Ask the Experts: Grower Tips for Introducing New Products to the Field
- 20-30% of farm acres is a strategic calculated risk for introducing new products
- Test new products on fertile land, not low performing fields
- Value determinations require yield data, not just input cost per acre
Q. Why shouldn’t farmers introduce more than 20-30% new products to their farm each year?
A. Michael Moss, head of agronomic technical development at Syngenta: This rationale is based largely on balancing the risk of trying something new versus the potential reward of increased yields from the addition of new technology. Each situation is different. For example, although a particular farmer may not have used a new product themselves, if their neighbor has used it with great success, they may use the new product on a larger proportion of their acreage. Conversely, if a farmer is happy with their current program and has no prior experience with a new product, they may choose to lessen their risk exposure by deploying the product on a smaller percentage of their acreage. To push yield potential and quality of a crop, all farmers would benefit by trying new technologies on their farms each year.
Be quantitative and intentional. Don’t just put a new product on the “bad” ground immediately. If possible, compare new products on similar quality ground. Start small but scale up or down over a three- to four-year adoption cycle based on initial results.
A. Skye Root, founder/CEO at Root Agricultural Advisory and 2022 Syngenta Farm Manager of the Year: Farmers and other decision makers should take calculated risks. Never trying new products is not wise, but constant, broad scale product changing is far too risky.
Q. What resources should growers turn to when selecting potential new products for their farm?
A. Root: Over the last 15 years, the number of new products has increased almost exponentially. That said, those introducing new products today are under unprecedented pressure to immediately “prove” the value proposition with legitimate research, trials and data. Those resources can be useful for farmers to refer to.
A. Moss: Many of these products have been tested widely over many years to determine their value to growers. Company product websites, sales brochures, technical bulletins and university and third-party evaluations are useful. Seeking the input from a “trusted advisor/partner” in the farmer’s operation gives a more personal view of the potential fit and utility in the local geography. Advice from company sales and technical teams, retailer agronomists, crop consultants and others are all valuable sources to help understand the local fit of new technologies.
Q. How should farmers go about introducing a new product?
A. Moss: Talk with a trusted advisor who has had experience with the product to see what fields, or in what situations, the product is mostly likely to add value on your farm. Choose a field that is large enough to evaluate the product and uniform enough to be able to identify product benefits. For example, if testing a new herbicide product in corn, use a whole field with the same hybrid and other inputs and treat one area with the new herbicide and another area with the grower-standard program for comparison. Once the data is taken, the grower can run return-on-investment calculations to determine the value of the new herbicide versus their standard program.
A. Root: Be quantitative and intentional. Don’t just put a new product on the “bad” ground immediately. If possible, compare new products on similar quality ground. Start small but scale up or down over a three- to four-year adoption cycle based on initial results. If the product doesn’t add enough value compared to cost after three or four years, move on.
Q. What should farmers consider when evaluating if a new product works for their farm? What tests should they use and how does data play a role here?
A. Root: Farmers should consider soil tests, production records, aerial imagery and their own records. In-season evaluation, not just at the end of the season, goes a long way. Side-by-side crop comparisons can help show how a product performs against another product or an untreated field.
A. Moss: It comes down to a determination of “did the product perform on my farm?” In most cases, a return-on-investment calculation will be needed to determine the level of performance compared to a grower standard program. Yield data is essential to this analysis, as value per bushel rather than cost per acre is the correct way of determining value. Other items of consideration in “did it perform” include speed of harvest, percent of pest control, ease of use and more. Data-based decisions are always preferred when evaluating a new product.
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