible to insect and disease pressure which reduces the need for chemical applications. Additionally, this boost to the soil system helps avoid the yield drag that tends to accompany making tillage or other practice changes needed to improve soil health.

Sound crazy? Maybe so. But no matter where a grower wants to start making a change, ASN is committed to meet farmers where they are, and then work together to stop farming the same, and to farm better, together. Our dealers help growers shift to making profit per acre increases possible by providing POWER2GRO crop nutrition with macro, micro and biologically based fertilizer packages for season-long success.

Ag Solutions Network is here to help at each step along the way by providing:

  • Customizable product solutions
  • Nutrient management
  • No-till, strip-till, or minimal till leadership
  • Water and irrigation recommendations
  • Cover crop selection advice
  • Equipment guidance
  • Crop rotation or intercropping ideas
  • Livestock integration experience

If you’re ready to put soil health in competition with yield, get in touch with Ag Solutions Network.

Farm Management Soil Health Sustainable Agriculture