Crop Update Newsletter

January-March 2002

Joel DeJong , crop specialist

Agronomists at dealerships, seed dealers, ag chem reps and others make recommendations to farmers about a vast array of issues during the entire growing season. Sometimes these advisors have good, sound backgrounds for these recommendations, sometimes inexperience in advising - particularly in some subject matter areas - becomes a shortfall for them. If agronomists are making recommendations, it has been my hope that they can use the best research-based information available to them to help producers. However, it is sometimes difficult to give direct timely information when these advisors have the specific questions, so a wider access, more pro-active method of getting this information in their hands in a timely manner was needed.

Following the lead of other ISU extension agronomists in northwest Iowa , the Crop Update newsletter was created a few years ago. This past year, the newsletter was sent via fax, e-mail and in a few occasions - snail mail. This newsletter was written weekly in the early part of the growing season and less frequently later in the season. Many references to ISU's Integrated Crop Management Newsletter were used to support articles. The purpose of this newsletter was to alert these advisors of problems that might be showing up and make recommendations on treatment thresholds if they did indeed become a problem. In 2001, this newsletter went to 157 individual sites - but was read by multiple people at some of those sites.

Nineteen total surveys were returned. One of the first assessment questions asked was if they made changes as a result of this newsletter. Eleven respondents indicated they did. Changes included more timely scouting for insects, bean leaf beetles scouting in particular was mentioned 3 times, and one indicated that when it was mentioned that it was time to go scout fields for specific pests, they did! Another respondent said they also started doing the fall nitrogen test on some fields as a result of this newsletter. Four more indicated they will make changes in the future and eleven said that this newsletter confirmed their management program at times.

When asked if their firm was now serving customers better as a result of the newsletter, 14 answered yes and one said the same as before. What were they doing to serve customers better? More timely scouting (5 times), sharing information with customers better (3 times) - including pass through e-mails, and one used it to resolve issues with customers. How much did this information impact the customer's profitability? Not many filled in this part of the survey, but those that did indicated significant impact. One respondent, representing 100 customers and 35,000 acres, said profitability for customers went up $2 - $5 per acre. Another indicated the same increase in customer profitability, but did not indicate acres served. Another indicated $5+ per acre, and that advisor served 10 customers growing 3,000 acres. Another with over 100 customers and 30,000 acres estimated a $5 $7 per acre increase in profitability for clients. And still another, representing 200 clients and 60,000 acres, indicated that more scouting changed their customer's profitability $25-$30 per acre. Finally, a regional seed corn agronomist indicated that this information made hundreds of dollars in differences on some acres with severe problems.

What about the profitability in their own business? Nine said it increased their profitability and three answered that it did not. Better recommendations, more timely scouting and reputation enhancement were the most common responses as to how it improved their bottom line. Only three indicated an estimated value to their operation. The first one indicated increased business profitability of $3 per acre (representing 80 customers and 35,000 acres). The other indicated a flat value of $10,000 increase in overall profits.

These respondents represent a large number of clients. Those submitting this information represented more than 1,300 clients farming more than 500,000 acres.

With only one crop specialist serving seven northwest Iowa counties it can become difficult to share the research-based information from ISU directly with farmers. We must get that information in the hands of those who farmers can find in their local community and go to directly for their advise. Using this newsletter obviously is a good method for reaching these farmers through their local dealer - and really helps getting sound, research-based decision-making methods into the hands of their local advisor. And, it has big econmic impacts on a farmer's or advisor's business!


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