A Farmer’s Perspective: Another Year Focused on Improvement
This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.
The turn of the year is time for reflection and nowhere is that more true than on the farm. With harvest completed, most equipment cleaned, repaired and stored for the winter, on our farm, we are pouring over yield data, notes from last year’s planting and growing season challenges. We are considering investments in our tractors and equipment. Can the corn head hold on for one more season? Would a tractor on tracks make harvest more efficient? We are meeting with seed and chemical company representatives, talking through new approaches to old problems that include weed, disease and insect pressure in our fields.
While many people look to a new year as a new beginning, on the farm we see it more as part of the cycle that drives our business. From seasons to finances, new things in farming don’t necessarily come about just because the calendar turned over. Years of research and field trials precede adoption of anything new on a mass scale.
Therefore for us this year is shaping up to be another year focused on improvement.
We grow both GMO and non-GMO seed corn. Regardless of its traits and the label applied, seed corn requires particular care and attention, because in the field we cross pollinate two in-breds to make a hybrid. In-breds are more susceptible to disease and other pressures. Last spring we began to apply in-furrow fungicide with our seed corn. In-furrow fungicide will protect the vulnerable seedling from various blights that can attack while it sits in the cool, often wet spring soil.
Applying fungicide in-furrow required new equipment on our planter. The Dosatron injects the right amount of fungicide directly into a stream of water that hits the ground and the seed as it is placed in the furrow. Prior to the Dosatron, fungicide could not applied in this manner. Instead, the seedlings were at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Seeds, seedlings and the adult plant must fight weeds for soil nutrients, sunlight and water. Controlling weeds in a large field requires more than a garden hoe. Genetically engineered hybrids and varieties have given farmers more “modes of action” or options to control weeds among other things.
In 2017, we are planting a new genetically engineered soybean variety called LibertyLink. LibertyLink soybeans give us the option to apply the herbicide, Liberty, as well as other herbicides we have used in the past. By adding just one more trait to this soybean variety, farmers have yet another option for battling weed resistance and succeeding at weed control.
Each year we recommit to doing better than before. Sometimes that means we add exciting new software, purchase a newer tractor or even add acres to the farm. Other years, the changes are more subtle like honing a new application process or adding a different variety to the mix.
I asked my farm boy, 11 years old, what he was looking forward to in the next year. Shrugging his shoulders, he delivered a typical pre-teen answer, but one indicative of his passion for farming. “Just doing it all again, Mom.”