‘More than sellin’ stuff’

FARNHAMVILLE – It’s more than sellin’ stuff.

This is a common comment among those working in FC Cooperative’s test plots in Farnhamville.

Todd Claussen, FC’s director of agronomy and technical services, said the company is running numerous test plots, some quite large, over its 174 acres in and around the town.

The goal? To see if the various products and farming techniques work well enough in the field to be worth the cost.

“Every day salesmen darken farmers’ doorsteps, and ours, too,” Claussen said, “telling us ‘this is the best stuff. It’ll give you three or five more bushels.’ What we’re trying to do is make it work in row crops.”

In short, is the return on investment worth the farmers’ cost of implementing products or techniques?

“I have farmers ask us if using sugar will help the corn yield better,” Claussen said, “So we’re testing that, too.”

Claussen, who is quick to say he’s not “part of the business,” but, “I’m in agronomy.

“If we have 50 agronomists out here and we can’t prove ROI, we’re just sellin’ stuff.”

He said FC’s 7,000 customer base are the owners. “They pay me. And if we can’t prove ROI on a product, we won’t make the recommendation.”

Claussen and FC’s agronomy team are overseeing 17 major demonstration blocks in Farnhamville, with multiple replications across crop rotations, crop production input levels, genetics and traits.

“We feel it our responsibility,” he said, “to provide this proof of concept.

“If a crop production input is valuable, we want to demonstrate it. If a crop production input simply does not return it’s investment, that too, is valuable.”

Dave Lemke, FC’s agronomy lead for West Central Iowa region, said the other side of the test plots is to provide integrity and trust in farmers.

“We want to become their preferred supplier,” he said.

FC’s 2014 plots include the yield impacts on foliar application of nitrogen, herbicide and pesticides combinations, in-furrow tests, all replicated several times.

One of the 17 plots, Claussen said, is testing in-furrow treatments using traited and untraited hybrids, replicated five times.

“We’re pretty thorough here,” Claussen said.

The 2013 plots yielded an average 270-bushels per acre in corn. Lemke said there are some plots this year that he thinks could push higher than that.

That plot is a high-yield test plot.

“It has everything I can put on it,” Lemke said, including boron at planting to create the biggest capillaries possible.

“It’s a hybrid on steroids,” he said.

The plots do not focus on equipment, Lemke said, “but we’re managing cultures.”

And, of course, what’s a test plot without hybrid trails? FC’s trail plots – both corn and soybeans – are using all of its Dekalb and Hoegemeyer varieties, in corn, and FC’s own varieties in soybeans, against competitors’ hybrids.