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Judgment, farm experience impact your bottom line


Technology is a great tool, but don’t discount your judgment. When and whether to enter a wet field, identifying broken tile, how you control spray drift, which surfactant to use, when to use glyphosate and at what levels, which stage of cereal rye is easiest to kill it off (avoid the tillering stage)…you get the idea. These judgment calls, based on your experience, are second nature.

Weed escapes, for example, can quickly double or even triple your per-acre herbicide costs.

I’m talking about shrewd management. Studies (pdf) confirm that your judgment has more to do with your bottom line than the market price or sharecrop percentage.

Farmers have about 40 growing seasons to improve on every harvest. Howard Buffett, farmer-philanthropist, expands this metaphor to everyone having 40 chances to reach his or her life goals.

“Embracing the ‘40 Chances’ mindset means that we leave our comfort zones, that we break down barriers set up by others, and that we cannot always accept the status quo when it's simply not working,” Buffet says.

Either way (farmers with crops or people achieving life goals), the gradual improvement implied by 40 chances feels do-able to me. And it recognizes the vast experience base you build over time.

As margins tighten, your judgment, your experience, rewards things like:

  • Combined or eliminated trips
  • Organic matter saved, soil productivity leveraged
  • Rotations planned to reduce weed pressure and save nitrogen
  • Increasing yields without increasing costs
  • Questioning cash-rent terms that worked last year.
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