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Use Lessons From 2012 As You Shoot For Top Yields in 2013

You have one more year's worth of lessons to add to your memory bank after 2012.

It's unlikely anyone will go into 2013 basing what they do on exactly what happened in 2012. That would be defying the odds. There's a chance that 2013 could be like 2012, but it's about one in 25 or maybe one in 50 or even one in 75. It could happen next year, and it may not happen for another 75 years.

What seems like the better strategy to us is to take lessons learned form 2012, add them to lessons learned from every other year that you have raised crops, and proceed down the same path you were on a year ago. In some ways, the 2012 season was just a detour and a speed bump, a big one for some, toward becoming more efficient and more productive.

Let me relate it to something that I have a passion for – coaching soil judging. The season just wrapped up with the state soils judging contest near Batesville this past weekend. It's one of the more competitive 4-H and FFA contests held each year.

As a coach, I learn something each year. I don't go into the new season coaching as if we will see exactly what we saw the year before. That's not likely because they move the contest around the state, and soils are very different from one area to another. However, a couple years ago I learned how to teach what a filled depression is. In case you're wondering, it's an area in a low spot where 20 inches or more of soil from surrounding slopes covers the original, darker topsoil. Often it is poorly drained.

A couple years before that I learned what bedrock was, and how to tell if it's just the parent material the soil was formed form, or if it is also limited rooting, based on what we saw in contests.

Last year I learned two painful lessons – make sure students always read and understand hints on the score card, and remember that a soil can still have a couple of inches of medium, original topsoil on top, but still be severely eroded. Many times when you find it in the field, the top spoil is completely gone and it is severely eroded, but that's not always the case.

What I do is work these lessons learned over the years into my teaching and practice routine as we work with students during the fall season. Hopefully they have a broader picture of what to look for in soils and in the contest since I have a broader amount of knowledge to share with them.

To me it's much the same with looking ahead to corn production in 2013. Our goal in soil judging is to make the top five and earn a trip to Oklahoma. Whether we make it or not, we put what we learned into our knowledge base, and come back again next fall, a bit wiser and more seasoned, ready to go after the same goal again.

You'll come into next season still going for top yields, but you'll be just a bit wiser and more seasoned. If you're young enough to have thought a real disaster could never happen to crops on your farm, now you know it can. It doesn't mean you sell your tractor and buy horses and go back to check row corn. It just means you keep in mind that on this 20 acre field of sandy soil, maybe you cut back 2,000 seeds per acre, just in case. Maybe a realistic yield goal for every field isn't 300 bushels per acre anyway.

Good luck as you move into 2013. The odds heavily favor a much better year. Be ready to go for the gold again.

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