- 2014 Advocates
In Feburary 2014, the 2014 4R Advocates joined TFI in our 4R Nutrient Stewardship booth at the 2014 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. Winning growers and retailers were awarded an expense-paid trip to the Commodity Classic, where they were honored at an awards banquet hosted by TFI. Throughout 2014, the 4R Grower Advocates will be part of TFI’s outreach efforts to promote nutrient management practices that benefit farmers and their communities as well as the environment.
Grower: George Brand (Brand Dairy Farm)
Retailer: Ty Fichennscher (Cooperative Producers)
George Brand of Brand Dairy Farm operates a 400-head dairy herd with about 900 head of cattle on the farm at all times and 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. He and his son, David, work with Terry Bechman of The Andersons.
For three generations, the farm has been operated as a model of innovation and one that incorporates the latest practices with its dairy herd, as well. It’s a philosophy started by Jim, which he continues to practice. His son George and grandson David embody the same approach.
“Eighty percent of our territory and all of Brands’ farm is in the St. Joseph watershed,” he explains. “It drains into the Maumee River, which drains into Lake Erie. It’s unique in the Great Lakes system in that it’s the shallowest of the five lakes. Being shallow, it’s more susceptible to nutrient runoff – from all sources – and algae bloom. It’s important that growers here are attuned to this and manage accordingly.”
The Brands’ protected soil is tested annually. A third-party agronomist takes into account soil tests, manure application and crop removal and then makes nutrient recommendations by management zones. The Andersons then use that information to apply variable rates of individual fertilizer using GPS-controlled application equipment. This ensures the right type of fertilizer is applied where it’s needed at the right rate and when it’s needed most. This combination of 4R nutrient management practices and conservation approaches ensure that the Brands will farm for generations to come. Plus, they’ll continue to grow their long list of awards from peers and farm organizations.
Grower: Dennis and Gregg Lott (Lott Seed Farms)
Retailer: Dale Dosenberry (Wilbur Ellis)
Dennis and Greg Iott of Iott Seed Farms operate a 1,350-acre operation producing seed potatoes for commercial chip growers and wheat, with remaining acres in rye, sorghum and sudangrass or other cover crops as part of a three year rotation. Their retailer is Dale Dosenberry of Wilbur Ellis.
“Quality and uniformity are critical to a successful seed potato crop,” Dennis explains. “Nobody wants big seed potatoes. There’s the same number of eyes on large and small ones. We strive for a large number of small potatoes. If there’s a limiting nutrient to a potato plant, it’ll stop growing. Plus, we have a short growing season, so we don’t have time to waste.”
These are just a few reasons, combined with a passion for modern agriculture practices, why the Iotts apply the best nutrient stewardship management practices available. They were nominated by Dale Dosenberry, technical sales representative, with Wilbur-Ellis Company in Edmore, Mich. He’s been working with Iotts for more than 32 years.
“This long business relationship allows me the perspective of knowing what the issues on the farm are,” Dosenberry says. “You also know what type of farmer your customer is, what he expects from his crop and what he wants to produce for his customers.”
Results demonstrate the 4R principles are working well. Over the past four years, uniformity of yields has improved every year, consistently reaching the top of yield goals on all acres. Previously, there could be 15 percent to 20 percent variability year to year. In addition, their focus on properly balancing soil nutrients has greatly minimized potato scab, a disease that can harm the crop and profits.
Grower: Chris von Holton
Retailer: Malcom Stambaugh (AgViewFS)
Chris von Holton's farming operation currently consists of1,025 acres in 75% corn and 25% soybeans. His retailer is Malcom Stambaugh with AgView FS.
“I’m always evaluating new products and technology,” he says. “I adopt those that improve the overall efficiency of my farm. If you’re not trying to learn something, you’ll get into a rut.”
VonHolten is committed to innovation, while still practicing sound crop production techniques that are environmentally, economically and socially sound Malcolm Stambaugh of Ag View FS, also of Walnut, nominated VonHolten for the award. The retailer helps with the farm’s nutrient management program and provides a wide range of services to help producers grow crops more efficiently and profitably.
“Chris’ outlook about effective stewardship practices and the value associated with them has had a positive influence on our relationship with him,” says Malcom Stambaugh, local crop specialist with Ag View FS. “He’s earned recognition locally as a wise source of production practices that meet many of the criteria within the 4R program.”
Managing details helps ensure that yield keeps rising. VonHolten or an AgView FS staffer scouts fields weekly during growing season to identify weed, insect or disease issues. Pesticides are mixed at the local plant, which helps control possible contamination. VonHolten helps ensure the environment is protected, as well. Waterways and roadsides aren’t mowed until nesting season is over to protect wildlife. Last fall, he tested a cover crop mix on two locations to help absorb excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion.
Grower: John and Dean (Werries Farm LLC)
Retailer: Verne "Tinker" Bader (Bader Agricultural Service, Inc.)
Werries Farm LLC, managed by John and his son Dean, maintains 3,800 acres of corn and soybeans on owned and rented land consisting of both flat fertile soil and less productive rolling terrain (3,500 acres of corn oncorn). They also sell cover crop seed and offer custom seeding through a new venture, Chapin Cover Crops.
“We started using no-till on soybeans in 1990,” John says. “We were half beans and half corn then. In 1996, we started strip-tilling corn acres to retain organic matter and reduce soil erosion."
Still focused on keeping soil in place, the Werries worked with their longtime retailer, Verne “Tinker” Bader, owner of Bader Agricultural Service, Inc., in 2011 to develop a new strategy for managing fertility. He nominated the Werries for the 4R Advocate award.
Last year’s harvest proved the effectiveness of this approach. Despite a lack of rain in August 2013, Werries’ average corn yield was 233.8 bushels/acre. The average regional yield was 185 bushels per acre.
“The 4R approach just makes sense,” John says. “If you apply everything in the fall and get a big rain event, you run the risk of losing it to surface runoff and through the tile. By spreading it out, you’re more likely to keep it for the crop. You’re more likely to keep your nutrients in place if you keep your soil where it belongs.”
Always seeking improvements, the Werries sowed cover crops on all 3,800 acres in 2012, starting with ryegrass and cereal rye.
Grower: Clint Wortman (Jackson Wortman, LLC)
Retailer: A.J. Radford (CPS)
Clint Wortman of Jackson Wortman, LLC operates a 3500-acre cattle and crop farm with irrigated and non‑irrigated production land growing silage corn, cotton, peanuts, soybeans, rye, ryegrass, Bermudagrass, pecans and triticale. His retailer is A.J. Radford of CPS. Watch video about farm operations and management.
“This mix of crops and cattle fits our philosophy of achieving maximum yield with the least amount of fertilizer and chemicals by reducing pests, weeds and disease through crop rotation and environmentally responsible practices,” Clint says.
Clint was nominated by A.J. Radford who works with Crop Protection Services in Moultrie, GA. He and CPS have worked with the Wortmans for more than 10 years and provide multiple services to their operation.While yield across the farm is increasing annually, Radford notes that’s not the only goal.
“It’s not just a matter of increased yield. It’s a matter of increasing the bottom line by doing a better job utilizing what’s out there. Picking the right fertilizer gives the grower the opportunity to use what’s needed – at the right rate. Fields in South Georgia aren’t uniform, but the 4R approach helps you achieve a high-yielding, uniform crop,” he says.