Harvest is always a time of anxious curiosity about the outcome of yields across the Corn Belt. Every call I receive and make, one of the first two questions is always, “so, how’s the harvest looking?”
Overall, it would seem that despite a “sum of all fears” scenario (including a too-cool early August and the potential for an early frost), the corn crop came out better than feared — in some areas, substantially so. Soybeans, many planted late only to suffer the whims of Mother Nature’s placement of rain events, seemed destined to disappoint. There are always exceptions of course, but that seems to be the mainstream feeling.
Those of us in precision ag who’ve been watching the Monsanto FieldScripts pilot through the summer have a particular interest in how the split trials will fare. Retailers, working with a set number of grower-customers, agreed to be the test subjects for the on-farm trials, which pit traditional seed recommendations and existing planter technology against Monsanto’s recommendation, coupled with planter technology from Precision Planting, now a Monsanto company.
The yield results of these trials is still not known, but should be revealed over the next few weeks. Expansion of the program is occurring in states where the pilot tests were hosted: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. And preparations are already ongoing for moving FieldScripts to more of the Midwest – a friend of mine here in Ohio with a fairly substantial consulting practice has taken on a Precision Planting dealership as part of a movement to ensure that there is enough expertise in his region to help initiate and grow FieldScripts once it gets here. The training process is not a cake walk by any means.
Given the investment Monsanto is clearly making, and from what we’re hearing is going on in the Midwest about FieldScripts, the program is here to stay and set to expand. And, as if we needed more evidence, the company announced its move to acquire a company called The Climate Corporation, which specializes in weather data analytics and modeling, and has been working in the crop insurance industry for a number of years. One interesting note … the principles at The Climate Corporation are former Google and Silicon Valley folks who sniffed out an opportunity in agriculture in the mid-2000s.
In a press conference held on Oct. 2, the parties involved asserted that improved interpretation of data that leads to improved decision making could generate 30 to 50 bushels more per acre through improved fertilizer use efficiency and timing of application, crop protection application and other agronomic practices.
Rest assured, Monsanto won’t leave that potential benefit on the table, or to chance, if they can help move the needle in this fashion. It’s clear that they are in the early stages of this relationship assuming the deal goes through, and it will take number of years to produce a benefit, but they are wildly excited about the potential and are taking the long look.
Meanwhile, we can’t wait to see how FieldScripts performed this year.