Build Your Nutrient Data

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a target on your back! Our modern crop production system is on a collision course with the non-farming public who are becoming more removed from farming with each generation. Many outside of agriculture, including regulators, associate high-yield crop production with being environmentally reckless.

The EPA and states located in the Upper Mississippi watershed are developing strategies to deal with nutrient water quality issues. Even if you don’t farm within this watershed, your farmland is located in another watershed. Every grower needs to be involved in this issue.

As the debate heats up and you find yourself attending meetings addressing how you manage nutrients, you will likely hear the term, “nutrient use efficiency” (NUE). In the case of nutrients, like N, NUE is a data calculation that Premier Crop has used since our start: total “pounds of applied N per bushel of corn produced.” I like to think of the NUE discussion as “how can I squeeze the most possible yield out of every pound of N I apply?”

Future NUE discussions may be driven by environmental concerns, but our drive has also been increasing growers’ profitability though more efficient nutrient use. We believe that your dat is a vital part to having the best of both worlds – producing high yields and being an environmental steward.


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In a column that has national reach, it’s difficult to address any specific nutrient management solution because it changes dramatically by local areas. In the Upper Midwest, we are blessed with highly productive soils that are high in organic matter.

Recent university studies show that on average, 50% to 70% of the N that feeds our crop is soil-supplied, not fertilizer-supplied! This means we need to better understand the differences in N-supplying abilities of different management zones in our fields, across farming operations and throughout local areas.

As the late management guru W.Edwards Deming said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” A great starting place for using your data to manage N is calculating your NUE (total “pounds of N per bushel produced”) for each field and by N-management system. Another starting place is to put higher and lower N-rate Learning Blocks within a field’s management zones – the high check Learning Block being 30 pounds more N, and the lower check bing 30 pounds less.

Where is your baseline on becoming a better nutrient steward? Your answer should be your data. What better way to find out the truth about how nutrient efficient you are than digging deeper into your yield, soil test, management zone and applied fertilizer data?

Throughout this column we refer to your data being critical to solving problems, but what may be missed is the word “your.” Understanding that your data is yours, and yours only, is of great importance. There is nothing anonymous about GPS data. Be careful – don’t volunteer your data unless you’re sure of the benefit.


1. What is your “average pounds of N per bushel” for each of your fields? What are the year-to-year trends? Can you use your data to measure NUE difference within your fields?

2. What other data relates to NUE in your fields? Soils? Organic Matter? Cation-exchange capacity? Management zones? Soil test levels of other nutrients? Past manure applications?

Originally published in Corn and Soybean Digest.

Compare Real Benchmarks

Telling customers they are underperforming never seemed like a great business model to me. Benchmarking can have that exact effect – 60% aren’t performing well if you remember teachers grading on the curve back in school. Those at the top of the curve might enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they are the stars, but how do you gently push the below-average customers to step up their game?

I understand that benchmarking can be used effectively, but I also know sometimes it hurts. An example of benchmarking many can relate to is the medical community’s use of BMI(Body Mass Index). At my height of six feet two inches, my weight bounces from 220 to 214 pounds, so I move from one benchmarking category to another, leading my very slender, young(and blunt) doctor to proclaim, “Congratulations, you’ve moved from obese to grossly overweight.” I need to get below 190 pounds to reach “normal.”

Benchmarking can serve the purpose of providing as a kick in the pants to exercise more and eat less. The problem with agronomic benchmarking is that the solutions to reaching better numbers aren’t as obvious as exercising and eating less.

When seed companies tell you that the genetic potential of a bag of seed corn is 500 bushels per acre it starts going downhill once you open the bag, it’s almost implied that you are the one who is failing to perform.

Comparing my yields to others in counties I farm might be OK unless I farm the poorest soils in each county; then I might resent someone pointing out the obvious – that my yields are below average. Comparing my yields to those of others who farm the same soils in my part of the state is better, but being labeled in the bottom quartile isn’t fair if I didn’t get similar rainfall. Even if both soils and weather are similar, what about rotations? What about cost of production? maybe all those higher yields came with high production costs.

So what are the keys to meaningful agronomic benchmarking? I’d suggest these as a few of the important keys:

  1. Realistically quantify the growing environment to get closer to an apples-to-apples comparison.
  2. Look long term – for trends over multiple years. Everyone has a great or bad year once in a while, but looking at longer-term trends is more meaningful.
  3. The more depth of data the more value in benchmarking. Depth will provide you with more confidence in the comparison, as well as some answers.

The best benchmarking services don’t just tell you where you rank – they also tell you why. What does the data say you need to change to perform better or keep doing to stay on top?

Compare Apple to Apples

You are likely asked for next years seed order many times before harvest even begins. In that case, one of the first decisions you probably will make using your yield data is which numbers to plant the following year.

Seed plots serve as away to visually see new and current hybrids, making you knee-deep in plot results and “percent of wins” data. But in most cases, your own results and experiences will trump plot books and seed guides.

The basic idea of a plot is to test the genetic potential of a hybrid or variety in a growing environment where other variables are controlled and non-yield-limiting. The results are uniform, Well-drained, fertile plots that frequently don’t resemble the diverse environments that you farm. Because of that, your own data is a great starting place.

As you spend time analyzing your data, you will start to understand that sometimes tables of different varieties are”apples to oranges” comparisons, creating the need to dig deeper. For example, by looking at this “Yield by hybrid” chart, a grower may think the red hybrid is the clear winner. However, if you dig deeper into the data, such as analyzing yield by hybrid by soil type, like in the bar chart, you will notice the red hybrid was not the best when it was in the Alda soil type.

There are other factors you can find when digging though data to make fair comparisons. Consider why one hybrid did better than another. The reality is that some hybrids get the benefit of being in the best possible situation on the best ground, and some get the worst. Strive to identify and more accurately place your genetics.

For example, place the racehorse numbers in the ideal environment and the defensive numbers in less than ideal environments.

The key is to never stop digging for the answer to “why?” It is easy  in all data analysis to have “apples to oranges” comparisons and take data at surface value, but the key to good analysis is to keep digging deeper to get fair comparisons, thus creating the most educated and profitable agronomic decisions.

Remove the Guessing and Make Data Driven Decisions

As farmers face another year with challenging markets and high inputs, we as agronomic advisors continue to work with our clients in order to find where we can remove some of the guessing when it comes to the decision-making process of planning another season. It comes as no surprise to anyone that is involved in Agriculture that many areas saw higher than normal precipitation in 2018.

The map below shows the state of Iowa and the departure from normal in inches of rainfall in 2018.

2018 high percipitation

(source:  parameters from last year versus normal rainfall.)

Unfortunately, this did lead to some areas of drown outs and low yielding areas in fields. Thus, there were many areas that had little if any removals of nutrients but many growers will treat those areas the same as areas that yielded well in the field. This is just one of many examples where VRT and precision agriculture can save the grower on inputs across their farms. It is important to look not just at soil sampling and soil types but also historical yield when deciding on proper recommendations for the field. At Premier Crop, it is important to us to treat every field individually and not look at those fields in a cookie cutter style approach. Premier Crop has an extensive database with over 20 years’ worth of observations.

It is important to look at the return on investment for not just for every field or every acre, but what it is actually taking to produce every bushel. We are able to take all of the costs that are provided and quantify the grower’s yields with those costs. Does it make sense to continue to treat historically poor yielding ground the same as historically high yielding ground? Would your inputs be better spent if focused slightly more on ground that has more yield potential? It is important to us that we treat every acre in an unbiased way, as if we are farming it ourselves, and the data allows us to do that.

The example below shows a field that has been put into three different zones of productivity based upon fertility and historical yield.


We then break that out further and show how each zone did on a per bushel basis with all the costs entered. As you can see we dropped our rates in the least productive zone because it didn’t show the same ability to produce as the other two management zones.


This is a great example how Premier Crop uses data to prove profitability. It’s time to stop guessing and use your data to make profitable decisions.

More Data Helps Data Driven Decisions

At this time of the year, it’s easy to feel like yields are largely a function of weather – temperature and rainfall. Over the years in hundreds of grower meetings, I’ve heard that sentiment repeatedly. If you are inclined to think that way, think about this scenario.

Imagine a flat 160-acre field in your area, farmed by the same grower for 30 years, is going to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The field is unique in that it is all one soil type (I know there is no such field in most acres – but we’re pretending so please play along). Pushing for the highest value, the auctioneer splits the field into two side-by-side 80 acre tracts – selling the field first as two 80’s and then as a 160.

The price received as two 80’s is higher, so the next year two different growers farm each of the 80’s. The entire field was soybeans the year before, so both growers plant corn in their first year farming their new purchase.

Both will receive the same growing degree units and virtually the exact same rainfall. How much yield difference could there be between each of these two 80’s the following harvest?

Over the years, I’ve used this example with growers in small group meetings and usually the answer is in the 40-50 bushel per acre range – sometimes as high as 75-80 bushels per acre difference!

How can there be that much difference? Simple. It’s because management matters!! And the purpose of this column is to encourage you to use your agronomic and economic data to make better management decisions.

We’ve seen it over and over again – similar soils and weather but dramatic differences in results. Usually it’s not one decision but the combination of multiple decisions. This chart is one example:

determine seed selection by soil type

Hybrid and variety selection – it is common to find 20-30 bushels per acre differences on the same soil type and same weather events. A starting place is looking at your own hybrid and variety performance data by soils – both at a field level and across all your entire operation.

Your data can be a guide for not only making next year’s hybrid and variety selection but also where to place specific genetics.

The more data you collect, the more you can make data driven decisions! Applied fertility rates, planting dates, planter performance, trait packages, soil test levels and planting populations are examples of some of the critical agronomic decisions you make every year.

You might be able to hold Mother Nature accountable for the first 50% or even 75% of your yield results, but the other half or less (and all the profit) is your responsibility!

Farm Finance Featured on the Farm 4 Profit Podcast

“We have growers who tell us that we’re helping them with their economics, which helps convince their lender to give them the full operating line.”
Dan Frieberg

On this episode of the Premier Podcast, Dan Frieberg interviews the Farm 4 Profit show. Make sure to subscribe to their show at We hope you enjoy the conversation:

TANNER WINTERHOF: All right, welcome back to another Farm 4 Profit episode. This is Tanner Winterhof.

DAVID WHITAKER: And this is David Whitaker.

TANNER WINTERHOF: Dave, we got a little advice from a couple of peers as we put this podcast together that it would be helpful if we identified ourselves at the beginning of each episode. So, for a new listener, I’m Tanner. This is the voice of Tanner, and I’m a banker in central Iowa.

DAVID WHITAKER: And I’m David, and I am a farmland sales auctioneer and a real estate agent in central Iowa, as well.

TANNER WINTERHOF: So, thank you, new listeners, for joining us. We really appreciate you checking in. We’ve got a little bit of an interesting time this year. We started out with the coronavirus. We had some weather events. We’ve got inland hurricanes. We’ve got regular hurricanes. We’ve got droughts. Everything’s all storming together, but we’re going to focus on something a little bit more exciting today. We’re going to jump right into what’s working in ag. Don’t you think, Dave?

DAVID WHITAKER: I think so. We’ll just call it hashtag 2020.

TANNER WINTERHOF: That’s all we got.

Farm 4 profit podcast focus on farm finance

DAVID WHITAKER: That’s what we’ll call it. We have a guest today. Who is our guest, Tanner?

TANNER WINTERHOF: We’ve got Dan Frieberg, and he is here to share with us a little bit about what’s working for ag in his company. A really neat background. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, graduated from Iowa State University. His career includes wholesale fertilizer sales, retail management. He also served as the CEO of the Iowa Fertilizer and Chemical Association, later the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, and other business consulting. One of his favorite beverages, if not the favorite beverage of Dan, can you believe this, is Diet Pepsi.

DAVID WHITAKER: There you go.

TANNER WINTERHOF: But what does this have to do with farming? What do you think?

DAVID WHITAKER: I tell you it has a lot to do with farming. So, Dan, tell us. I’m glad to see you’re an Iowa State grad. I’m glad to see you’re from Iowa. Anything we missed there, other than a good hair day and the Diet Pepsi thing?

DAN FRIEBERG: I think you got it nailed.

DAVID WHITAKER: Okay, great. Well, welcome Dan. Do you live currently in Iowa, still?

DAN FRIEBERG: Yep, just south of Des Moines.

DAVID WHITAKER: I got ya. And so, tell me a little bit about your company. What exactly do you do?

DAN FRIEBERG: We take agronomic data, help growers with agronomic data that they’re collecting to provide analytics and economics with farm finance. Then, that analytics turns into advice and an action plan for the following year. Most of what we do ends up with a variable-rate prescription that goes in a piece of equipment, whether it’s the grower’s equipment or it could be a retailer’s equipment.

DAVID WHITAKER: So, you’re basically working with the farm data. “Farm Data is the currency of the internet” is what I always tell Tanner. And you are taking that farm data, and then you are helping the farmer probably spend less money by doing variable rate throughout the field or making tough decisions to plant or not plant or certain things. That’s what I’m gathering. Is that correct?

DAN FRIEBERG: I don’t think we ever save growers money. I think that’s one of the mistakes that a lot of people made in precision ag in the early years. We’re 20-some years into this, and a lot of the early messaging was around saving growers money. And I think that’s an unfulfilled promise. In the case of variable-rate lime, it is something that we do that saves the grower money on liming costs. But, most of the time, I think what we do is, rather than positioning it as saving the grower money, it’s about investing within parts of fields to get a higher return. So, instead of treating the whole field as though it’s the same, it’s about identifying areas that are capable of producing more and more efficiently. And then in other areas, it could be that that’s where you save them money because it just doesn’t make sense to continue to invest.

TANNER WINTERHOF: I grabbed it right off the website that Premier Crop was established in 1999. And what it says right there is this: “They enable the growers to think deeper about their data.” So, what I grabbed from that is using that variable-rate technology. The way to make that pay is not necessarily saving money but maybe reallocating those input dollars to site-specific areas, to where you could probably get a better return on your investment than where they might’ve just been blanketly broadcasted.

DAN FRIEBERG: Yep, I think that’s exactly right. I think maybe the other thing that we do differently is we have the ability to combine agronomics and economics. Right now, it’s really difficult to make money in a lot of areas. If we’re spending more in one part of the field, we’re able to actually tie the cost, the added costs that we’re investing in that part of the field, to the analysis. So, at the end of the year, we’re able to really deliver what we’re branding as a yield efficiency score, which is just dollar-per-acre return to land and management. For us, it’s about what’s been missing. We think there’s too much focus on just agronomics and not economics. I think right now, especially growers, they appreciate the focus on economics to help with farm finance. We like to say everything agronomic is economic.

farm finance and profits

DAVID WHITAKER: Gotcha. So, that’s a new term for me, the yield efficiency score that you have. Tell me a little bit more. Is it 100 is the best and zero is the worst, or how does your scoring system work?

DAN FRIEBERG: No, it’s really just dollar-per-acre return to land and management.


DAN FRIEBERG: It’s yield, and yield is tracked, obviously, with the yield monitor, a calibrated yield monitor. So, it’s yield at a benchmark selling price that the grower gets to set minus what they spent on nutrients, seed, crop protection and field operations. It’s kind of what’s left over. When a grower sees a yield efficiency score of $400, and they know they got $275 in land cost, then they immediately understand what’s left, the return to them for farm management.

Premier Crop Yield efficiency score

TANNER WINTERHOF: So, if we’ve got a listener here who hasn’t been using variable-rate technology before as part of their operation, is that a large hurdle to overcome? Or do they pretty much have the technology on most of these farms to be able to implement that?

DAN FRIEBERG: Tanner, I think if $7 corn did anything for us, it was that there was a lot of investment in new technology in the cab. When we had that run-up in prices and in profitability, growers put a lot and they invested heavily in upgrading planters. In the process of what happened during that time period, there’s a lot of technology in the cab, but there’s a lot of growers who aren’t necessarily using farm data to the full advantage. They have the technology. They have the ability to do it. They haven’t started because they don’t know how, and they’re looking for solutions.

DAVID WHITAKER: You said $7 corn. A lot of people updated their equipment there. But, for our newbie farmer that’s out there, or even somebody that’s been doing it, if they’re in an older combine, whatever it may be, and they decide they want to upgrade and be able to use your systems, is there a minimum-like entry? Something that they’re going to need for farm equipment?

DAN FRIEBERG: For us, we use the yield monitor as a way of measuring, measuring whether what we did was the right thing.

DAVID WHITAKER: Do they have to have a WAAS GPS or a certain sub-inch or anything there?

DAN FRIEBERG: No, just a GPS, a yield monitor with a GPS receiver.

DAVID WHITAKER: Okay, fair enough.

TANNER WINTERHOF: Pretty simple to get in there. So, Premier Crop Systems really allows that farmer to really get the investment that they put into that technology and put it to work. You guys can really work with them to use the existing equipment that they have to their full potential. One of the other things that I had come across when I was reading is it really keeps that farmer from farming on averages. You really come down and do check blocks and break that field out into, I call them, profit zones, but maybe you have a different term. Could you explain what you do when you break a farm down?

DAN FRIEBERG: Yeah, a lot of times that is what we do. We just try to identify, whether it’s management zones. We’re bringing a new version of that, which is performance zones, but it’s really trying to identify like-agronomic environments or unique agronomic environments within fields. It’s very much not treating it all like it’s the same. Tanner, within every field, growers will tell you there’s a sweet spot.


DAN FRIEBERG: Every grower who’s had a yield monitor has seen 80-90 bushel beans. They’ve seen greater than 100 bushel beans, and they just wish they could figure out what it was about that spot that made it so great. And that’s kind of what we try to help them do, identify those really high-yielding sweet spots, and a lot of times those are the ones that will respond the most to additional input investment. And then, conversely, there are areas that just don’t yield as consistently, and we try to solve the problem of whatever it is. We try to use farm data to help coach them on whatever those areas are. You’re in Huxley, and there’s a lot of potholes. There’s that north-central Iowa area. There are low areas. In wet years, they drown out. In dry years, they’re the highest yielding. They tend to be organic matter rich and nutrient rich because of all the years that they didn’t produce a crop. So, they’ll do great. They’ll do great in a dry year, but a lot of times we don’t invest near as much in inputs in those areas.

TANNER WINTERHOF: Yeah, take advantage of the resources that we have there.

DAN FRIEBERG: Tanner, the time is right, but it is tight on the farm. It’s really difficult to make money. That’s why farm finance and combining agronomics and economics is so important.


DAN FRIEBERG: We have growers who tell us that some of this economic stuff we’re helping them with is what’s helping them convince their lender to give them the full operating line. So, we’re all about helping growers step up their game, and we know how difficult it is on everybody’s part.


DAN FRIEBERG: You guys don’t remember. I lived through the farm crisis of the 80s, and I was helping growers get financing. It was a dark and ugly time.

TANNER WINTERHOF: One of the things that I’ve noticed in the financing industry is that we have had more people utilizing creative financing methods, combining the dealer financing on their seed, getting some chem finance through their supplier, rather than getting their full operating through the bank. And part of that is our fault. We do get a little bit more conservative if we don’t have accurate records. So, I could see where Premier Crop Systems is valuable. And the fact that you can show me that, “Hey, we’ve got a plan. If mother nature cooperates halfway, we’re going to be able to put this plan to work and get us at least a crop that we can sell.”

DAN FRIEBERG: You guys know it because you’re interacting with growers. It’s a really high-stress time. When you see the farm suicide rate spiking, it’s reminiscent of just all the stress that’s going on with a lot of operations.

TANNER WINTERHOF: So, have you been advising any of your clients on what to do after the crop insurance adjuster shows up? Are you able to kind of help with a profitability calculation based upon what they’re learning after the derecho?

DAN FRIEBERG: Yeah, I mean it’s going to be difficult, like Corey will tell you. It’s going to be really difficult to get great data when you’re harvesting down corn. It really makes it difficult to have as much confidence in the data. It’s a struggle that way. Tanner, we’re right in the middle of it already because we’re starting to get ready for fall fertilizer prescriptions. If you’re not harvesting a crop, you’ve got nutrients that are in that crop that are going to get returned. So, you’re factoring that into your nutrient investment for next year, and so people are going to spend less on nutrients probably. But you’re trying to make sure you don’t short yourself in an area where you really need fertilizer manure to make it pay. It’s already started.

TANNER WINTERHOF: I’ve already heard guys talking that they might not be able to do as much corn on corn as they wanted to for fear of a volunteer coming up. Yeah, a lot of things are up in the air. I just got off the phone with a commodities broker who stated he’s got clients that just don’t know what to do. They’re in a limbo, waiting for the adjuster to show up, waiting for crops to dry down, waiting to find out what their options are.

DAVID WHITAKER: It’s an emotional roller coaster.

TANNER WINTERHOF: Yeah, any type of advice that they can get from a trusted advisor will go a long way.

DAVID WHITAKER: Yeah, it makes for an interesting year.

TANNER WINTERHOF: Well, Dan, I really thank you for joining us. I’m going to summarize real quick, and then let me know if we missed anything or if you want to share anything else. But we’ve got Dan Frieberg with Premier Crop Systems on the phone today, helping us out with our “What’s Working in Ag” segment. The company, started in 1999, enables growers to think deeper and utilize their data to make better agronomic decisions from that detailed data itself. They put the technology investments that you’ve already got on your farm to work for you. They want to make sure that you don’t think about farming on the average. Get down to a profit zone by profit zone analyst and management style, and then make sure that if you have a farm that is set up to where variable rate can pay, that it is not necessarily, Dave, the concept of saving you money. It’s more allocating those resources into a better part of the field that might make you more on the profit side. How did I do, Dan?

DAN FRIEBERG: You did perfect.

RENEE HANSEN: Thanks for listening to the Premier Podcast, where everything agronomic is economic. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast so we can continue to provide the best precision ag and analytic results for you. And to learn more about Premier Crop, visit our blog at

Benefits to Using your Yield Monitor

“You’re capable of using your yield monitor to measure,
do trials and check if your plan actually worked.
It’s so much easier than it used to be.” – Dan Frieberg

RENEE HANSEN: Today, we’re talking with Dan Frieberg, and we’re talking about yield monitors and how Premier Crop can help support a grower while utilizing their yield monitor. Dan, can you just explain a little bit about how growers can notice differences in the field, whether it’s a good spot or a bad spot?

DAN FRIEBERG: What’s happened over the last 22 years, since we’ve been in business, is yield monitors have become really commonplace. Almost every combine now would have a yield monitor, but, Renee, a lot of growers don’t really use them very effectively. It’s almost like some people use it just as a way to measure moisture, to keep track of moisture and direct grain. It’s where the grain is going based on moisture. Somebody else described yield monitors as “Harvest TV.” It’s just something they look at as they go through the field. Renee, I would tell you that every grower has seen 90-bushel beans, and every grower has seen upward to 250-bushel to 300-bushel corn in some part of the field. They’ve seen those numbers flash in good years. They’ve seen those numbers flash on the yield monitor. And, for me, if I’m a grower, what I want to do is, if I had the time — I mean, if it weren’t so rushed in harvest — I would love to stop the combine and figure out what in the world is going on in that part of the field. What makes that part of the field so much more productive than the rest of the field?

When they go through the really low-yielding parts of the field, generally, they have an idea already. They remember the growing season. They saw that area. It had weed escapes, or it was moisture-stressed. So, a lot of times, they know because of soil differences. They know the lower-yielding areas. Sometimes, though, with the super high-yielding areas, they’re unsure. They know their sweet spots in the field, but they don’t know what makes them a sweet spot. So, one of the foundation pieces that we like to do with yield monitor data is just put that data file, the yield monitor data file, together with a whole bunch of other layers of data and really try to help the grower see the differences in the field beyond. The yield monitor tells a story, but you really don’t get the complete story until you combine it with the rest of the data. So, for us, it’s a big foundational piece, but a lot of growers aren’t using their yield data. I think it’s just because nobody’s ever led them to understand how they could use it, all the different ways they could use the yield data to their advantage.

RENEE HANSEN: I was riding in the tractor earlier this fall with my husband, and his dad was running the combine. His dad was seeing 90-bushel beans, and the field actually ended up doing record-high soybean yield in his lifetime. And he’s 73, and he’s never seen beans that high. And so, you mentioned you would want to stop. What would you do if you weren’t so rushed? What would you do to stop and look at, when seeing the yield monitor hit 90 in beans?

premiercrop in the tractor

DAN FRIEBERG: For me, Renee, a lot of times, it’s what’s below ground. I want to know what is different about that area. And, most of the time, that difference is underground. It’s a combination of what you might learn off of a soil test. It could be soil-type related. Sometimes, it’s really hard to understand. What we try to do, though, is identify those consistently high-yielding spots. Year after year, there’s something about that area. A lot of times, Renee, the topsoil is deep there. What’s called the A horizon, the very first layer of topsoil, that is really deep there. The reason I know that is because, in a dry year, they have enough topsoil that they have enough water holding capacity in that area of field to carry it through a dry year. They also tend to be well-drained because, in a wet year, the water is not going to stand there. So, they’re well-drained because of natural slope, or they’re well-drained because of soil structure. Or they could be well-drained because of tile, but they tend to be well-drained, as well. So, I automatically know those two pieces usually fit together. In those areas, you’re not hitting the clay layer right away. You have enough topsoil to carry it through the dry year.

For us, those areas just beg. They beg to be managed more aggressively. There’s a lot of growers who — just in general, we climb, in yield, a couple of bushels on corn, maybe a bushel on soybeans. Just nationally, we tend to be on this upward trend over the last 20 years. We try to talk to growers about how, if you’re going to take the next leap, if your farm average — let’s say your farm average on soybeans this year is 65, and you want to move your farm average to consistently above 70, don’t the best areas of your field have to get in the 90-bushel range? If you’re going to climb five bushel across your entire operation, I’m guessing the best areas have to do more than five bushel because the worst areas, they may be maxed out already. So, climbing up, being able to continue to climb overall yields, it probably means the best areas have to do even better. We just love to use the yield file as a way to quantify those areas. And then those become areas that we’re just much more aggressive, much more aggressive with everything, to try to take them to that next yield plateau.

RENEE HANSEN: You also mentioned utilizing more than just this year of yield files and using more historic yield to layer more years of yield and data. So, why would that be so beneficial to utilize your yield monitor, to continue to put in all these years of data? Because the grower already has it, they have years and years of data, probably on a jump drive or maybe in the monitor. What can they do to utilize all of those years, and how easy is it to get it into a system like Premier Crop?

DAN FRIEBERG: We try to make it as easy as possible. We love to grab that historic yield data. If there’s one piece of data that growers have a lot of, a lot of times, it’s historic yield data, and it’s exactly like you just described. It’s on thumb drives in a desk drawer. Who knows where it is, but the grower knows. It could be in a Ziploc bag, and it’s just a combination of all these different devices they’ve had over the years. But we just love to grab it because it starts to let you see spatial differences, differences within the field and consistent differences. If you have more than one year, the reason you want to look at more than one year is just to be able to see consistency over different weather patterns.

There are always outliers in data. Yield files aren’t perfect because there can be man-made differences in a yield file, meaning, for example, you could have a hybrid or variety change that creates an artificial. Like one variety fell out of bed and just didn’t do well, and that area of the field looks bad, but it had nothing to do with the area of the field. It had everything to do with the genetic issue. There’s always an outlier, so the more years of yield data, the more you can sort out the outliers. You can sort out the year that had the windstorm or the year that had the hail event or whatever. It lets you have more — the more years, the more confidence.

premier crop actual yield history

RENEE HANSEN: Yeah, you make a great point, too, that it’s not only about the yield monitor, but it’s also about what you can visually see. Can you talk about a little bit of the myths of the yield monitor? I feel like some growers just may not trust what is coming off of their yield data.

DAN FRIEBERG: I say all the time, if I’m a grower, and I’m 10 years into this yield monitor thing, and I’ve never used my yield data to make a decision, pretty soon I quit caring. Why would I calibrate my yield monitor when I’ve never used it? I mean, I’ve never really used it.

RENEE HANSEN: It’s like not having a score at a sporting event, like who’s going to care who scores next if you can’t see the scoreboard? Nobody knows. You need that score.

DAN FRIEBERG: That’s where we’re at. What we find is that the same grower who hasn’t cared about calibrating their yield data, once we start working with them, and they actually start seeing why it matters, then, all of a sudden, they care a lot. And then they calibrate, and then they really do pay attention. Then, Renee, it almost is like the switch goes on, and then they want everything to be perfect. If the grain cart scale says that field did 83 bushels, they expect us to adjust the yield file to an average of 83 because that’s what the grain cart scale said. Once they start actually using the yield monitor to make decisions, then they care a lot about data quality, and data quality is a big deal to us. It’s just getting it right, getting all pieces of it right. Making sure that everything is right is a big deal. So, yield monitors, once they start understanding that, then one of the things that I love is, with yield monitors, we’ve entered this era. It’s no longer: “Trust me, this works.” If you’re a grower, you get sold a lot of stuff. Somebody is always driving up the driveway to sell you stuff. It’s different hybrids or varieties. It’s different crop protection plans. It’s nutrients. It’s additives. It’s micronutrients. It’s biologicals. It never ends. It’s always this one — here’s the next thing that’s going to be this magic bullet.

And now, because of a yield monitor, you don’t have to just trust that it works. You can actually do trials in your own fields. One of our sayings is: “Growers say local data is best, but you can’t get more local than my fields.” And that’s what you’re capable of doing now. You’re capable of using your yield monitor to measure, to do trials and measure whether each of those things actually worked. It’s so much easier than it used to be. I grew up in the day of weigh wagons, where you’d go measure out a strip in the field and grab a weigh wagon comparison. That was the early years, but now it’s just so easy to do the same thing at the speed of farming.

RENEE HANSEN: You said that was the early years of weigh wagons. I don’t feel like I’m that old, Dan, and I feel like we were just using them 20 years ago. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, hauling them around in the pickup. But you also talked about it with yield monitors. And, like I said, my husband, when we were farming his field, his overall field had a record soybean yield. But why is it so important to not look at the whole field average and look deeper? I mean, you talked about it a little bit before in those parts of the fields, and I feel like that’s where Premier Crop really differentiates itself.

DAN FRIEBERG: Growers are seeing really huge swings between fields, right? So, one field does really great, and another field doesn’t. You can start to use your data to sort out why, but, even within fields, within a field, most of the time, there are just pretty dramatic differences. Another way we use the yield file is we use the yield file as part of future nutrient applications. You can calculate nutrient removal off the yield file and build that in. It’s not the sole — we’re not talking about using the yield file as the only source of how you do nutrients, but it can be another layer of data. And growers are really in tune with this. You’re putting back what you took off, right? If you use the yield file, instead of treating the whole field — like if you know the field average was 85 bushel of soybeans, instead of just putting back removal for 85 bushels on every acre, using the yield file, some of the field will get 60-bushel removals, and another part of the field will get 100-bushel removals. That’s really important because those high-yielding areas are removing more nutrients. And so, you need to be able to capture that in some way to make sure that you keep pace with just how much they’re removing.

RENEE HANSEN: Because, ultimately, that helps them profit more because they’re applying nutrients in parts of the field where they need to apply them more and less, therefore, generating consistently higher yields. Like you said, what was the percentage year over year?

DAN FRIEBERG: What we try to do is we try to put people on a steeper curve, a steeper improvement curve. Across U.S. agriculture, we continually step up yields every year, on average, if you do a trend line, which is what economists do: the trend-line yield. There are ups and downs within the trend line, but the trend line might be two bushel per acre per year on corn, or three bushel per acre per year on corn. And we’re just trying to be on a steeper trend line. We’re trying to use data. Instead of two-and-a-half bushels per acre per year, can we make it a consistent six bushels per acre per year? And really, Renee, it’s not about higher yields. It’s about higher profit. Yields are a huge piece of that. It’s hard to improve profitability without doing better, yield-wise. It’s all with an eye for what you just said. It’s just about investing every input dollar within the field to try to get a higher return.

premier crop yield monitor

RENEE HANSEN: Yeah, try to get a higher return with what they already have, with what growers already have. With what I have, I need to make more. I need to profit. I need to make more margin. Utilizing that yield monitor a little bit more than just, like you said, watching it throughout the field can really be beneficial to a grower’s operation.

DAN FRIEBERG: Renee, I know not everybody is wired the same, but I’m a big “why.” I always want to know “why.” Like when I see differences, I want to know what can explain the differences. For me, that “why” question is not — you can say, well, it’s mother nature, but it’s like, no. No, mother nature affected the entire field the same, but there’s some reason why parts of the field are better and parts of the field are worse. The quicker we can define “why,” or the better we can understand “why,” if we can, then that leads us to be able to develop a plan on how to do it better. We talk all the time about “we.” What we do is we analyze. We analyze data, and then we turn that into advice. And then we act on the advice the next crop year. It’s this constant cycle of driving for improvement.

RENEE HANSEN: Well, thanks, Dan. In closing, what would you say to a grower who isn’t utilizing some kind of system like Premier Crop with their yield data? What would you say to them?

DAN FRIEBERG: Don’t give up. I mean, some people, they literally are giving up, or they’re cynical or whatever. I would say it’s never too late to get started, obviously, and your yield files can be eye-opening in a way to do better. They’re a foundation piece to do better.

RENEE HANSEN: There’s always an entry point to get started and, sometimes, it’s just taking that first leap. Thanks for listening to the Premier Podcast, where everything agronomic is economic. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast so we can continue to provide the best precision ag and analytic results for you. And to learn more about Premier Crop, visit our blog at

Three Top Examples of Agronomics and Economics with ProTech Partners

In this Premier Podcast episode, we’re talking with Matt Bowers, Premier Crop’s Eastern Strategic Account Manager and Kimberly Beachy, with ProTech Partners in Indiana. Matt and Kimberly discuss the top three examples of agronomics and economics.

MATT BOWERS: I am the Strategic Account Manager for the eastern business unit for Premier Crop Systems, and I recently joined the Premier Crop team earlier this year after working in the seed industry. I grew up in western Ohio on a family farm and currently reside in central Ohio with my family. And today, I’m speaking with Kimberly Beachy from ProTech Partners in Indiana.

KIMBERLY BEACHY: I am an agronomist at ProTech Partners. I work with growers mainly in southern Michigan and northern Indiana. I’ve been with ProTech just over four years and have previous experience in seed production and product stewardship. I grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Newton County, Indiana. Nice, good, black dirt like they have out in Iowa, I found my love of agriculture there. I went to Purdue and got a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and then continued my education at Iowa State. I have a master’s degree in seed technology and business through their online program. I enjoy being outside in my free time. We spend a lot of time outside on the playset with my husband and my daughter.

MATT BOWERS: Good. Well, I don’t have as much black dirt where I’m at in Ohio, but it sounds like a good background of growing up on the farm. Today, Kimber and I are going to discuss examples of “everything agronomic is economic.” And I was wondering if you could start out with telling us how ProTech Partners help their growers focus on the agronomics, as well as the economics.

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Let’s first define those two things. What is agronomics? That’s everything that we do in the field that’s making good management decisions. It’s deciding how much fertilizer to apply and where we’re going to put it, planting rates, crop protection, tillage systems and how we incorporate all of this into the farm. All of those things is how we grow our crop. The economics side of it is the money. I mean, farming is a business, and just like any other business, you want to make sure that the money coming in is greater than the money going out so you get to farm again next year. That’s the goal for the farmers that I work with. They just want to do it again next year. So, how does ProTech focus on agronomics and economics? We do that by analyzing their data. And we use that knowledge to help them make decisions on their farm. We’ve been collecting data on the farm for years, not just in spatial data like yield files or with prescription mapping, but through grid sampling. It’s another spatial data collection, and also record-keeping.

Knowing what we’ve done on the farm in the last five, 10, 15, 20 years can be really valuable knowledge as we plan into the future. But if we never take that data and use it to make decisions, then it’s not doing us any good. It’s important to take the time investment of collecting your farm data and made a return using your data. Our ProTech advisors work with the growers to analyze the farmers field data. We add their costs to the layers of data including their product cost, operations cost, management cost if they have any land-specific cost, and tie that to their yield file so we can really see what is making agronomic and economic sense on the farm. It’s really pretty easy to tell if something yields better, right? You see a bump on your yield monitor, but it’s a lot harder to know if that yield bump also had a little bump in the pocket book. I mean, if it paid for itself or if a decision we made is a cause to the yield bump, maybe we didn’t produce enough bushels to offset the cost. That’s where ProTech can step in and really drive that home, making sure we’re making economic decisions, not just sound agronomic decisions.

MATT BOWERS: Okay, so we’re not necessarily all about the bright green or dark green, I should say, spot in that yield monitor. We’ve got to see what’s tied behind there and what’s backing that up, right? It sounds like ProTech has a nice program to help growers really look into their farm as a business because that’s what farming is. It’s a business, right?

What I hear you saying, though, is that every pass across the field matters agronomically, but it also has a cost associated with it. And that’s something that we need to manage and look throughout the year. So, can you give me maybe your top three examples of “everything agronomic is economic,” in your opinion, when you’re going out and you’re meeting with your growers?



KIMBERLY BEACHY: I think the best way to look at it and take us through this process is to think of the growing season. I want to touch on planting, fertilizer and also a crop protection fungicide pass. We’ll hit those in the order that they happen. So, first off, let’s talk about planting. That’s when we take the seed out of the bag. It has the highest yield potential that it’s ever going to have.

So, everything that we do is to try to protect that yield potential. Planting population is a big part of that. If you overcrowd your plants, you’re going to make them compete for resources, and you’ll reduce your yields because they’re competing with each other. There are not enough nutrients out there and not enough food to feed those plants, but on the flip side, if you have too low of a population, then you’re reducing your yield potential by not having enough out there in the first place. You can’t produce bushels of corn if you never plant the seed to begin with. So, with the planting side of it, tying agronomics to economics is about finding that right rate in the right part of the field, and we do that with management zones. Within ProTech, a management zone is not just a seeding rate like it is in a lot of other places. We truly manage the field and the operation off of those zones. So, we break our fields into high-producing areas, which are A zones, and lower-producing areas that just don’t do as well, maybe it’s a wet spot, or it’s shaded by trees, or there’s a family of deer that lives next door and likes to eat it all the time.

MATT BOWERS: You must be talking about Ohio there, then, because we have the deer spots, and every field is ringed with trees.

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Yep, and that’s why you just have that C zone around the outside of your field, then. But we have those areas, and then the middle, kind of those average-productivity areas, we’ll label as a B. It’s pretty consistent. Year in and year out, it does pretty well, but it doesn’t have the capability to be those rockstar areas of the field, where we’re going to see maybe even 400 bushels on a yield monitor when we go through them. So, we break our field into management zones, and then we manage nearly everything we do based on those zones. So, in an A zone — those are our high-producing areas — we’re going to push our planting populations in those areas. We’re going to plant more seeds because those parts of the fields have the capability to produce more bushels. In the C zones, we’re going to pull back our population because we know those spots, whether it’s animal feeding or shading, or it’s a wet spot or a sand hole, something causes it to not have the yield potential, and it’s something that we can’t fix. If we can get a part of the field from a C zone to a B zone, or a B zone to an A zone, with fertilizer or any management practice, we will do that. Those C zones are C zones because that’s just what they are. That’s the best they can do. So, by labeling it a C zone and understanding that part of the field is not going to produce as well, we can manage our risk there by lowering our planting population. That will save us money on seed cost because, to tie it back to the economics, by lowering our population, we have reduced seed cost, which helps our bottom line.



MATT BOWERS: The fertilizer ties along with that, then, if we’re lowering our population where we’re lowering our fertilizer. Maybe we’re not lowering all-over cost, but we’re translocating those to the A zone, right?


MATT BOWERS: And moving those over and spending where our bang for our buck is more beneficial, right?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Yeah, and I’ve had that conversation with a lot of growers. When variable-rate technologies came out, the discussion was: “Oh, it’s going to save you money. We’re going to reduce your fertilizer usage.” And we found that’s not the case. What we’ve done is we’re better investing that planting dollar or that fertilizer dollar. We’re putting it in the areas of the field where it needs it, where we can get a return on that investment. So, we’re really driving farming into that business idea, where we want to see a return on every dollar we spend. You want to see a return on every dollar you spend. But with farming, in general, if we’re doing a straight rate across the field, we’re treating every acre the same, and we know that that’s not the case. Every acre is not the same because when we drive through the field, even if you don’t use a yield monitor, you can see variation in the amount of loads you’re taking off. I mean, you can tell how good the corn is or how bad it is as you’re driving across the field. So, why would we treat that the same on our input side if we’re not taking the same amount off of it at the end of the day? And that’s how variable-rate technology lets us do that. And that’s why it’s so important to tie it into not just planting but also into your fertilizer, and that’s how we really do tie the agronomics to the economics in agriculture.

MATT BOWERS: So, your second reason — you’ve kind of got into that there because you’re tying it with the population, with your fertilizer and variable rate and our fertilizer rates, as well. Is that also — for you, with your growers — is that also with nitrogen in how you handle nitrogen?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Yes. I started talking about it because it all ties together. I mean, that planting population decides a lot, and you do need to factor in your planting population when you’re determining your nitrogen rates. And I know Dan Frieberg uses this example a lot. If you invite more plants to dinner, you have to have enough food to feed them. So, if we have a higher population in our A zones, we need to account for the added food that they’re going to need, the added nutrients and dry fertilizer and nitrogen, especially. We need to increase that nitrogen rate in those A zones. And I think we can also push the nitrogen rates a little higher in the A zones because we have the capability to produce more bushels, not just because of the higher population but just because the ground is better. By pushing that, yes, you’re taking a little bit more risk, but it’s a smart risk. By pushing your nitrogen rates in your A zones, you have a better opportunity to have a return on that nitrogen dollar than you would if you were pushing nitrogen rates in your C zones. So, that’s really how we focus on it. It’s looking at our nitrogen, how our nitrogen is used in the field. We could go out and apply at a straight rate, but we’re going to be overfeeding our poor-production areas and underfeeding our high-production areas. Really, if we feed to the average, then we’re missing out on high-end yields, and we’re overspending on those low-end yields.




MATT BOWERS: Great. Now, you had mentioned fungicide passes and looking at fungicides. And I know you and I have had some conversations based around fungicides and timing in years and how the weather is that year and what stage the corn or the soybeans are at. So, why don’t you touch on a little bit of that, as far as electing that pass and the cost and the benefits of what that would be.

KIMBERLY BEACHY: And I have a great example of that from this year. Where I’m at in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, we’re kind of in that epicenter of tar spot. It started here a few years ago. We’ve had really high infection rates in fields the last couple of years, and we can really see the value of fungicide. But we have to make sure we’re spending that money wisely, that we have to look at the year. So, to have a disease infect — I mean, in college, we learn about the disease triangle or, in a plant pathology class, you learn about the disease triangle — you have to have the host and the pathogen. Up here, we have that. We have corn, and we have tar spot. We have that pathogen, but what we don’t always have is the right environment. There are instances where applying just a plant fungicide pass is the right way to go. And I had plant fungicide passes in my high-production corn, especially with the high-production fields that are irrigated, because they’re going to have more leaf wetness from that irrigation water.

But where it’s a little harder to make those calls is on your tougher acre. I have a grower that has some high-production irrigated fields that his yields can be, I mean, phenomenal, averaging 250 or higher across the field. But he also has some ground where, if it doesn’t rain, he’s going to be happy to hit 100-150 bushels per acre because it’s really sandy, dry soil. And those are the acres that you don’t always think about as being important when it comes financially. But if you’re not making as much money off of it, then you can’t treat it. You can’t spend as much money on it, either. So, for the tar spot this year, one of those tougher fields that he has was planted at the end of May, beginning of June. When I did my last fungicide check on it, when I did my last scouting trip, it was the end of July, beginning of August. We didn’t have any disease out there. We, the grower and I, were looking at what’s in the field and looking at the weather that we had up to that point. It’d been a dry summer. It’d been kind of hot, so he’d already lost some yield potential there. And then, looking at the forecast, it was supposed to be hot and dry, so we weren’t going to have the conditions that were necessary for tar spot to really take off. So, we decided that it wasn’t economical to make that fungicide pass.

Well, fast forward a few weeks, he sent me a picture from a leaf in that field, and it had tar spot on it. And the weather changed, and it got a little cooler. It was rainier. We had some leaf wetness, extended periods of leaf wetness in that field, and the tar spot that was in the area took off on his corn. But at that point, it was too late in the season to make a fungicide application. So, that’s where, working with an advisor, it’s not just thinking about the agronomics. If I was just thinking about selling a product, I would say: “Yes, spray the fungicide.” If I was just thinking about what’s best for that corn, yeah, the fungicide is good, but we have to also think about what’s best for that farmer and what’s best for that farm as a business. And that’s where, this year, that fungicide application just didn’t make sense. And yes, we did have the disease come in, but we’re going to manage. Now we know that it’s in the field because tar spot does live in the residue. The spores can overwinter in the crop residues, so we know what we have to do to manage that for future seasons.

MATT BOWERS: And because it came in so late. And, yes, it was there, but economically, even if you sprayed at that time, you probably weren’t going to see the benefits of what you usually would, had that infection come in earlier in the season when that plant wasn’t already headed to maturity, right?





MATT BOWERS: Looking at these examples, why are analytics so important to dive into once we’ve finished out the year? The combines run through. We’ve got some results coming in. Tell me about that.

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Analytics is how we look at that data. We pull your yield monitor data off. We look at everything you’ve done through the year, whether it’s fertilizer, lime, your planting, any other nutrients you put down or crop protection products. And we really dig in and see what the economic benefit was of that, if you had check blocks out there. For planting, built right into my planting maps, I’ll put in little test plots for the grower. It’s built right into the prescription, called a learning block. And we use that information to check higher and lower populations within a management zone to see if we have the right rate. Because yeah, I can go out and I can tell you: “Yep, you need to plant 35,000 under the pivot, and that’s what you’re going to do, and I’m right because I’m right.” But we need to prove that we’re right. And we need to prove that what we’re doing is the best thing that we can do, and there’s a lot that goes into agriculture. I mean, weather is a huge factor, and we can’t control everything.

Even if you are pretty locked in on what that population is, having different checks in a field through different years, you can use that historical data, then, to check and say: “Yeah, in this year, if we’re looking at a cold, wet spring, this is the best population for me to go with.” And we can learn that and look back on that data. Even if we don’t use it the next year, we still have that historical information. The nice thing about the learning blocks is it’s not just going to tell us what yielded better. I mean, it will tell us what had a better yield, the high or the low population, but it’s also going to tell us which one had a better return on the investment. So, did we produce enough bushels with a higher population to offset the added seed cost? We can find that out. Really, on our end, it does take some work, but it’s a lot easier than piecing through all of your data and trying to do it on your own.

MATT BOWERS: So, with that in mind, growers are busy. They are going from one thing to the next, and there’s always something to do, right? With analytics, sometimes, going through the data and sifting through it can be a headache and something that is so tedious that they’ve got better things to spend their time on out on the farm. So, is that something that ProTech Partners and yourself, that you guys can help manage and pull out the things that the farmer needs?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: We go get the data. We clean it up. We put it in the system. They just need to hit “record” when they’re running through the field and let us know what they’re doing, as far as the grower responsibilities. And then, I ask my growers. I have an idea of what I want to show them at the end of the year, once I’ve analyzed their data, but I want to know what they want to learn from it, too. So, I ask them throughout the season: “What do you want to learn? What questions do you have?” Because we have the tools within our system to ask any question we want, really. Any question that we ask we can find an answer to. It’s not just about figuring out what I think is best or my decision about: “Well, I think this is what we should do. I think this is the best option going forward.” That’s part of it, but there’s also teamwork with their grower there to decide what’s important to the grower. And they tell me what’s important to them, and then the best part is I go find the answers for them. And I come back with a nice, little, concise report and show it to them, and then we chat and make decisions from there.

MATT BOWERS: That sounds great. Yeah, not every operation is the same. Not every operation has the same goals. Everybody thinks everybody is after max bushels, and that’s not always the case. It depends on the grower, right? So, if you could take and tie this all in a bow and explain how it all comes together for planning for next year, how does that look?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: We start planning for the next year’s crop. We’re already doing that. As we start seeing harvest data, we’ve already taken and put all of the other activities from the year into our system. So, once we get that yield file, we’re able to get it entered and go and really start help driving decisions. How we do that, it comes down to what the grower wants to know. I’ll look at things — soil fertility — and make sure that we’re doing the right thing with our fertilizer because that’s a big part of my responsibility with my customers. It’s giving them fertilizer recommendations, giving them seeding recommendations. So, those are the questions I’m really making sure I want to answer, to prove that I have been doing a good job. And if I haven’t, if I didn’t have the best rate, well, what’s the best rate going forward for next year, so we can make changes into our crop plan for 2020?

It’s a “do it and check it” process. We go out and do something, and we check our work, and then we make corrections for the following year. And we try new things if we have something out there. As an example, I have a low-productivity field. One of those ones on the sand that didn’t yield 100 bushels this year on it because it was tough ground. It’s like a beach. And we had some low, what I felt was pretty low, populations. I mean, the field average was right around a 20,000 planting population. I put some learning blocks in there for checks down to 16,000, but I want to take that a step further next year. Just by being in the field and looking at the crop, I could tell that we were over. Our population was too high for a dry year. So, what can we do? We’ll lower it a little bit on our prescription next year, but we can then add in more learning blocks to test it even lower. And depending on how crazy the grower wants to get, we’ll maybe test the limits of his planter and see how low he can go.


KIMBERLY BEACHY: Because that learning block is a small area. It’s a small area too, and it’s built right in. So, they just have to okay it on the front end when I create the map. Once that prescription is in their monitor, they just have to go. It’s very little thinking on their part, but we’re constantly checking our work. ProTech is different in the fact that our agronomists — we go in the fields. Most of our ProTech programs include scouting, so the agronomists are the ones going out in the fields doing the scouting. We’re also doing the soil sampling, creating the recommendations. And we’re not just seeing what’s happening on paper or on the computer screen. We’re out there living it in the field with the crop. And we do take pride in being able to check that for the grower. ProTech is different from other precision ag companies because we truly manage by our management zones.

It’s not just a seeding rate. So, when I talked earlier about how we tie our planting rates to our nitrogen rates, we’re also doing that with our dry fertilizer. We manage our dry fertilizer based off of those management zones, as well. We’re pushing fertilizer rates in the A zone, maybe looking for higher soil-test levels, reaching for higher soil-test levels. But in the C zones, where we’re not going to produce as many bushels, we don’t need as much. We don’t have as much crop removal, so we don’t need as much fertilizer in general. And that’s one of the things that sets us apart. We don’t just go out there and make a recommendation based on a country’s worth of knowledge. ProTech believes that agronomy is local. And what we do here in Indiana and Michigan is a lot different than what guys do in Iowa. I mean, go further out west into Nebraska and Kansas, where there are different crops, different amounts of irrigation, different soil types. We do what’s best for our growers here because that’s what’s best for our growers, and we know that based on our experience in the field, in this area.

MATT BOWERS: So Kimberly, what I hear you saying about ProTech is that you guys work on a sub-acre level. You’re not just looking at an entire farm’s collective yield data and results at the end of the year, or even just that field, but you’re looking at the results in each management zone that you guys set up. Is that what I heard you say?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Yes, that’s correct. When we really dig into the data, we’re not looking at it by the home field versus the back 40. We look at the A zones across those two fields or across the fields on the whole operation and compare those A zones. And we also compare the B zones. And then we compare the C zones because we want to do apples-to-apples comparisons. And if you’re comparing a whole field against another whole field, there could be differences. One could have irrigation. Soil types could be drastically different. Then you’re not comparing apples to apples. So, by looking at it, by comparing those management zones to each other within a field, you really can narrow in on what is best for those particular acres.

MATT BOWERS: Great. Well, Kimberly, we’ve had some great information that you’ve provided us today. Hopefully, the growers have some good questions that they might be asking themselves about their own operation. And if they wanted to contact ProTech Partners or yourself for help with answering some of those questions that they might have and get in touch with you, how and where can they find you and get ahold of you?

KIMBERLY BEACHY: Well, I am on Twitter @Kimberly_Beachy, but I’m not very active. So, it’s probably easier to get ahold of me by email. That is And then if you want to learn more about ProTech, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Our Twitter handle is @ProTechAgronomy, and we have a website at

MATT BOWERS: Great. Well, thanks, Kimberly, and thanks, everyone out there, for listening. And, as always, remember to be safe out there and make it home tonight.

Thanks for listening to the Premier Podcast, where everything agronomic is economic. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast so we can continue to provide the best precision ag and analytic results for you. And to learn more about Premier Crop, visit our blog at

The State of Ag and Business with Damian Mason

Today we will be discussing the ag industry with ag author, speaker, comedian, and personality – Damian Mason. Damian speaks on topics surrounding business and agriculture to keep audiences up to date with a touch of humor.

RENEE HANSEN: Damian, welcome to the Premier Podcast. So glad to have you here. You have a wonderful background as a businessman, an agriculturist, a speaker, a podcaster, an author and a consultant, but also, I think, importantly for our listeners is that you’re also a farmer. So, can you just tell our listeners a little bit about your farm?

DAMIAN MASON: Yeah, so I was raised on your basic Midwestern dairy farm. We milked about 60 cows and farmed 500 acres, most of it rented. My grandfather came to this country as a herdsman, and my father was raised milking cows for other people on their farms. My father lost his arm as a little boy and got an insurance settlement. And when he was 21 years old, he put that down on a chunk of ground — not a very good piece of farm ground, the kind that nobody else wanted, which is why the Masons ended up with it. So, that’s a neat story. I own the homeplace now. I don’t live there. I live a couple miles north of where I was raised, on a 200-acre chunk of ground that my wife and I bought in 2006 and renovated. So, I’ve been a farm guy. I love the farm thing. I rent my ground out to a large-scale dairy operator now. I manage the timber here, and then I travel around the country working with corporations and associations. In fact, your husband has been one of my clients, and I enjoy that aspect of my work. I have a degree in agricultural economics from Purdue. I went into corporate sales in 1994. That all changed. I quit my corporate job to pursue a career in political comedy. I turned that into a business and then built on that and sort of created the next thing and the next thing. And here we are now. It’s been 26 years, almost 27 now, that I haven’t had a real job. I tend to still carve out a niche in the business of agriculture.

RENEE HANSEN: Pretty well rounded.

DAMIAN MASON: Yeah, and as you said, I spent six months taking improvisational acting and scene-writing classes at Second City Chicago. There was a time when I thought I might end up on Saturday Night Live, but maybe I’m too conservative. But it didn’t happen, and that’s the way this thing goes. But it’s been an interesting ride. As a comedian with an ag background, I tell my ag people I work with now the benefit is comedy teaches you to be an observer. Because comedy’s very first thing is observation. You begin with observing, and then you put your point of view and perspective on that observation, and you deliver it with a punchline. Easy to explain, hard to actually execute, and certainly even harder to turn into a business. But comedy is just observation, point of view and perspective to deliver the punchline. Now, I do that about the business of agriculture as an ag commentator. I say, here’s the observation: “Oh yeah, I guess I heard something about that.” Now, here’s a perspective you haven’t considered. Here’s a juxtaposition: “Oh.” And then instead of a punchline, here’s the results. So, that’s kind of what we do now. That’s a big part of what I do. It’s sort of bringing the ag thing back to you with a different perspective.

RENEE HANSEN: Yeah, and that’s really why we wanted to have you on the podcast today. I think you offer a different perspective, and you also talked about execution. And I think that’s partially where Premier Crop is. We’re really trying to help growers with how they execute the way they do their business. And we’re trying to change the narrative a little bit of how they can be more efficient in farming. And I think you’ve got a really great perspective of being in the business of agriculture, talking about agriculture, farming. Can you tell and share with our listeners some of the trends that you’ve seen over the years?

DAMIAN MASON: Trends that I see: obviously, the trend to consolidation. That’s been going on forever and ever. 200 years ago, somebody sold their 10 acres and went and got a job at the textile mill along the river and handed their hoe to the neighbor and said: “Here. You go out there and hoe those plants.” So, that’s been happening forever. What I see as a trend that a lot of our ag people are kind of seeing but not fully embracing or accepting it as a reality or, worse yet, understanding what it means to them is a consumer-driven marketplace. All businesses are consumer driven. This idea of: “Oh, you work for yourself. You’re a farmer.” Well, that’s complete nonsense. If you work for yourself, you run out of your own money. You work for consumers. We all do. Premier Crop Systems works for its customers.

You, Renee, do not work for Dan. You work for those customers that pay for your product. We all work for customers. Ag works for consumers. 100 years ago, we did not have surpluses. That’s when we started having surpluses. For 9,900 years of agricultural evolution, we had food, but we still didn’t have very good food or very much food. Now, we have surplus food, and we have Whole Foods. We have Amazon. We have Uber Eats. We have good food in copious quantities. We still, in agriculture, think it’s 1900. We say: “We went out there and produced a whole bunch of corn. What the hell more do you want? Now, eat it.” And the consumer’s saying: “I can make a lot of different selections here. I can just get on my app and order up anything.” So, we probably need to catch up with them because forever we thought: “Hey, we produced this amazing amount of product. Now, just be happy.” Well, they’re not unhappy. They’re just more selective. Because if you give a child that’s never had a toy a block of wood, he’s got a toy. Now, if you give a child in America a block of wood who has every toy conceivable, they’re going to say: “What am I supposed to do with this?” That’s our consumer when it comes to food.

DAN FRIEBERG: Hey, Damian, I know this may be too raw to talk about right now, but what are we going to change? What’s going to change because of COVID in food and ag? And maybe we’re too much in the throws, and it’s too early or whatever. It seems like that’s one where there are probably insights that you might have that others haven’t even thought about.

DAMIAN MASON: COVID did a few things for every consumer in America, and I’m talking about North America. I’m not a consumer in Australia, although a lot of the exact trends extrapolate. First off, the American consumer has not ever — at least the ones that we’re talking about that are 50, 60, 70, 80 years old — has never gone to the store and seen barren shelves. That put the fear of God into people. So, that made there be a certain appreciation for food supply, but it also illustrated the food ignorance. Then, you had people taking to social media, saying: “Those farmers in Wisconsin who are dumping milk should be criminally prosecuted because there are people who can’t get milk.” And, of course, I go on social media and say: “Because you can’t take 8,500-gallon tanker trucks of raw milk to a food bank.” They don’t understand the supply chain, which brings us, then, to what else it revealed. It revealed to us that our supply chain was amazing. It was tight. It was efficient, but just-in-time manufacturing, the Japanese concept that created their efficiency — if you look up “just-in-time” and do the research, and I took some economics classes and loved to study it — it really came to the United States in the 1990s. It’s like, why did Japan kick our butt on auto manufacturing? Because they had so little supply and so depleted capital after World War II that the Japanese country said: “For us to get our economy going again, we’re going to have to be very lean, very efficient and maximize what we have.” So, they invented this concept of just-in-time manufacturing: getting a fender for a car one-and-a-half hours to the factory before it gets put on the car, meaning we didn’t have a warehouse sitting over here with fenders in it for 90 days, holding up our capital. We extrapolated those concepts to our food supply and said: “Let’s get those hogs to this facility, and they’re going to walk off that trailer. And within an hour that they walk off that trailer, they’re going to come out as pork chops down at the end of this plant.”

I might be off by a couple of hours, but the point is we got real, real lean. Well, that’s good and efficient for meat processors. But also, then, when we started having meat plant closures because the workers were infected with coronavirus — that plant got shut down in Sioux Falls that is five percent of our nation’s pork processing quantity — then, all of a sudden, there are people that are saying: “I’ve got to run and grab pork.” And then, we said: “Man, we’ve got some meat shortages.” And then Costco puts out signs that say: “No more than two packages of meat.” And everybody says: “What the heck is going on?” We’ve got about 14 days of cold storage in the United States of America per my research. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago that said, right now, cold storage is a hot investment. Companies are going to buy and build more cold storage. And you say: “Well, that hurts efficiency. It’s going to drive up prices.” I think what we learned was food is so cheap in the U.S., with only 6.4 percent of our income being spent on food. We can probably throw a few more nickels per pound at pork chops to make sure we have them. So, I believe that we’ll probably build up a bigger supply, and we’ll put a little more slack in the system — a little less J.I.T. and a little bit more slack. That’s my observation. However, we always, then, in food production, get back to: “How cheap can we make it?” And I think we should probably get more of: “How much can we build some slack in the system or put more supply in there, should we have more of these disruptions?”

DAN FRIEBERG: And to your point, Damian, there’s a lot of the commodity grains that have been what the U.S. has exported around the world. It seems like world trade is going to be redone, and I don’t know what we become. There’s a lot of talk about manufacturing being brought back to the country and that, post-COVID, every country might become less dependent on other countries.

DAMIAN MASON: Yeah, well, what happens? You go through a big scare, and then you say: “What did we learn there?” It’s a little bit like: “huff and puff and blow your house down.” I’m never going to be dependent on somebody else. I’m going to be more prepared. It takes a big scare to, then, say: “What are we? The three little pigs?” Remember, everything in life goes back to the three little pigs: the straw house, the twig house, the brick house. So, the better you can build your brick house, the more you can, then, be insulated from foreign shocks, from derechos, from trade wars, from threats of war, whatever that should be. The thing is, over time, you tend to let your guard down. We probably, as the United States of America — this is one thing that I’ve been saying to my audiences for a long time — we are an export-driven ag because we’ve got 330 million people. There are 7.7 billion people on Earth. For years and years and years — centuries, in fact — we saw that we could make more food than we could ever use here, for the last several years anyway, and there are other countries that can’t. That’s changed, guys. Renee, Dan, let’s face it: Ukraine learned how to grow corn, and Brazil learned how to grow soybeans. So, the idea that we’re always just going to be able to put stuff on a barge and find somebody that’ll give us money for it is, frankly, a little short-sighted. And so, that’s where I say: “Let’s embrace the idea that our consumers will pay more and will want a more diverse product and possibly will, after things like this and threats of war and trade strife, buy an American product and pay more for it.” So, I think there is something to that. Now, will they pay more for an American soybean versus a Brazilian soybean? They don’t know the difference. So, it’s going to have to be the next thing beyond that, the value-added product that we can pitch and push and promote as an American value-add.

RENEE HANSEN: So, if there’s going to be so much surplus, farmers now are trying to be more efficient. They’re trying to grow more. They’re trying to get higher yields. What do you see happening? Do you think that farmers are going to start creating more diversity with the farms that they currently have? Because it’s hard to grow. And in this age right now, too, farmland is very expensive — unless you’re a large operation or you have the funds. You are able to purchase more land. What is your perspective on growing more with what you have or becoming more diversified?

DAMIAN MASON: The future is two things: it’s specialization — a niche product — or it’s a commodity, big-scale commodity. But to your point, using your product: precision agricultural data analysis. More output per acre through good data, right? That’s what your product is. That’s what your company does. It helps a farm operator get more out of the inputs, the nutrients and the dollars that they put into each acre. They get out of it. What is probably going to happen with an environment of environmentalism — and this is only going to steep up, and I’m not getting into political stuff, but I keep up — certain forces that are political want to be more involved in agriculture, more of a thumb on us to be what we’re allowed to eat. Remember, there’s a certain young congresswoman from New York that preaches about cow farts and how there should be rations on how much burger we should be allowed to eat. So, if that’s the case, agriculture has a real opportunity. Your customers and your prospect of customers have a real opportunity here, Renee and Dan, to say: “Listen, here’s my environmental story. I took 10 percent of my most environmentally-sensitive acres out of production, and I enrolled them with the government conservation reserve program. And I could do that because my 90 percent more productive acres that are less environmentally sensitive are more maximized. In fact, I’m getting the exact same output off of all of my properties, all of my operation, as I did with 100 percent just with 90 percent because I am maximizing the output using better precision ag and data analysis and better practices.” That’s probably what we’re going to end up having to do. There will be less acres cultivated moving forward in the United States of America because of the environmental lobby, but also those lobbies, then, do tend to get government action. About two months ago, I got a solicitation from the government, NRCS, saying that if I had any land along a creek or river, I could put it in a 30-year conservation program. Now, up until now, Dan and Renee — you probably know this — it’s generally been a 10-year enrollment or maybe a 15-year enrollment. There is now a 30-year enrollment for certain environmentally-sensitive acres that also has rent escalators built in. Just like if I owned a shopping mall or a strip center, there would be rent bumps after a certain period of time. So, I think we’re going to see more of that. So, your pitch? Your company? I believe the angle is: “We help you get the most out of your great acres, so you can let your lesser acres revert to an environmental situation that, then, I can sell the environmental story.”

DAN FRIEBERG: Damian, a part of your business is really focused on audiences and meetings. So, how do you adapt? How do you adapt, and how soon do you think you’ll be back on the road?

DAMIAN MASON: Yeah, it’s tough because one of my big things I was talking about is reinvention, and I know you’ve got to always do what you can to stay relevant to your customers. You’ve got to meet them where they are, not where you are. That’s one of my big points to agriculture. Again, they’re at Whole Foods. They’re at farmer’s markets. They’re at the Kroger still, but they’re not there just saying: “How cheap? How cheap?” American agriculture tends to think that because we’re cheap, we think our customers are cheap or whatever. They think we value production and quantity and how many bushels per acre we think they do. Well, they don’t care. They don’t know what a bushel even is. They don’t know that at least 56 pounds for No. 2 yellow corn and all those kinds of things. I’ve got to meet my customers where they are. So, right now, my people still want me to deliver my commentary, my future, my outlook, my business ideas about the business of agriculture in a comedic fashion. I’m doing it sometimes on Zoom calls. I’m doing it virtually, and I’m doing less of it. We will get back to having live meetings because there is a human thing. An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday talked about the “pandemic fatigue,” as much as the scared class wants everybody to stay home and stay scared. I’m sorry. Stay home and stay tuned. Oh, I’m sorry. Stay home and stay safe. See, that’s really what I think it is. The media needs you to stay tuned, so they can keep selling you crap on the TV. There is a “pandemic fatigue” that’s set in. People — humans — are social beings. They want to get together.

Their idea I hear is people saying: “We’re never going to have meetings again.” Well, the Marriott still thinks there’s going to be and the Hyatt and the Hilton and the Westin. And the other part of it is you can’t get drunk at the Marriott bar and complain about your boss on a Zoom call. You have to go and do that. So, the corporate audiences are still going to do that. That will come back. Will I do as many meetings, one year from now, as I used to do? Probably not, but we’re still going to do some online stuff, and I’ve got a few other ventures that I’m dabbling into because that’s the reality. You’ve got to move. You’ve got to change, and the more important thing is you’ve got to meet the customers where they are. I started by saying that with our recording, that we’re a consumer business. All businesses are. I tell everybody the best thing to remember is every dollar you’re going to make the rest of your life is someone else’s dollar right now. And so, be adaptive. It is a challenge. It’s been a challenge for me because, also, the rug got pulled out in a very quick fashion. We woke up on March 13th, and my wife said: “Did you check your email?” I said: “No, I’m making you coffee.” I had just gotten home the evening before from South Dakota. And she says: “The next five events are all canceled.” And then the next five after that, and the next five after that. So, the rug got pulled up pretty promptly, and that’s an extreme situation. My sister-in-law owns a gym with her husband, and their business got rocked. Imagine if you were in the movie theaters business. 7,800 movie theaters, according to an article I read — two-thirds of them might reopen. Think about that. One-third of movie theaters are never going to reopen, according to what the predictions are, maybe less. We’re all in a predicament, in terms of that. Now, the good thing about agriculture? Acres still get planted. In places like where you are, in Iowa, and Indiana, where I am, we get adequate precipitation. We still are probably going to be okay. We still have a certain demand. Our challenges are usually more about managing low prices and overproduction. That’s not all bad. It beats the heck out of the alternative, as we saw. We’re all dealing with some of the adaptations. I used to make a living dressed up as Bill Clinton, going to corporate events and standing on stage, saying: “How y’all doing? How y’all doing? I feel your pain. Hey, darling, let me show you what I do like to feel.” Anyway, I’ve made changes before to my career. It’s something that I’ve gotten accustomed to doing.

DAN FRIEBERG: Well, I think there could be a boom in meetings. I mean, just a pent-up boom because you go a year-and-a-half — or whatever we’re going to, a year — without it. I think people are going to be anxious to get back.

DAMIAN MASON: Now, I wondered that also. I said 2021. There’s enough scare, and I’m not altogether convinced that it’s pure. I think that there’s a certain amount of posturing and power grab going on to keep the electorate scared. But, yeah, what you’re talking about is pent-up demand, and there’s one thing we know about humans. They’re saying: “Oh, there’s pandemic fatigue.” Or: “Oh, I want to go see grandma.” Well, we’re worried about getting grandma sick. Well, grandma finally says: “I’m going to be dying in a nursing home. One of these days, I’d rather let my grandchildren come and see me at the risk that I get coronavirus.” So, there’s that reality. But you talk about pent-up demand. We’ve seen this before. In times of austerity, then, there’s that pendulum swinging back. You can remember this because we’re all old enough to remember this. There was a time when red meat consumption kept declining, and it was the scare tactics. It was probably not completely scientific. There was always a group. Remember, if there’s a crisis, there’s usually a group that’s profiting by perpetuating the crisis.

We were never going to eat steak again. And then, fast forward to things got really good. Remember the dot-coms and all that stuff? Late nineties? Every city in America opened up three new steakhouses, and I’m going: “Wait a minute. In the eighties, they told us we were never going to eat steak again.” Now, there’s a Sullivan’s and a Ruth’s Chris and this one in every town — Des Moines, Indianapolis, you name it. So, I’ve seen the pendulum swing before: austerity for very long, then, creates this thing where, then, people are like: “No. Done.” And then, it’s the other way around. So, you’re right. We could end up, by a year or so from now, with people like: “Screw it. I participated in the pandemic. I’ve been through enough Clorox wipes to fill a landfill. I’m going out, and I’m going to have us a meeting.” And there’s a human factor to that, guys. Your customers want to get together. Your employees probably would like to do that. So, there’s a human factor, too. There’s no question that people want that. I remember, after 9/11, I saw it. With 9/11, people did not want to get on a plane. They did not want to be in a building that was of any size. And then, eventually, they said: “I’m not going to live in fear.” Now, some still did, but not the bulk of the people. They said: “Yeah, we’re not going to live like this. I still want to be a human.”

RENEE HANSEN: That’s kind of the pendulum swing with commodity prices, too.

DAMIAN MASON: We saw the swing where, probably — and I’m not a grain marketing person. I got a C in Ag Econ 320, which was grain marketing. I find it to be hideously boring. I mean, if you give me economics stuff, consumer outlook stuff, that’s my real direction. Sitting and staring at a computer screen all day and then getting excited over a three-cent move in the soybean markets? I’ve pointed it out before. These people that do that? I’d have to have some sort of pile of drugs right here just to make my life interesting if I had to sit and look at a screen all day and manage three-cent moves in the soybean market. But, being that said that I’m not a commodities marketing guy, we just ran up 10 percent and 25 percent on the corn, right? You can sell corn for 25 percent more, roughly, than you could just in July, let’s say. How would you think that it’s going to go that much again? If it were me, and I had an operation to run, I’d be looking at trying to forward contract everything for next year, also, because a long time ago, somebody smart told me: “You don’t go broke. Your business doesn’t go under by taking profits.” So, I think that we’re probably where we’re going to be. Also, what fundamentals are going to change? Are we going to have another billion people on Earth? That’s been a prediction I’ve been hearing my whole life. No. Did the pandemic create a baby boom? No, actually divorce rates are up 34 percent. Divorce filings are up 34 percent in the United States. People didn’t stay home and make babies. They stayed home and decided they didn’t like each other.

So, we’re not going to have a population boom in the whole globe. In fact, for the next year, the economic devastation will cause us to eat less meat because in my book, “Food Fear,” I talk about this. The last time we saw meat declines in developed countries was during the recession between ‘08 and ‘12 to ‘14. Meat consumption went down by 10 percent here in the United States. If meat consumption goes down 10 percent here, what’s it doing to a lesser developed country, a country that’s more harmed economically by the pandemic, that didn’t have a government throw $6 trillion of relief at it? Let’s say their meat consumption goes, and they don’t eat but half of what we eat anyhow. Let’s say their meat consumption goes down by 20 percent, and they only eat half as much meat as us anyhow, but it’s a country like India, let’s say. Now, corn and soybeans become meat. If those countries are eating less meat, why would corn and soybean prices remain high? So, I believe that, if it were me and I was a commodity producer, I would take advantage of this marketplace to sell as much stuff forward as possible because I’m looking at it. Again, I’m an observer. Comedy taught me to be an observer. I know what meat consumption does, and I know these economic situations we’re living in right now. They keep saying a “V-shaped recovery.” We’ve been saying that since March. How can that be? A “V” doesn’t go from March until Halloween. I think that we’re going to have economic hardship, globally, for quite some time. Europe is shutting down right now, and take Europe as an example. In Ireland, you’re not allowed to leave your house and go more than three miles. People are saying: “Yeah, but why would that hurt meat consumption?” Well, beef, for instance — most beef is consumed away from the home, not in the home, and that’s in the United States. Presumably, it’s that way in Ireland, as well. That’s why meat consumption patterns are going to change a bit. That’s my observation. Every observation, I can give you a reason for “why,” the data behind it. That’s what I always tell everybody. You can disagree, but don’t think that I haven’t at least pulled the data.

RENEE HANSEN: Well, and I would agree. I do agree with that because you do. And you reference it a ton in your book, “Food Fear.” So, I’d love for our audience to check out Damian Mason’s book, titled “Food Fear.” And Damian, why don’t you just tell our audience how they can get ahold of you?

DAMIAN MASON: All right, they can go to If they happen to be watching, it’s on the screen right behind me. But if they’re not watching, they’re just listening, it’s Damian: D-A-M-I-A-N. Damian Mason, like a bricklayer: I’m on every social media format. That’s not true. I don’t do Tik Tok. I’m on Twitter. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Facebook. I got a fan page there. Check it out. I’ve got LinkedIn, the whole deal, but also my website. I put up videos on YouTube. You can go to YouTube, Damian Mason channel, and hit subscribe. And you’ll see the videos that I put out with various commentary and whatnot. I would love for you to do so, and I very much appreciate you having me on today.

RENEE HANSEN: Yes, we really appreciate your time today, too. Thank you so much for all of your information and trends and knowledge that you continue to share.


RENEE HANSEN: Thanks for listening to the Premier Podcast, where everything agronomic is economic. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast, so we can continue to provide the best precision ag and analytic results for you. And to learn more about Premier Crop, visit our blog at

What Does a Year End Meeting Look Like with a Premier Crop Partner?

“We use SciMax Solutions, a Premier Crop partner,
to push everything we can
in order to get the best ROI
and try to do the best job that we can.”
– Mike Myers, Waukee, IA

PETER BIXEL: I’m Peter Bixel, SciMax Team Leader, and today we’re working with two of our clients, down here close to Des Moines, Iowa: Dale Meyer and Michael Myers. And I’ve been looking at their information, reviewing 2020 data this year and planning for 2021.

MIKE MYERS: I’ve been working with Peter and SciMax for, I think, around seven years, something like that. Time flies. I work with SciMax to help push us to the next level. It’s a really good precision ag database that they have, and adding VRT into our operation was a big part of that, using our yield data and going into our management zones and pushing the best acres as far as we can. We haven’t pushed them as far as we can yet, and that’s the goal for the future. It’s to push everything we can in order to get the best ROI and try to do the best job that we can.

DALE MEYER: Before that, we were doing zone management for fertility by soil type. I mean, there was soil sampling, but it was, more or less, by the lay of the land and soil type. With the local co-op, we went to larger five-to-seven acre grids. They would spread it by areas, more or less, not necessarily by GPS but by a map.

Farm data for ROI

MIKE MYERS: Our precision ag and farm data was pretty rustic, overall. You just kind of guess where you were in the field. The biggest thing that helped us change was implementing yield data. As soon as we started picking that up, we needed something to do with it. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting it? Peter did a talk with Latham that made a lot of sense to us, that we could compile the yield data with our fertility, soil sampling, soil types, etc. And the biggest thing that he’s helped us with is to realize where we’re lacking, where we’re putting too much fertilizer on. I mean, it’s not a coincidence that our best yields have been over the past few years using SciMax’s precision ag tools. Now, you have to have the weather to do that, but without SciMax’s help, we wouldn’t have averaged 240 as a farm average last year on corn. It probably would have been 210, 220, like your average farmer in the area would have been. But with us doing the extra things and managing better with their help, we were able to get more return. More or less, we’re not at the beginning of this, but we’re starting to take the steps that’ll start pushing us even higher, I think. It’s not something in that we implemented everything right away, but we’re implementing some things more and more every year. We’re trying to build our soils on fertility-level more this year than we have in the past. And looking at the farm data he gave us today, I mean, if we continue the trend of what the farm data is saying, then that should pay off. Peter’s a really good guy to work with, too. There are other people that offer precision ag or something like it, but Peter’s the thing that kind of puts that all together, as far as SciMax marrying with Premier Crop and then bringing that to us. If he was a different person, I don’t know if we’d still be with them or not. I don’t know, but he’s keeping us for sure.

DALE MEYER: I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the farmers of my generation operated on a status quo thing up to a point. Then, the yield monitors came in to where we could see: “Oh, wow. I never realized that the wet spot was affected so much by the excess water.” So, a lot of tiling has happened because of that, and then, also, the fertility side with different soil types. In parts of the field that are high yielding, we were pulling a lot more nutrients off than we thought. I guess, maybe, we just didn’t even think. Precision ag kind of sharpened everything because you didn’t really know the advent of the yield monitor, as well as grid sampling and other things. Hybrids have improved, there’s no question about that, but, all in all, we’re doing a better job. We’re doing a better job of planting, as far as placement, depth and spacing, but particularly depth, or emergence at the same time. It’s easy for the seed companies to take a lot of credit, and they deserve a lot of credit, but the farm equipment’s and farm data management changed this picture a lot, too.

PETER BIXEL: Well, I think, studying the hybrids and placing them where they need to go makes a big difference, too. Before, maybe, if you were my partner, you just buy: “Yep, these three are good.” The dealer sold them to him. Where did you plant them? “It didn’t matter. You just plant them wherever you want.” No, there is a difference. You know that, Michael.

MIKE MYERS: Yeah, I guess for me, as far as all this, it’s all that I mentioned a little bit. Getting yield maps gives you a picture of what happened that year, and then making that into managing the zones, that shows us what has happened over many years. I mean we have a memory, but we don’t have a the farm data memory where we can go back and say: “Okay, this area of the field did this, and, on average, it’s kind of been a B area. Or it’s a C area or an A.” We can break that down, and then we can also look at the fact, and I mentioned it too, as far as fertilizer, where: “Okay, what did the field make? Did it do 200? Okay, we’ll put a flat rate of crop removal of 200 across the whole field.” Well, that’s not the truth. The truth is that the poor areas did 160, the medium areas did 200 and the high areas did 240. I mean, it varies, right? But that’s kind of the idea. I, over the past several years, have really been putting a lot of thought to the fact that I would really like to see what our yields would be today if we would’ve started doing precision ag and variable-rate fertilizer five years ago because what we’ve been doing is taking off 240-bushel corn on a good area and putting 200 bushels of nutrients back on. So, we’re stealing away from our good areas and adding to our poor areas. In those poor areas, you’re never going to yield what the good areas are going to do. So, we can better utilize our money as far as our investment into fertilizer, and then that should pay dividends in ROI and harvest time, too. That’s one of the biggest things, I would say.

PETER BIXEL: Their retailer in the past wasn’t able to really do the field history either, so now they’ve made a big change and adjusted things. Including adding strip-till.



PETER BIXEL: We’ve come up with tissue sample ranges by stage for corn and soybeans on each nutrient. So, this is that line, and then, basically, it’s just the group average zone, all we did overall here. You’ll get yours with this graph, and then we’ll always plot their individual data on here. It’s kind of interesting. I mean, we’re pretty close to the limit. We tracked pretty close on nitrogen. Really, we weren’t that far off comparatively.

MIKE MYERS: I’d like to see the guys that did the KTS. Can we group that data and look at it?


MIKE MYERS: Our application was right at V5, V6. So, we gained more stalk, but where is manganese?

PETER BIXEL: Right here. (pointing to the field map on the computer)

MIKE MYERS: My manganese went through the roof, like right in there. I put it in with the KTS. Then I put that Versa Max, and that’s got manganese in it, and I took my manganese levels from like 80 to 100 clear up into 140s, and they stuck around until probably V10. I graphed it all out myself. Let me grab it. I think I got a pamphlet right here.

Using precision ag to look at tissue sample data


PETER BIXEL: Well, we’re trying to define trends for just seeing what the plants are telling us. It’s no different than a blood test, which you could say: “Well, that’s overkill.” Yeah, but the plants, the weather and everything change so much every stage, depending on the growing season. Like there in the middle of May, we didn’t hardly gain any GDUs for like two or three weeks because it was just cloudy and cool. Then, we took off, and we were growing like two stages from V4 to V6 in five days. The nutrients change by that stage. It’s kind of a way to gauge where the plants are at. Michael’s been pulling two different farms, and you pull in an A zone and just kind of track and see what they’re telling us. Not everybody, but the majority of us, will go, and apply what we feel the plant needs. Then, like he’s looking now to see: “Okay, if we applied zinc and manganese right before this tissue sample, and we applied it and we came back a week later, did we see the uptake?” Did the plant tell us they got it? Like my zinc and manganese, I think it took like about two weeks, two sampling times, for it to really uptake. For my potassium, I’ve got to look back. I can’t remember this off the top of my head. I think it took about three weeks because potassium is mobile. It takes water to get it down the soil. We didn’t have a whole lot of moisture, obviously, but Michael and I Y-dropped to put it next to the row so it would hopefully get in faster.

MIKE MYERS: Yeah, I just remember on the home farm, on the treatment out here, that the manganese just went through the roof. So, I know I can raise those loads.

PETER BIXEL: Manganese has been one that we’ve kind of struggled with, especially later on, but this year. I think some of it was due to the dryness, too. We didn’t have as much water as the last two years. So, it wasn’t flushing it through this profile. We were able to keep reasonable. The black line is where we want to be at, and you can see that. You got the polynomial or you got just the average of the polynomial for our group, and so we were able to stay a little bit better on that. The other thing, to me, that was pretty interesting was how boron’s been. If you look at the past years, we’ve been just horrible. We just tanked on boron. We would never come back up to where we’d like to be at but this year. Some of this, too, I believe, is we’re getting a lot more guys that are throwing boron in with their fungicide. Not everything, but some of that’s been helping bring those levels, I feel as a group, at least, up. We stayed pretty good, and the reason I think we stayed good on boron is that it’s mobile. We didn’t have rain. We didn’t continuously keep flushing that deeper and deeper in the profile. I think we’ll talk and see what everybody thinks next week. We can quit at like V10, V12, just because nobody’s been significantly doing anything different after that point.

PETER BIXEL: I know it would have because look at what you did last year. So, Michael and Dale, they’ve been doing some different stuff last year. It definitely showed, I think, good stuff for all your treatment, boron and zinc already, and things like that. I guess it kind of tells me they weren’t, I wouldn’t say, normal conditions. They had more rain than you but not normal. I guess that just tells me that we’re still going to keep playing, but we also learned our normal standard practices. It’s probably still a benefit if you’ve got that one limiting factor, whatever that is. It’s potassium in their case. He said it was like 130 to 140 parts per million. Spend the money on it. Get the foundation built. Then, you can start to worry about wider operation or extra phosphorus.

MIKE MYERS: It just goes back to that. Every time we plant a seed, it’s got its maximum potential, and as the season goes on, that lowers, lowers and lowers. Well, with potassium, and I’ve thought about this a decent amount, it’s more important than about every of the other major ones earlier. Maybe phosphorus is there, too, but as far as potassium, most of its uptake is V6 to 12-ish. Phosphorus, sulfur and, obviously, nitrogen are all after that. So, which of the four biggest nutrients is going to pull our potential down the most in that first, until V8? Well, it’s probably potassium. So, if we don’t have potassium there, that potential is already capped.

PETER BIXEL: Correct. You can put on as much nitrogen as you want if you think it’s efficient, like you said. After that fact, it doesn’t matter because K has got to be there to move it up in the plant. When you grid sampled and then started doing the strip, I think it’s good, especially with what we’re doing and trying to build the 250 and stuff that we’re doing on the farms and using the management zones. I’m trying to continue to build that. On your beans this year, with new soil sample data, which is not the best year in yields and stuff like that, you were at 144 parts per million of potassium, and you went to 176. Pretty steady increase and a direct correlation. We saw that, yeah, you went from 27 bushels to 57, a 30-bushel acre advantage.

MIKE MYERS: On just a 30 parts per million difference.

PETER BIXEL: Correct. So, I think as we sample some other farms — I don’t think everything got sampled. I can’t remember the majority of stuff, but as we get the new stuff on the rest of the farms, it’ll be interesting to see. That was something I pointed out where, like you said, potassium, and we see this with a lot of clients, at 22 to 26. Not really a huge correlation.


MIKE MYERS: I was really impressed with how I did this fall corn on corn over here, and we vertical tilled at first. Well, we did that, so we could put anhydrous on.

PETER BIXEL: How deep did you do the vertical till?

DALE MEYER: Through May, three to four inches.

PETER BIXEL: How deep was the strip-till in?

MIKE MYERS: About four to five. It can go six, just depends.

PETER BIXEL: That’s why I don’t think our lows aren’t as low. Maybe that’s some of the genetics or fertility, things like that, too.

MIKE MYERS: We’ve mentioned we have more potential on all of our corn going into July, except our corn-on-corn. It’s awful. Yeah, there’s a pond right there.

PETER BIXEL: Our corn-on-corn, for the group, averaged 165. Our first-year corn was 190. So, that tells you that we haven’t seen that big of a spread between those two for a lot of years.

DALE MEYER: We’ve not had this consistent-looking crop at harvest time on corn-on-corn ever, that I can remember.

MIKE MYERS: As far as spacing and the beans being there.

DALE MEYER: We had a good growing season, but that all started when it came up.

PETER BIXEL: Well, we didn’t have a lot of wet feet in great conditions, like you said, to come out on soil. You only had nine inches. With the weather Premier grabs, nine inches of rain is all I had. This area is definitely the lowest.

MIKE MYERS: Probably over half of that came before July 1st.

PETER BIXEL: It came before June. He keeps track of some calendars. He’d have every rainfall.

DALE MEYER: The people that run the auction over here at Guthrie Center, what did he tell him?

MIKE MYERS: He was worse yet. What was it?

DALE MEYER: They only had a couple of inches all summer.

MIKE MYERS: We had about an inch, an inch and a quarter in July, and then about the same in June. They didn’t even get an inch in either of them.


Make sure to listen to the Premier Podcast, where everything agronomic is economic. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast so we can continue to provide the best precision ag and analytic results for you. And to learn more about Premier Crop, visit our blog at