It's that time of year again where planting prep is on the brain. Soon, things will be waking up from the doldrums of Winter...the grass will be greening up, pollen will be falling everywhere and even an occasional snake will show up...not to mention snake-oil salesmen (kidding, kind of). When the weather warms up, there will be an urge to get back into the field and to get outside and do the part of farming that everyone loves.
For almost every farmer, the idea of Spring is one of hope and excitement with the opportunity to get back outside and resume stewarding the land which they've been entrusted.
For the seasoned farmer, warm weather is a signal that means it's time to get back into the fields. Our minds shift from focusing on long terms goals and business planning, to work that's left to be done to get our equipment field ready. Often times however, when focusing on the details of our spring planting operation, we fail to put the proper focus or time on what could arguably be called the most important decision that you make each year...what varieties of each crop to plant in each field. I know, I know, if the planter isn't fully setup and ready to go next week when there's moisture and the soil temperature is perfect, then it won't matter what variety you plant. I hear you.
But consider this:
- On Clemson's Pee Dee Dry-Land Corn OVT's, the difference between the top performing variety and the mean of those tested was 34 bushels, or using $4 corn, $136/ acre.
- On NC State's Statewide Group Soybean OVT's, the difference was roughly 10 bu per acre or using $10 beans, $100/ acre.
- At Tennessee's dryland OVT plots for Cotton the difference in lint yield was 156 lbs or $109/acre using a price of $.70 cotton.
Go check variety trials on almost any crop at almost any comprehensive university trial and you'll see the same thing. On irrigated crops, the difference is even more magnified. To put this into perspective, if you are farming 1000 acres, the difference between choosing the optimal variety and choosing an average variety could be over $100,000 profit for your farming operation.
That is the $100,000 decision. So before you get busy on the minutia of planting preparations and pass off your seeding decisions your local dealer, take the time and do this right. Grab a cup of coffee, turn your phone off and do the work yourself. You know your land better than anyone. Determining what varieties to plant where may well be the most important decision you make on your farm this year and surely can be the most profitable. Here's to a good planting season for everyone.