How farmers and retailers use 'in-season management' for next season planning

WinField United's NutriSolutions® helps farmers make sure last season's nutrient gaps stay last season  

Tires On A Tractor On A Farm

It’s never been more important to make economically and agronomically sound decisions. But what can farmers do now, at the end of a challenging growing season? WinField United tackles that very challenge by providing NutriSolutions®: insights for farmers and retailers that remove the guessing game from next-season planning.  

Precision nutrition made clear

“Nitrogen is important. Everybody knows that. But there there’s a lot more than just NPK,” says Ray Pigati. As marketing manager at WinField United, Ray works with retail partners to build awareness around the importance of nutrient use — all nutrients, not just the popular ones.
“Even if you manage nitrogen well, there are other things you can do,” Ray says. That’s because the nutrients in crops work together in symphony. Each of the 17 elements are essential for growing, and the most limiting nutrient will affect the crop’s yield. Many nutrients within the plant interact with other nutrients, and often not in a positive way. For example, elevated phosphorous levels negatively affect zinc; zinc negatively affects iron. This means that growers may have to apply more than one nutrient to optimize yield.
The experts at WinField United are on the cutting edge of nutrient management and planning because they have analyzed over 600,000 tissue samples. Farmers and retailers from all over the United States take these samples from crops and send them to labs for analysis, frequently as part of the WinField United Tissue Sampling program. In return, they receive NutriSolutions tissue sample reports that assess and explain the precise levels of each nutrient in the context of its limiting factors, the crop and its stage of growth.
These reports are created by a unique team of agronomists, data scientists and researchers. The data and research team members are classically trained in data science but have a background in agronomy, so they’re able to ask meaningful questions from the data and create reports that are practical for farmers to interpret and use.
“We can ask questions of the data that we weren’t able to ask 5 years ago,” shares Ray. “Now we’re working to answering questions that can help farmers be more precise, so they’re not shooting in the dark with applications. They have data to back it up.”
If these NutriSolutions tissue reports are like blood tests, then the nutrient trend reports are like CDC public service announcements. The trend reports reveal nationwide plant health trends for a variety of crops, including corn, wheat, soybeans and more. Says Ray, “For trend reports, the goal is simplifying and delivering recommendations that anyone can interpret themselves, regionally.”
For instance, with this year’s heavy flooding, many regional NutriSolutions trend reports indicated boron deficiency. (Boron is a mobile nutrient, meaning it moves with water.) That insight can help retailers and farmers plan a boron solution for next season.
Overall, NutriSolutions reports are helping farmers increase their precision, making a real difference in ROI. WinField United has the research to confirm that when farmers corrected nutrient deficiencies, they were able to increase their yield — not to mention the money they saved by not applying unnecessary applications.

Now is the time to plan for sustainability

In a world of depressed grain prices, farmers need to be more mindful than ever of input costs, without sacrificing bushels. And, with more consumers focused on sustainability, the pressure to drive down nitrogen is here to stay, so it’s going to be more and more important to manage other nutrients.
According to Ray, “Tissue samples are critical. It is the most precise measurement of what’s getting into the crop. As we get more precise and accurate with our nitrogen applications, we think we will see a greater importance of managing the other essential nutrients.”
Spring may be the first season to come to mind when thinking about NutriSolutions tissue sample reports but fall and winter offer the opportunity to take advantage of WinField’s NutriSolutions reporting for planning purposes.
WinField United makes it easy to get started through the intern cost-share program. When a retailer takes 300 tissue samples, WinField United subsidizes the cost of an intern to collect those samples.
All these tissue samples add even more data to WinField United’s unmatchable database. More data points can help find new insights or disprove old ones.

Working to predict the future

WinField United is just scratching the surface of mining the tissue samples for new insights. It aims to be more forward-looking in its recommendations.
Future modeling techniques could give growers the edge by predicting and projecting the right nutrient decisions. For example, if a wet year is coming, predictive analytics can analyze all the tissue samples and data from wet years past to recommend the right treatment.
With a growing store of real crop data and the potential for accurate analysis and forecasting, WinField United NutriSolutions could one day transform the entire seed and crop input industry, benefiting the grower and the environment.