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The Culture of Agriculture Episode 1

Potato Planting With Gary Farmer

Welcome to Spudnik’s FIRST podcast episode! The Culture of Agriculture is an exciting platform for Spudnik to be able to educate growers on the topics they are interested in and have the ability to advocate for the agriculture industry. 

Gary Farmer from Valley Wide Agronomy joined our host Brent Rigby. Gary stated “I started my career when the 4020 was still a pretty impressive tractor… I’ve been a crop advisor or agronomist for nearly 45 years and it’s been mostly potatoes and grain. I’ve seen the evolution of our potato industry go from what seems like the dark ages now to what we see now, which is just incredible.” 

Gary

Yeah, to put things in perspective. The growers now in the potato industry do as much in a day that the growers did in a planting season or a harvest season is it’s just incredible. And I just sit back, and I’m just totally amazed.

Brent

So you know, you kind of thinking through that. Planting wise, you look at, say 30 years ago, when you and I started in this deal. Pretty heavy, right? What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the in the planter side? I mean, for accuracies of what we’re looking for?

Gary

oh, yeah, I mean, you know, ironically, I mean, back in the good old days, you know, there was a single belt Acme potato planter, and it forced the growers to drive really slow. So you know, they got 30 acres a day, or 40 acres day planted today, that was a big day. And you know, the accuracy was decent in those those years. But not like it is now and we can do so much more at a higher level of accuracy. And it we’ve just really come a long way. And the yields that we expect, you know, 300 used to be the benchmark. Now if you don’t raise at least 400 in our area. It’s a crop failure. And then obviously, you go farther west, and it’s a lot more than that.

Brent

Yes. And a lot of has to do with the inputs. Right. And the inputs were astronomically more than 30 years ago. Oh, my Gosh, it’s probably tripled.

Gary

No, I mean, I mean, if you look at this year’s costs, and they’ve doubled from last year alone, but if you compare it back to the 70s is when I got started, and he’s 10-20 times more.

Brent

Yeah, it’s it’s amazing to see. And then finally, the prices of the product that’s come up. We help us with that part of it. I think, I think in a lot of sense, you know, obviously, us in agriculture understand it. But a lot of people that are outside of agriculture that may be listening to this, don’t probably necessarily understand the costs and the inputs of what it takes to grow a potato crop or grain crop or anything that we’re doing right now.

Gary

Yeah, that’s a good point. Brent, I was telling a gal at a C store once she was just asking me some questions about potato farmers and and I just told her the next time you drive down the highway and you see a quarter mile pivot, sitting out there And that takes a grower a half a million dollars to raise that one field. And her jaw just dropped. And I said, That’s what our American potato farmers are up against right now. And it’s serious business.

Brent

It is one little hiccup. And yeah, it’s not a good thing. What, what are some of the challenges? I know last year, we had some major challenges, you know, with the potato crop with heat with moisture. I mean, we just we were so hot early.

Gary

Yeah. And I think as we go into this year, I think it would behoove us to look at what happened last year. And you know, I kind of go through this checklist of okay, what did we learn last year, so we don’t repeat those same mistakes. And, and I’ve always said that the best growers that I work with reflect on what has happened in the past. Put that in there, the memory banks, and then their ability to adjust, even preseason and in season separates the really good growers from the ones that are not. And last year, I think, here in southeastern Idaho, we probably had a year unlike anything that I’ve ever seen in my 40 plus years.

Brent

Yeah, I would have to agree.

Gary

And, and that it was mostly associated with water stress early on, and also the heat stress that we had we

Brent

kind of looking at that, from last year, when you talk we talk about water stress, what is there any, any things that you’ve kind of studied or looked at that we should do this spring, that would be different?

Gary

Well, last year, we had a really dry winter. And so I think some of us probably just went on as business was normal. But as I look back, and I kind of woke up when it was early enough to actually do something and recommend some things. But we probably started this last year’s growing season with probably at least a one and a half to two inch per acre foot deficit in our soil profile, because we did not get any winter moisture. And we didn’t. So we we were actually planting and drier soils. And by the time it came to cultivate, or even that first irrigation, we were extremely dry. And at that point in time, we got blessed with some incredibly warm weather, which just made the situation even that much more difficult. And those growers who were able to recognize and adapt early fared a lot better than those that just went along like they normally do. and so I had growers that actually pre irrigated, which I had never done before. But I had a lot that almost every one of them had to irrigate before they cultivate, which isn’t necessarily a situation. And then those first irrigations that they normally, you know, just put, like a light dose, we’re full mode irrigation before the spouts even came out of the ground,

Brent

and the art and the art part with like pivots and some of that as we can’t get that deeper again, no one is really trying to get jobs to do with like hand lines, or wheel lines and I think that’s why we’ve seen some guys go back to that.

Gary

Right. And that’s a good point, because are one of the things that are really critical with potatoes, like several other crops is the salt levels. And so when we had that kind of situation, all those salts percolated up to the the surface or the root zone, and we couldn’t catch up. And so those salts kind of had a negative effect on those emerging plants. You know, and I’m not saying every field is like that, but there was a lot that were, and we probably got

Brent

soil type and some of those things that kind of in the regions of what right,

Gary

where we saw that the biggest struggle is in the in the calcareous typical western soils that we have west of Blackfoot that the desert soils, if you will, the sandier soils, we don’t have as much problem with that. But again, the reality that we had to irrigate a lot more and a lot faster than we’ve ever done before. And then that also so I you know, ask that’s going to come into play this year. I can see it already.

Brent

Yeah. It’s interesting. I have a program on the farm up in Rexburg that I watch. And from the first of January 1, that keeps track of the rainfall on that particular acreage, right. And you’ve you’ve got programs that are doing that as well, but the history is too I think what 2.25 inches is what I normally have on that farm. Right now. I’m just under an inch since January 1 to now. And so you start to look at that we’re headed into somewhat of a similar, yeah, unless we get a lot of moisture here shortly.

Gary

So again, we just need to look at what we learned last year and be ready for it. And I think we all are a little bit smarter this time around than we were last year. And that’s going to be a big deal. So I look for people and people are planning earlier than they normally do this year because of the water situation. And so we’re just going to have to be on guard and I think irrigation, and particularly early season is going to be a critical component of a successful crop this year.

Brent

I totally agree. You know, and that was another thing that we kind of visited a lot about last year was temperature in the soil, or it came on early, like you say the water is critical. It almost kind of cooled that soil a little bit and kept the plant going. But on the other side of that is is our temperatures. What are you seeing soil temperature this year right now compared to what you saw a year ago?

Gary

Well, right now in April there, they’re real similar, where we really ran into problems and you and I talked at length last summer several times about the things and so I soil temperatures and air temperatures and everything else. And maybe I think we’re going to fall into that same situation this year if the weather pattern continues. But I kind of went digging into some historical data for the last two or three years last year to try to figure out okay, what are we looking at, and I think some of the things that we need to talk about before we get into that is, you know, the physiology of a young potato plant. And I’ll my conversation is going to be basically based on russet Burbank, Norkotah are a little bit in the same category. And you know, and this is all varietals, but it seems like russet Burbank are the ones that are more susceptible to some problems if we have these kinds of conditions. But optimum soil temperature for tuber initiation is around 65 degrees soil temperature. And at about 85 degrees soil temperature, that plant is not going to want to set tubers. And that’s what we had last year, you know, we started out the season pretty much like a normal year other than the water deficit. But our soil temperature were pretty decent, but by the I would say the end of May last year. And all through June, which that was the time in our russet Burbank. So we’re initiating tubers on this side of the state. We had unseasonally warm weather I mean to the point where it’s just unbelievable. So and then we found that some of our potato fields that are reset tubers, and we’re thinking everything was gung ho, and then the heat hit. And all of a sudden we lost our sets. And the potato plants just went vegetative. And we couldn’t get any potatoes to set.

Brent

They were more in a in a keep alive mode.

Gary

Right, exactly, you know, it was more worried about growing a vine than it was reproductive growth. So at that point in time, I said, Okay, right, what’s going on here. So I knew that we had that situation about tuber initiation, the temperature. So I went back to the 2020 year. And the and I went and got some historical data about soil temperatures from the middle of April to the end of June in 2020, and that average soil temperature was 77 degrees. And we had a tremendously good crop that year. And we had no problems. Well, in 2021, that same time period, our average soil temperature were almost 90 degrees,

Brent

which that’s 12 Yes, 12 degrees hotter.

Gary

Now, granted, a lot of those days weren’t there. But that’s just the average. And

Brent

well then you go back to the what the temperature saying where we nearly need the optimal. And we weren’t there we were way past that.

Gary

Yeah. And so and then that was a problem, you know, and we have little control over that. But we can do some things that can help us. And again, that earlier irrigation and those that were on top of it fared better than those that didn’t. And I’m not saying that didn’t affect every grower, even with irrigation because it was it was across the entire area. So that was a big deal. And then nitrogen manages another thing that I think we kind of goofed up last year because again, during that time we’re in on a normal year we’re in a process of top dressing our potatoes and and maybe start pumping because we’re anticipating this long, tough growing season. We want to make sure we build the vine and and at On a typical year, we can do that still set tubers. But last year, our plants went vegetative, and we’re still fertilizing like we normally do, then all of a sudden, we’ve just exacerbated that problem to the point where that plant just wants to grow vine and nothing else,

Brent

it was just really feeding on the nitrogen side, and it was a right, a productive side.

Gary

And so I along with many other consultants, everybody else, we probably made a mistake, we should have backed off our early nitrogen to the point where we really had brown potatoes underneath those plants. I think there’s another thing to watch for this year. But, you know, I’ve always said that our reactions are kind of like a pendulum and sometimes we overreact. And so I don’t say that we need to do that, we still need to be doing what we think works. But we’ve got to be really aware of the situation at hand. Well,

Brent

like you say, knowing that is something that we can watch for this spring, right is to really kind of monitor our soil temperatures, monitor what’s happening, and kind of see what that moisture levels need to be.

Gary

Right and if the same thing replays itself, let’s be a little cautious about our early season nitrogen. And, you know, to get to the foundation of what’s happening behind that, you know, each plant has, you know, several different type of growth hormones that they they’re that they produce. I know that all of us are familiar with, you know, oxygens gibberellic, acid cytokinins, those are all growth hormones that have, you know, the plate integral parts of the plant development. But if the plant is grown like crazy, and it’s got tons of fertilizer, it’s going to be more apt to produce gibril Ik acid system, which promotes vine growth and vegetative growth. And at the same time, cytokines are the ones that are really associated with reproductive growth. And so when you got to plant this produce, and all this gibberellic acid, which also enhances shoot development in the routes, and so what happened is, typically a potato plant will shoot out a stolen and that and that is produced because of gibberellic acid, and a lot of other things to factor into it, but the production of gibberellic acid, so that plant sets out a stolen which is going to set a tuber eventually. And then at a given point in time, and this is almost 100% temperature related. The plat essentially changes gears and starts to produce more cytokines at that time, which stimulates tumor initiation. And as long as that temperatures decent, it’ll continue to grow tuber and but if we’re pouring a bunch of nitrogen on there that we don’t need, and we got tons of rapid growth, what happens a lot of we saw a lot of that year that stolen, that’s just said a tuber will continue to grow another another right, and we get those heat runners. Yeah, and those heat runners are exactly alike. And you’ll notice that most of those develop on the top four or five inches, because that’s where it’s most warm. And so we had that everywhere, and it’s called tuber chain where they’ll grow set a tuber, then it’ll continue to grow. And that’s because the plants producing too much uric acid. And so we have to be aware of that situation and be careful about not only having the water but making sure that we’re monitoring our fertilizer that we don’t it’s kind of an imbalance that we have to avoid.

Brent

So when you’re when you’re talking about putting on nitrogen and some of those things, do you have some recommendations? I know every every every goes consultant and grower is going to look at it a little different. Yeah, but when you start looking at it, you want some slow release nitrogens Do you want to do it correlates urea? I know we used to have nitrate but that kind of went away after we did some explosions but well, you on that’s another thing entirely?

Gary

That is a good question. Because everybody, you know, if four of us went to a tree and had to climb to the top of it would probably all take four different routes to it. And we’d all get to the top of the tree. I think that’s how growers are too. So I think you know, and I hesitate to make blanket recommendations because every situation is different. But I think that you know, your the grower knows their soil, the consultants know their soil. They know the rotations, they know the variety. And you know, we’ll talk probably about age seed, and that’s another factor that goes into it and you’ve got all these things and And at the end of the day, you’ve got to have a crop that’s gonna vine that’s gonna have to last the season. So you’ve got to have that in mind. So you can’t, you gotta be real careful because you could really shoot yourself in the foot. But I think what I would do is moderate the amount of fertilizer and again, this is varietals. russet Burbank are totally different in our code is because most NOC code as you can front end load really easy, and I’d recommend that but on the Burbank so I’d be a little bit more cautious about that. So if you’re top dressing, before you plant or cultivate, you know, make sure that you’re using while you’re probably going to use urea or ammonium sulfate. We sell a product called Super U, which I just love to death, because it’s not necessarily a slow release as much as it is it controlled. It keeps that from converting to nitrate as quickly. But you know, it doesn’t hesitate to you know, it doesn’t slow down the conversion to ammonium. And so it’s still available. So all those type of fertilizers play a big role into how you front load your specific fields. But I think NAFTA last year, I’m gonna be a little bit more cautious about my water run till I have potatoes that are either gonna see what’s happening there, maybe pull some petioles and kind of see.

Brent

Exactly. So going along. Why that kind of it was a challenge last year was you go from one field, and you’d have a pretty crop and you go to the next field. And there’s really made a lot of us pretty nervous.

Gary

Did MAN Yeah, I think we all aged a little bit, my hair lines, how much they’re left, I think I lost a few more inches on the last summer because it was bad. You went

Brent

back and I went wider.

Gary

Then you go out and look at these fields. And of course, I’m like a golfer, I just dig like crazy out there. Because I love to do that. And you’re into the middle of July, you’re not finding any tubers. And pretty soon you’re to the end of the July, then you’re really starting to worry and start to panic. Yeah, in fact, I had one guy says I refuse to look at my spuds underneath the ground anymore, because I don’t like what I’ve seen.

Brent

And that’s not normal. I mean, normally you’re out there digging every week just to kind of see and to take some samples and see how things are progressing. So

Gary

well. Yeah, you’re looking for that one potato that you put on your dashboard, right through town, you know,

Brent

kind of brag about that? Yeah, it wasn’t

Gary

last year in the Burbank.

Brent

That’s true. Well, maybe we talk a little bit, we’ve got the planting season, we got some, we got planters already starting to hit the field. Obviously, we’ve got a bunch more left to start. But I think in the next three weeks or so here in southeast Idaho, we’re gonna have the majority going. I know out east, they’re a little slow, they’ve had some extra winter. And it sounds like they’re going to probably be more into the May or may area but but things are going to start what obviously the guys are going they prepared and they’re moving. But what would some of your suggestions like on seed there, I know some like to come in and cut suberize it, you’ve got some that like to cut and just plant right away? What what are some of the pros and cons to what we’re seeing in that seed preparation.

Gary

And I know that this is different, you know, in every area. And so again, my remarks are basically based on southeastern Idaho. Years ago, when we were we had some serious problems with a few saram dry writing in our pre cut seed. Because we had some severe resistance show up with the products that we were using back then. And so everybody went back to fresh cut, because it was just safe because of that, but I have no problem with with pre cut cutting seed. But again, you have to analyze key what varieties am I planning what potential issues that I have? I mean, if I know that I’ve got a lot of seed seed lot of seed that is got that has higher amount of fusarium dry writes that I’m comfortable with or even any type of soft rot that’s out there. I’d be a little bit more hesitant to pre cut you out that fresh, fresh and get it planted

Gary

because all the funguses and all the bacteria will spread through the cutting process the viruses don’t I think there’s some study that indicates that there might be a slight possibility that that’s not entirely true, but so any of those seed borne diseases that are of a bacterial or fungal nature, they will spread through a cutting operation. And of course, if people are doing a really good job of sanitation, you can minimize that To a degree, but it’s still a reality. Yeah. So hard to catch everything. Yeah. So there are certain varieties just because of their nature, I feel really uncomfortable pre cutting because those types of diseases are really prevalent, you know, some of your white potatoes, chippers.

I  know in some of the things that we see in the planter side, sometimes the pre cut being dried and suberized plants nicer is a planter right here, but not necessarily the best of care some of that disease.

So, but again, I think that’s one of the things that these growers gonna have to sit there and, and then the mechanisms and the logistics of their own operation. I know, I’ve got several growers that pre cutting just worked so well for them, logistically that it makes a lot of sense. So So you know, you’ve got timing, you’ve got seed varieties, you got potential seed borne diseases, you know, the logistics of your farm, and everything else can really make a big deal. I I would honestly say that fresh cutting, I mean, if if you wanted to eliminate most risk, fresh cutting would be the best, the easiest way to avoid those, but certainly pre cutting and is a good situation and pre cutting in its own situation does start the aging process to a little bit quicker. So if you’ve got old seed, or big, big seed, maybe a guy might want not to,

Brent

because it’ll actually age that a little quicker, right? Even yet. Exactly. So because you want that young, vibrant seed in the ground. So many suggestions on sanitation, any of that kind of stuff, obviously, making sure your cutters are clean, clean quite frequently, as you see the process even if you’re doing pre cut or even fresh cut.

Gary

Right. So yeah, so sanitation is huge, but part of having sharp knives is so critical. Because a cleaner slice is a lot healthier for the for the wound healing. And so I would say that, you know, there’s 100 different products out there quaternary ammonia, you got copper sulfate, I think that they use and some use hydrogen peroxide, I mean, there’s a lot of things that are really good. And if you’re not using those products, you’re missing a trick in my book. Always I know some guys that will literally sanitize after every load and some will do after every lot but so I don’t think you can overdo it.

Brent

Well, it’s like you were talking earlier one one or two potatoes going through get on those knives. Yeah, pretty quick. You just spread it

Gary

through the whole whole thing do Exactly. Yep.

Brent

I know a lot of a lot of growers are using seed treat as well. I mean, as we go through what are some of your experiences at there’s dry, there’s liquid

Gary

in with the new products that we have out here. I’ve only I’ve only got a couple of fellows that actually still use does everybody else just use the liquid liquid. And I’ve got one grower that he’s he’s he’s convinced that it plants even better without the dust. And so and it is the thing that the dust would dry that seed Yeah, feed through button.

And even in a pre cut situation. If you’ve got good ventilation I’d have I don’t see that you have to do the dust i but you know the dust does bring it and I’m talking Mancos that does not diatomaceous earth or you know just the good old dust that that to me doesn’t make any sense at all. But so that extra bit of Mancozeb does bring something to the disease table I think it does but the liquid products that we have right now do such a good job that it’s not necessary. And so I I personally just love not having to mess with that dust if you don’t have to.

Brent

Yeah, that was no fun back in the days remember we used to get up on top of the trucks even

Gary

some miracle none of us are got lung cancer or something. It’s just It was horrible.

Brent

Well, we don’t know. We’re still young. No, it is interesting how it has changed. Go back at that 30 some odd years we’ve been in dentistry. It’s 40 is just a big change.

Gary

Well, yeah, do you remember almost every product that we dealt with electric particularly in the insecticide world had scrawling a skull and crossbones on us. And so we’re we provide a lot healthier choices of products out there and a man is so much better than it used to be.

Brent

Which you know, I that’s probably another Say a plug, yes, you know, we really watch what we’re putting on the product as well as in the soil and all that, because we want it all to work for us. We’re here to, to make sure it’s good. Yeah. And,

Gary

you know, that’s, you know, not to get too political here. But it’s such a rub for me when when people and I understand these people that are very environmentally involved, you know, they get this perception that farmers are just throwing stuff out there just to cover all their bases as well, economically, they can’t afford to do it. And they haven’t done that for years. And so I think that the average farmer is a really good steward when it comes to not overdoing it. Because he just can’t afford it.

Brent

Right. Well, and we’ve really started to look at site specific. I mean, we’ve been doing that for what, 20 years now. Exactly. And we really take a look at where we’re putting stuff, right, we want to get the biggest bang for what we put on there. But we don’t want to overdo it.

Gary

Exactly. And yeah, and so for that, for people, the you know, poke at them and saying that they’re not being environmentally sound. I don’t think there’s anything further from the truth. These guys really and you know, and it comes even with soil erosion and building up the organic matter and the biodiversity and soil. I don’t have one fellow I work with that that isn’t priority on his farm. Oh, yes.

Brent

Well, and I think we’ve learned over the years that boy that organic matter is huge. Oh, it is it follows really what is happening in that field.

Gary

Oh, yeah. And I think you and I, years ago, and we were in the process of developing a variable rate technology, we found that the best indicator for yield potential was the organic matter level in the soil. It was the only map that really mirrored what we were right in. So it was so funny, we have these yield maps, and they all look like those bare soil imagery that had the different colors of soil organic matter out there. And so it isn’t, you know, and I’ve done some studies on that one field, and particularly where we we had planted the potatoes and harvested them. And so I had the ability because they had a yield monitor on the potato combine to go back and say, Okay, what did the potatoes yield per level of organic matter, that was the only indicator that I looked at. And there was almost 100 Sack difference between one and a half percent organic matter to two and a half. So if you start to do the math on that, that’s about 10 sacks per 10th, of a point of organic matter. And so if you put that into reality 10 sacks is let’s just say Freezy figure 10 bucks a sack, that’s 100 bucks. And a per Yeah, per acre per 10th of a percent of organic matter. And so that adds up to a lot of money.

Brent

Yes, it does. So, so are you seeing our organic matters come up in the soils, I know, in a potato side, it’s tough to build on any matter.

Gary

It is. And that’s, we’re at a really disadvantage and se tractors are raising sugar beets, and we’re raising potatoes, and neither one of those do well and not minimum tillage. So we’re

Brent

really large cover crops and all that kind of stuff to put in to get that and

Gary

it’s kind of hard. But But our guys are doing that now they’re being very careful about trying to do as much as they can. They’re laying it out the rotations. But it is still tough. Those two crops are very tough on soils. Not only this, you know, the more times you work the soil, the less you’ll lose your organic matter. I think everybody knows that. But at the same time, you’re really are messing with your soil tilth and your soil structure. And so which organic matters a big part of so it’s just really tough. So it just be who’s each of these growers are raising those two crops to do as good a job on their other on their other crops to build up that so we’re using a lot more biologicals than we ever used before. Cover crops are becoming a big deal.

Brent

Which Cover crops are most people using here? I know you talk about the Midwest and you listen to a lot of their mixes. But they’re in a whole different situation than what we are in a row crop situation here.

Gary

Yeah, exactly. Because they don’t have to till their soil to make the crop. I mean to actually till it to the level that we do because you know soybeans and grain and corn, they can They can go till them all. Yeah. And so kind of mix it while it’s growing. Yeah. So we have a bigger challenge raising the crops that we do. But our growers do a good job of it. So

Brent

would you, you know, kind of getting ready, we’re starting to till the ground and do all that kind of stuff. I’ve seen a real big difference over the 30 years, like you say, back in the 4020 days, we can hardly pull the ripper through the ground. And now we’ve got the equipment that we can actually get the depth of what we need to do with subsoil. Also with some of the equipment that’s working that, that green stubble or whatever, in that top six inches, right, is giving us a better opportunity to gain or getting better? Or are you seeing that kind of change? Or some recommendations may be on?

Gary

Well, yeah, and I think that, you know, the every decision a grower makes has an agronomic side to it and an economic side and you have to balance those, there’s really no question about that. So a grower raises a green crop, the economics, say, I’m gonna bale that straw and sell it. And most people do still Yep. But that still leaves quite a bit of residue in there. But if you’re in a field that you’re really concerned about building organic matter and doing all these other things, you would leave as much stubble as you could possibly leave there. And I think one of the biggest mistakes that growers make right off the bat is that well, two or three different mistakes, and we’ll talk to him but is to somehow chop that stubble into smaller pieces before we work it into the soil. And, and that that just helps the soil bacteria gives it a lot more. So it’s surface to eat and decomposed. And so that will help the decomposition of that stubble now, in a sense, that’s not the I mean, if you’re looking at pure soil science, maybe you don’t want it to decompose quite that fast. But But next time with our temperature, it really does, that’s a good point. So and then to start irrigating earlier in the fall, now this can be a real challenge this fall because we don’t know if we’re going to have it. So my my thought is to work that stubble as best you can arrogated and get that evenly distributed into the top six inches now like moldboard plowing, all that does is just put 12 inches down there. But I like to put work it into the top six inches, like you’re saying. And so that I think that’s a something that and that’s all part of the seedbed preparation as well. But

Brent

looking at kind of spring, if we’ve worked at in in the fall are very good. And we’ve got some guys that go in and pre mark, obviously, and then we plant right into that. So we’re not disturbing a lot of that. What would you recommend more of that, or according to soil type that kind of dictates why we mark out

Gary

right and I but again, from strictly from a soil scientist point of view. Again, we can’t go minimum tillage with potatoes. But we can certainly minimize the trips and make every trip count. And so fall bedding is a good way to help maintain this soil organic matter levels. Because you just don’t work the ground quite as much.

Brent

Because normally on a flat plant we come back in, we usually work the ground sprayer and spraying we kind of open that back up and to a certain point that’s probably important to to get the aeration in there. Right. But on the other side is is we’re going to take some of this moisture that we talked about earlier.

Gary

Yep. And then we’re also going to hit our organic matter to a slight degree. The flip side of it, though, is that flat planting, the planters work better. They do. So but that doesn’t mean they don’t work really well in a fall bedded because if you’ve done your fall betting, right, you’ve got a pretty good situation there too. Yes. So I tend to lean to the fall bed. I think it’s a good program, both economically logistically and economic. Did I say economically and agronomic

Brent

economically well, and sometimes it kind of helps with the erosion of some of this exactly right. For some reason we spring means wind doesn’t it?

Gary

It does. And every field has been fall bedded. It’s not blowing

Brent

Yes, it’s sitting tight. Which is very interesting just to watch that and I know certain situations you do have to flat plant and kind of get that prep so

Gary

Right exactly.

Brent

Kind of looking, looking at this year what what are some of the major things in your mind that you can see that we might have issues with this coming? That’s a big question. It is and probably with with some of the unknowns yet it’s hard to answer that but, but some of the things that’s on your mind as you’ve gone around and started spreading fertilizer and visit with growers and I started planting.

Gary

Well, I mean, number one, and it’s on everybody’s mind, actually, the top two would be the economics. And, and water, those two, I think are gonna play as bigger roles in our crop as anything else. But let’s start back to the beginning of a crop, you know, we have a really long for projected warms season last year. So I would anticipate that the seed that we have, may be potential a little bit more aged than normal. And I don’t know if that’s true or not, but you know, that’s a potential. So I’m going to be a little bit concerned about stem count. If this temperature, obviously, it gets crazy. Again, I’m not going to be worried about tumor initiation, I’m going to be worried about all those sort of things. So arrogation is going to be a big deal. In fact, that’s going to be the I think the the number one issue of this coming season. And so this is not the year to ever, you know, early on in the season, you can feel the bank up in the soil. Last year, we had a lot of a lot of irrigation systems, when you start talking to evaporation of evapotranspiration rates of, you know, a point three inches a day, or even up to sometimes point four, a lot of these systems can’t deliver that kind of water. And so if you haven’t built up the soil moisture, you’re in a real hurt in this year. If we lose water, the you know, the end of July, I hope that everybody’s done a good job of getting as much water on as they possibly can.

Yeah, well, and the problem is, with that, trying to keep up the pivots have a struggle, because the water starts to run on these, right, which is gonna make a big key on probably cultivation, right, making sure that you’ve got it set up. So that will retain Yeah,

Gary

you know, and you see it. I know, from your perspective with Spudnik how many times we’ve gone across that field, we haven’t done the equipment prep, we haven’t really analyzed what we do. And all of a sudden, that trip, we get 80% of what we should have got out of that trip across the field. And I think that’s another thing. So if you’re going to plant, make sure you do the best job you possibly can do whatever you can do to make that the most of best and efficient trip across that field. But when you come in there and cultivate, take the time to make sure that you’re setting that thing up and doing the best you can and you know, if you’re gonna put dams in there, which most people do, make sure that you know that you’re putting as big a dam as you can put in there. And because it will, it’s going to drop over time it is and and then with irrigation and water at a premium this year, we’ve got a lot of tools out there that can help get the water into the soil. And I tell you what, I can’t see anything more tragic, tragic than wasting water on a year like this so and so the way that we irrigate will tend to have a big deal. So if we can, you know, faster wraps around the field is really tempting in a hot situation. But that’s the worst thing you can but that may be the most inefficient way of irrigating,

Brent

you just you’re hitting that top bit and then that plant wants to end up going that dry. Well, what are some of the products out there that would help with with water? I mean, that you could put through it?

Gary

Well, I mean, I think the top notch products are the products that have oh my gosh, polyacrylamide, those, those seem to work really well. They’re more expensive. But there’s a lot of other water treatment programs that work really well that aren’t as expensive either. So I think no matter what dealership you’re working with, if I got a list of several that are really good . But you know, some of these biologicals that we’re using out there help help build soil structure. So, again, be really careful. If you’re going to do these sort of things, you got to make sure you get them on there before you’ve crusted the soil because they don’t want he’s not going to help on right. So be really careful about that. So you know, early season, I would really look at that and the type of soils that have those kind of problems. You know, the pumping thysol is a really good program and any of the acid products that people use, like you know, phosphoric acid, all those things really help, particularly in really calcareous soils and which we have a lot of eyes. So we’ve got, you know, there’s a multitude of things and I would suggest most people work closely with their agronomist for their crop consultants because Be aware that we need to do everything we can to get every ounce of water in the soil and get it used, right.

Brent

Yes, and it’s going to be key. I know a lot of growers have got letters from their kids. ELS and even the underground pumping, telling them we’re going to be very tight.

Gary

Yeah, that’s just I don’t know how this crops gonna finish out. I mean, no, I it’s gonna be really scary.

Brent

What this is, this is, uh, this is kind of off the wall question at this point is what? What are you seeing as far as acreage? Is potato acreage? Well, we all start guessing. No, we kind of all the way across the country? Well, what what is your gut feel for kind of what? Well, obviously water is key with what? I’ve heard some of the guys backing off a little bit. What what are you kind of hearing out there?

Gary

Well, there’s because of the water, there’s going to be a certain amount of acres that go into that prevent plant, you know, with a government insurance. And, and I’ve seen significant amount of acres already go to that I’ve got two or three growers that have actually plot a potato rows that they had prepared last fall. And even before this water thing, I thought that the acreage is going to be flat or a little bit less, but I don’t with the the price of grain and forage crops or anything else. I just don’t see anybody adding acres to their spuds. So I think we’re going to be in a pretty good situation for acreage. I would I would think that that’s the case. And and if I had a choice right now with the water and the price of grain, why would I plan an extra field the potatoes when I could just put it in the grain?

Brent

That’s right. And your inputs are last? Yeah. So and then if you run out of water at the end of July, at least you got a crop, you’ve made the crop.

Gary

So yeah, I think if if you ask most people that there’s nothing that tells me that the acreage is going to be up from last year.

Brent

And that’s kind of what I’ve been hearing as well. So we we

Gary

Yeah, that’s what we all want to help. We hate to say it because we think if we say that someone’s gonna go throw in a couple extra fields, especially I don’t see that happening this year. Oh,

Brent

no, I, well, I heard the other day. Here’s a couple of growers that talked about getting 10.50 for old crop just last couple days, you started talking that kind of price on grain that’s exciting. And listening to kind of the worldwide situation exactly. Our stocks on hand on that are pretty low, and we’re just gonna be worth some money.

Gary

You know, and it’s frustrating, because we may not have the water to do what we want to do. But it’s nice to have that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it where every aspect of our agriculture in this valley right now. Looks pretty promising.

Brent

It does agriculture looks really promising all the way across. Yeah. I think we’re very blessed in this area to be able to, even though we have a shortage of water, we can we can still control that to a certain point. We’re in some of these other areas, you know, out east where I travel quite a bit. There’s some of those that they depend on Mother Nature all the way across. And it’s kind of tough. You know, last year was a big hit for a lot of them out there. It worked really well. But the year before was not so good.

Gary

Yeah. And you know, sometimes we lose track of, we get so caught up in our own little individual areas of we forget that every area within our state in the country, face uniquely different problems. But the but they’re all problems that we’ve all faced at one time or another.

Brent

Yes, yes. Agriculture, just fun to be in. It is really nice. I always look forward to spring, to see everything going in the ground, and then the fall, you always look forward to it when it’s coming out. So but the big key that we’re kind of talking today is boy, make sure that the planting and this cultivate and getting everything started, this is where it’s going to start this crop to be able to finish where we need to be,

Gary

you know, if I, I always have prioritize the different areas of production. And obviously, I think seed is probably the most single important thing. You’ve got to start with that if you don’t, and then irrigation, I think number two of importance. Then, you know, in fact, you know, I sell fertilizer for a living. And this may sound kind of crazy, but fertilizers important, but I don’t I don’t know if it makes my top five when it comes to certain things because if you don’t do these other things, all the fertilizer in the world is not

Brent

going to help it’s not going to cover the mistakes on those isn’t right so

Gary

it’s about basics and doing them as well as you possibly can. So good seed getting the ground preparing the ground and getting the derogated boy you got to do all those sorts of things.

Brent

You do and you can’t cheat nature. I’ve know it’s interesting. Over the years we’ve we’ve tried to take some shortcuts in some areas and a lot of times it kind of catches us, doesn’t it?

Gary

Yeah, it can make it can make us real humble real fast. Like last year that talked about it was a humbling experience that entire growing season. I thought it would never end. Man I just whenever Everybody’s in full irrigation mode. We haven’t even made it to me yet. Yeah, that’s pretty scary.

Brent

That’s real scary. And like you say, with temperatures being so high, that points to you, obviously, we’ve moved windows of planting, right, compared to what we’ve been through, we have had 2030 years. I mean, we’re, I would say, a good month lease. Yeah. And so when you start to look at that, obviously, our yields have gone up. But the fertility, the water, everything that we’re using, has changed what we what we knew 2030 years ago,

Gary

yeah. And it’s allowed us to, well, I think that’s where our larger yields have come from, too. We’ve extended the growing season. But that comes with a little bit of risk. And it may we can kind of steer our conversation to that, because I’ve done some interesting studies on that I had a go or was here a few years ago says, you know, typically planted at the end of April, I’m thinking about going to the middle of April. And he asked me what I thought and his big concern was frost when the potatoes were emerging, which would have been basically four or five weeks after planning. And so I thought, you know, before I answer that question, I’m gonna go back to my historical data. And, and this was really interesting, because what I did is I went back for 10 years in this gross particular area. And what I did is I took the planting dates, assuming he planted the end of April, I went four weeks out, and I started to look at the the Frost’s that happened in that week period for the last 10 years, then I went back to the 15th of April did the same thing. And what I found was really interesting. The probability of getting frosted, wasn’t any different from the, from that four week period? Yeah, from planning from the 15th to the 31st. So two weeks, and I, and then I said, Well, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Then I said, Okay, the next step is let’s look at the severity of the frost. And that’s where the difference was. So So I think you had the I think the probability in both situations like a 30, or 35% chance of getting frosted planning the end of April versus the middle of April. But when you looked at that frost, four weeks later, it was the severity was a lot worse. And I thought that was quite interesting. And I suspect if you go from the 15th of April to the first of April, in our era, unifying the same situation, maybe even a higher probability of frost, because that, you know, that’s, that’s a big change. But that’s where a lot of people are doing it now.

Brent

So moving those dates up. Yep. But we got to push that. Yeah, get the yields. Right,

Gary

exactly. We got to it’s one of those chances you take, and I think it’s worth it.

Brent

That’s interesting. I’ve had some growers say, Well, man, if you can get that potato plant, you know, fairly good size, it’s only going to nip the outside leaves. And we’re good. Yeah.

Gary

And, you know, there’s some truth to that, because I think the worst time to have a severe Frost is when that potato is just barely coming out of the ground. And if it’s a little bit bigger plant tends to recover quicker. And it’s all about where the growing point is, when it first comes out of the soil, the growing point is right there on top. But once your plant is bigger, I mean, it’s protected by the canopy a little bit. I mean, it’s still up there on top of the plant, but it doesn’t have near the effect of damaging the planet that does early. And so that’s a big deal. But I just think it’s a gamble we’re taking.

Brent

Yeah, well, and we’re seeing more and more do right. And then it’s paid off.

Gary

Right. It really has I I think last year, in fact, the last two years. I don’t know if I had anybody plant an acre in May.

Brent

Everything was done in April. Yeah. And I think that this Yeah, we’re seeing that this year as well. Yeah, exactly. What, one minute, we’re probably getting close to wrapping it up. But fertilizer prices, fertilizer availability. I, I know you talked about we haven’t really talked about fertilizer on that side much. But what you probably have had some concerns.

Gary

Big time. I mean, we we’ve taken a huge increase during the winter. And before the Ukrainian thing. We actually started to see a little bit softening in the when that happened. Everything just went bonkers. It took off, and it’s got even higher. So our replacement costs are just up there and the logistics of getting into everything is really it’s funny how that whole thing has just trickled through everything because I had a grower that had bought a used potato planter out of Canada, he thought was gonna cost four or $5,000 to get it here and ended up costing like 14 or 15,000 just to get it here and barely made it kind of a thing. So everything’s messed up not only in the fertilizer, but also the chemical. So I think that I would make sure that I have all my ducks in a row with the guys that I’m working with. I think most guys are gonna be able to squeeze through this as far as supply. But the cost is it anybody’s guess it’s just gonna be horrible. It’s gonna fluctuate every week or every day. It does, and it is. And so, you know, like us. And I think every fertilizer dealer is in the same boat. We know what the cost is the stuff that we have filled with, but you don’t know what the cost is going to be when you have to refill it, which a lot of us have do that two or three times during the season. And so that’s where it becomes really any you’re trying to cost average all that and it’s just to challenge I’ve never seen it like this ever, just something else,

Brent

at least you you kind of hold the price for the season.

Gary

But yeah, the flip side, I tend to dwell on a more positive side is that the margins that the growers are making right now are actually better than they are when the fertilizer price was a lot cheaper. I mean, that’s bittersweet, but

Brent

they they’ve been able to negotiate some of the things on the potato contracts, at least this is a these are going to be up higher. And if you want to keep us going,

Gary

right. But I am I am still very concerned about supply. I mean, it’s just I think that has to do with the logistics more than anything else.

Brent

Are you seeing particular products worse than others? Obviously, nitrogen probably is.

Gary

Yeah, and that’s because we use so much of it. But I can’t think of hardly anything that we don’t aren’t concerned with. And even in the chemical world, it seems like every day we find out something else is going haywire. And all of a sudden, we’re in a world of hurt. And so it’s just, it’s an ongoing battle.

Brent

This is gonna be a challenge. We’re gonna have a couple of challenges from the sheer, aren’t we?

Gary

Well, well say goodbye to what I’ve got left, right.

Brent

It’ll make it easier when you get up in the morning. That’s right.

Gary

I’m in the polishing mode rather than I am. Just not

Brent

well, so I’m gonna go we’re off topic. Okay. So how did your NCAA bracket turnout?

Gary

Well, all my team, I’m a terrible prognosticator when it comes to that. So, fact I didn’t even watch the final four because I none of my teams even made it that far. So I was pretty disappointed. So

Brent

the only thing I thought is, you know, Kansas took number one, at least it was an agricultural state.

Gary

There you go. There you go. So yeah, we wrote we wrote for those, like in football, too. I I’m a big fan of everything west of the Mississippi and everything east of the Mississippi. I’m not.

Brent

I had a grandson that he picked at Boise State to go all the way. And he says, yep, at the end of the game at the championship game, it’s gonna be 100 to zero. Well, there’s some optimism I told him, I said he was pretty optimistic. But it is fun. We just really enjoy that agriculture. And I really enjoy your time today. I know we could, we could come back. And we could spend another couple hours just visiting about, like what we do out in the field. I

Gary

know. And I appreciate you, Brent, because you’ve been you’ve been really good about. Well, you’ve been just such a great resource to these growers over the years, and everybody knows yet and really respects your opinion. And if anybody out there has the privilege of working with you, they’re lucky. So

Brent

Well, same goes, Oh, you took time to come. It’s wonderful to have you come in and to visit. I always, always look forward to having you anytime, like I said, we’d like to thank everybody that has joined us today. And boy, if you have any, any things that you would like to maybe have us discuss or here, send us a sent drop us a line and let us know. I know, Gary, it’s been wonderful to have Gary here today and really want to appreciate what your time to come and do this because I know, I know you’re busy right now. This is the season that your phone doesn’t quit ringing. Everybody’s wanting that expert advice, keep things going. So

Gary

well. We’re lucky. We’re lucky we work in the area that we do and the field that we do. We got some great great guys out there. So we do and like I said, the growers, the people that are in the ag industry, we’re just it’s a wonderful industry to be in. And we really appreciate being here.

Brent

So for our first episode, this is exciting. We’d like to invite you to like sit again, give us any topics that you may be interested in so that we can kind of maybe have somebody come in and visit about that as well. But we’re excited about this podcast for the first one and especially on the culture of agriculture. So thank you very much, Gary, thank you for everybody that has come in and and attended with us so have a great day and a great planting season and be safe I think that’s one of the things that I really want to stress is watch watch yourselves around this equipment we always get going really fast and I would really emphasize make sure that you stay safe.

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