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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Agronomic Crop Production Advice for 1998-99

Crop and Soil Environmental News, September 1998

Mark Alley
Extension Specialist
Soil Fertility/Crop Management

Growing conditions have been less than ideal over large areas of Virginia this season. Wheat yields were the lowest in many years, corn yields have been reduced by drought in many areas, and the impact of dry weather on soybean yields is yet to be measured. Low grain prices add another major challenge to profitability for our producers.

Agronomic advice is especially critical this fall because producers can not afford any mistakes. Efficient production is essential. All land must be carefully evaluated for yield potential and assessment of yield-limiting factors. Soils with marginal productivity potentials offer little opportunity for profit this season. These fields must be critically evaluated with respect to crops to be planted, or if the land should be planted. However, once the decision to plant is made, inputs such as lime, quality seed, adequate nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients that are critical for production must be utilized in order to generate yields that will have the lowest possible cost per bushel. Generating maximum economic yields also means that all operations need to be completed on-time. In addition, growers can not afford "extras" that have little potential for producing profits.

For example, small grain production programs should probably exclude historically wet fields and utilize soil testing to determine lime and fertilizer needs. Variety testing data offer the opportunity to determine the varieties that have the greatest yield potential coupled with the best disease resistance package for a specific region. Also, plans for the next corn and soybean production programs can begin this fall in order to put together programs that have a chance to keep the grower profitable. Thought and attention to detail will be essential to profitability in the coming season.

Adverse situations present opportunities for individuals to do their best. Sound agronomic advice that is focused on specific situations will be a premium product in the coming year. This advice will not always be valued highly, just like corn, wheat, and soybeans this season. However, I am certain that our many highly-qualified crop advisors will provide the premium advice to enable our growers and industry to move through these difficult economic times.

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