Emotions are high when you've got a problem in your field and you call out the seed salesman or chemical rep to look at it. You're no longer in a friendly setting like at a winter meeting, where they're buying your dinner and giving you free stuff. You bought their product, now you want to know what is going wrong and what will they do about it.
From a company's perspective Mark Lawson, Danville – a technical rep with Syngenta and also a farmer – says that you need to ask lots of questions if you're the person investigating what went wrong, and ask the farmer to keep an open mind as well. Sometimes there is a different explanation that might not seem obvious at first.
"Joe Friday on Dragnet used to say 'Just the facts, ma'am,'" Lawson says. "That's what someone helping a farmer diagnose a problem needs to keep in mind, even if the farmer tends to get emotional."
After all, the farmer has several hundred dollars per acre invested in the crop which now isn't performing up to par – he's going to be given to be emotional in many cases.
Asking questions is the first step, Lawson says. What products were used? What was the mixing order? How old was the product? What was used previously in the field? What were the weather conditions when the application was made? These are close-ended, simple-to-answer questions that could shed light on what you think you are seeing.
The next step is to analyze what you're seeing. Think through it rationally and then help the farmer think through it. For example, Lawson says, if you see instant kill when the products that were used require translocation and a week to take effect, then probably something else was in the tank. With the move toward residual herbicides, products are out there that haven't been an issue for a while. Glyphosate is good at pulling residue out of the inside lining of tanks, so something else from a sprayer that wasn't cleaned thoroughly could be at work.
"You've got to look and ignore assumptions," Lawson concludes