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Wheat: A dollar saved is a dollar made

Tennessee farmer reallocates fertilizer dollars, boosts ROI.

Whitney Haigwood, Staff Writer

June 7, 2024

5 Min Read
Close up of wheat, green and at the heading stage.
Tennessee farmer, Jearod Flowers found a way to boost wheat yields in 2023. This year he finetuned his approach with fertilizer reallocation to offset the cost and further increase ROI.Whitney Haigwood

Crop rotation is important to third-generation farmer Jearod Flowers on his family farm just outside of Dyer, Tenn. His rotation includes corn, soybean, and wheat. Until last year, his highest achieved wheat yield was 89 bushels per acre. 

In 2023, he saw a significant yield increase when he altered his fertility program. Flowers reported a consistent 100 bushels per acre across the farm – with wheat yields reaching as high as 114 bushels per acre.  

His only change was adding a product by Nachurs to enhance soil nutrient uptake. Of course, with results like that, Flowers included the product as part of his fertility program this year, spoon feeding the crop and reallocating his fertility applications. 

He said, “A dollar saved is a dollar made. In the ROI of it all, we’ve already kicked the can further down the road.”  

Now he waits for wheat harvest 2024 to see if he can replicate or exceed last year’s results with fertilizer reallocation to further improve his return on investment. 

One change, big results 

During the fall of 2022, Flowers planted his wheat crop the same as any other year. He sowed the wheat seed with a truck, then worked it in. He treated the seed with a fungicide-insecticide, and applied a root growth stimulator, Ascend.  

Related:Midsouth Wheat acres down, but set for harvest

At planting he also treated the crop with an upfront fertilizer application of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). The season rocked on as usual, until the wheat reached heading at the flag-leaf stage. That is when Flowers tried out a new product – Finish Line – in his liquid N-P-K application. 

His test of the new product was two-fold. Flowers was looking to take his farm to the next level, but he also wanted to do a little research for himself. You see, in addition to farming, he is also a sales representative at Titan Ag. He wanted to test the effectiveness for himself. 

“We wanted to experiment with it. Since I farm, I wanted to see for myself if the product worked before I tried to push this product to a customer,” he said. 

For his test, he applied one-shot of Finish Line with his standard liquid fertilizer application on part of the farm. Then he fertilized one block with his usual liquid fertilizer application. 

Flowers saw the results firsthand. At harvest, the field treated with only the fertilizer application showed around 90 bushels per acre on the yield map. However, yields picked up consistently where the wheat was treated with Finish Line – by at least 10 bushels per acre. 

“When we hit the part of the field treated with Finish Line, we sustained over 100 bushels. Of course it varies at different increments over the farm, but still, we were over 10 bushels difference,” he said. 

Related:Soil fertility solution for nutrient fixation

Reallocation of fertilizer dollars 

The yield bump was enough to convince Flowers to try Finish Line again in his 2024 wheat crop, but with a different approach – reallocating fertilizer applications to offset the cost of the product and further boost ROI. 

Back in 2023, soybeans were planted behind the wheat crop. Soil tests were pulled, then mid-October, Flowers sowed a Croplan wheat hybrid, staying on top of genetics to plant the newest variety. Again, the seed was treated with a fungicide-insecticide and put out by truck with a root growth stimulator.  

Upfront, he applied a dry N-P-K fertilizer, yet Flowers did not put out the usual amount of dry fertilizer. Instead, he said reallocation was key.  

“With prices like they were for 2024 versus 2023, we reallocated,” Flowers said. “We pulled out of our fertilizer upfront at a cost deficit of about $18 per acre so we could use our Finish Line product on the back side of the season without any additional cost.” 

From there it was business as usual, cleaning up weeds with an over-the-top herbicide application of Sencor and Anthem Maxx 30 days after planting.  

The next trips across the field included Finish Line. Rather than a one-shot application, he chose to split it in two, adding Finish Line to a liquid nitrogen fertilizer application in March and a fungicide application in April. 

“We didn’t use an extra trip across the field to do this. We were just incorporating Finish Line into the trips we were already making,” he said. “Spreading this product out gets you more bang for your buck. We mixed Finish Line when we side dressed in March adding a quart with our liquid 28-0-0-5 nitrogen application. Then we ran another quart with our fungicide and insecticide application in April.” 

From here, it is a waiting game until wheat harvest in 2024 to see what the crop brings in. 

A cash crop and a cover crop 

Better nutrients mean better yields, and for Flowers, wheat serves as a cash crop and a cover crop to improve root structure. He relies on the best technology and crop rotation to sustain the family farm. 

While his wheat acres did not increase this year due to crop rotation, he is considering an increase if Finish Line continues to improve his bottom line.  

“Sowing wheat is reasonable. You have a blanket on the ground, whether you drill or sow. It gives us a cash crop and a cover crop,” he said. “Not only does this help us be good stewards to the land, but we get long term erosion control because the wheat straw left behind the combine helps us hold soil moisture content.” 

So far, the weather has been ideal, and Flowers has seen no pest or disease issues. While that is subject to change before harvest, he is thankful that southern rust problems have remained south of Western Tennessee. 

“We still have all of May to go,” he said at the time of the interview. “But we have been very fortunate that we have not had a lot of southerly storms that usually push those spores up this way.  

“Going forward, if we see adequate prices and the same wheat yields in 2024, we will probably increase our wheat acres.” 

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