It's never too early to be looking ahead to spring, and what you can be doing in preparation for planting. In fact, some of you may be starting to plant 6-8 weeks from now. We at IntelliFarms (in the chilly Kansas City area) have our minds already on the warmer weather, and offer quick thoughts on what you could be doing now in anticipation for spring:
- Test your soil temps: Weather forecasts for spring are variable, but sources are generally saying that this year's La Nina will bring slightly warmer temperatures for the lower Midwest and southern regions and the northern US should expect slightly greater precipitation than normal. Often, we ask guys when they know to go forward to planting. And often we hear it's because a neighbor was getting started. Even though the weather may generally be warmer this year, make sure before you plant that you're confident that the ground is ready for it. Best practices state to wait until there are 3 consecutive days above 50° F for to start planting corn or beans. Soil probes and field-level monitoring can help give you the data to help guide when the time is right to get in the field, so you don't run the risk of re-planting and/or yield lag that too-cold soil temperatures can cause.
- Watch policy and pricing. With Donald Trump getting to work on Monday, be watchful of how early policies affect pricing. Ag thought leaders are projecting that our industry will most quickly benefit from decreasing regulatory pressures, but there are still many question marks about Trump's trade policies and how they might impact prices. Also, USDA data shows that commodity prices peak in May-July on average, so keep an eye on and manage your stored grain as temperatures warm to keep it in good condition to market. At the same time, don't neglect to keep an eye on local markets throughout the winter for marketing windows. IntelliFarms' CashBidManager and MarketManager tools keep farmers updated year-round current bid prices and market opportunities.
- Do your research. December through February is “conference season." There are so many opportunities throughout the winter to learn about new trends and technologies that could be put to work on your farm this year and beyond. It is always impressive to see each year the new methods and equipment companies are bringing to market. Even if you have no expansion or upgrade plans this year, going to meetings and attending trade shows is a great way to stay informed and competitive in this changing industry. We hope you'll consider attending IntelliFarms' Tech Summit on February 8 in Kansas City, where speakers across the nation will be discussing topics that can make an impact on your farm in 2017 and beyond.
- Be diligent. It goes without saying, it is much easier to deal with a maintenance issue in the shop in February than it is during the first pass through a field in May. Winter is the time to be thoroughly inspecting your equipment and performing necessary maintenance. We also recommend that you use this time to get the training necessary on the technology platforms you use throughout the year. You'll be more prepared to utilize the technology to its greatest potential when the time comes, and you will have time to get the support you need to troubleshoot any issues you could face.
- Take a chance. Making changes in an operation takes planning and patience. But it is our stance that down times are as good as any to consider new opportunities. Down times test us, but the strategic and creative thinking that is necessary to get through them can not only help you survive in the near-term, but thrive in the long-term. Whether it's considering new crop varieties, using data to talk to your seed supplier about alternative varieties that better suit your soil, or exploring precision equipment you haven't considered before (used options could make these upgrades more affordable), there is time now to strategize and plan accordingly to implement new practices and equipment come spring.