Wrangling Budgets in Tough Times

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Jason McNutt

As with any business, sticking to farm production budgets boosts your odds of ending the year in the black instead of the red.

That is especially important in a year when fuel and fertilizer prices are hitting record highs. Crop input purchase decisions can be tricky when budgets are tight, especially in a dryland production system.

One Pacific Northwest agronomist has a plan to help his growers to put their dollars where they are most needed.

Jason McNutt, retail consultant with Nutrien Ag Services in Washington, uses variable rate technology and other precision agriculture programs to ensure fertilizer is applied only where it is most needed and at prescribed rates. The money saved by avoiding wholesale broadcast applications is then applied to other budget areas where funds are needed, including crop protection.

“Variable rate applications, aided by imagery, work to help us put fertilizer only where it is needed. This then frees up the budget to go after the weed and disease control needed to reach yield potential,” McNutt says. “Why broadcast 200 pounds of nitrogen across all of your fields when each field has variable needs within that field.”

Variable rate technology enables McNutt’s wheat-growing customers to realize maximum yield in red-mapped zones, while both increasing yield in yellow-mapped areas and maintaining yield in green-mapped zones.

“I would love to throw the kitchen sink at all of my growers’ acres, but in a dryland system, we can’t do that,” McNutt says. “Instead, I recommend what is best agronomically and economically for each acre. I lay it all out on the line, but if it’s not in the budget, we figure out ways to get control that fits the budget and ensures we reach yield potential.”

No matter the production budget, weed control is critical to maximizing productivity and weed control success depends on proper application timing.

“Wiping out the nasty weeds choking out your wheat crop builds yield,” McNutt says. “The quicker you can get on the field when weeds break dormancy, the better the control. If weeds get more than 4 inches tall, you are testing product limits.”

McNutt’s preferred weed control program is to start early with a grass herbicide and follow up with a treatment tailored to broadleaf weed control.

For wheat farmers fighting cheatgrass or downy brome, he often recommends Tarzec® herbicide

“As soon as cheatgrass is out of dormancy and growing, we’re going with Tarzec to get the control we need,” McNutt says. “I was curious how it would perform in the field and, boy, did it perform. Tarzec smashed it out of the park in my growers’ fields.”

He also recommends PowerFlex® HL herbicide where Group 1-resistant cheatgrass is present. “It’s critical to knock it down below the crop canopy,” McNutt says, “and make sure it is not setting seed.

“I also had a couple of farmers go with WideARmatch herbicide, and it worked absolutely beautifully on broadleaf weeds. Corteva has developed these products that really work well for me in dryland wheat and barley systems.”

Most of McNutt’s recommended herbicide treatments are tank-mixed with Aproach® or Aproach® Prima fungicides as well as Liberate adjuvant.  

“With Aproach, we get about 40 days of good protection and we see immediately plant health benefits,” McNutt says. “Some of my farmers have Aproach on every single acre. If we get rain, we’re going to see rust develop, and spraying Aproach is like giving a shot of penicillin to the plant. It also helps with the plant stress caused by the drought.”

After an abnormally dry year when many wheat fields in McNutt’s area yielded half of normal, he’s hopeful for a better 2022 season.

“This year, we have great stands. We have moisture. I’m projecting it’s going to be one of those years with a cool, wet spring. If applications are timely, products will work more effectively and you’ll have less plant stress,” McNutt says. “Variable rate fertilizer is helping us keep costs down so we can spend more dollars on other necessary crop production inputs and hit our yield potential.”

Visit CerealHerbicides.corteva.us to discover which herbicides will help you hit your yield goals.

Aproach®, Aproach Prima, PowerFlex® HL, Tarzec® and WideARmatch® are not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions.