• Shane Thomas

Agronomists Need to Consider Programming

Grower programming: a dynamic topic when it comes to crop inputs in western Canada. Many despise programs, some love them. The reality? Just like Air Canada’s loyalty program hooks me into flying with them, these programs increase the buy and pull through of products on an annual basis. Some wish they would go away, but it doesn’t seem like they will any time soon (although I have an opinion on how they will evolve for later and how technology will influence this).

As agronomists our first priority is to identify the best practice/product from an agronomic perspective. The next step is to analyze it from an economic perspective. There is always a dance between short term and long term benefits, but an agronomists job is to attempt to optimize for both and create a “win-win” situation for the farmer in the short and long term, optimizing profitability. Now, typically when considering the economics it goes straight to price over the counter from the retail. But how often as agronomists do we factor in programming effectively? Now I don’t mean to say it never gets factored in – it’s very

obvious at some points that when comparing fungicide A to fungicide B there is a net out close to one another at face value. But there is always the opportunity to dig deeper into the program. Often times there is tie ins with previous product use OR future product use coming later in the season, and sometimes it is even along the lines of early booking! This all needs to be factored in.

The value in some of the programs in western Canada to growers today can be extremely lucrative. To the tune of double digit dollars per acre when leveraged to the fullest.

There is a lot of emphasis from farms on getting the best price from the retailer – and that is completely understandable. Keeping costs in line is crucial to running a successful operation. As agronomists though, there is tons of opportunity to support this from a back end perspective.

To be the most effective agronomist there needs to be a focus on understanding how to leverage programming; not just for the sake of looking at one program to rule them all. There is the consideration of making recommendations based on understanding every manufacturing companies products, making strong agronomic recommendation’s from a Manuresistance management perspective, efficacy perspective, residual perspective and more, but in that decision there needs be consideration of programs. When making a crop plan in the winter months identifying possible product needs and then cross referencing those needs with the new programs is going to make farmers more successful. There may be more $$ in actually leveraging 2 programs in conjunction with one another based on the product fits and cropping intentions of the farmer – this needs to be analyzed and understood. In the past I have utilized customized calculators to attempt to understand and maximize programs for farmers, something that is even easier to do today with many manufacturers having their calculator directly on their websites.

There is also the consideration that traditional programming in entirely ignored and opt for a generic route. This may prove the best economic route, but just make sure that every component of this decision gets factored into the analysis; support if product failure, information/education, actual cost etc.

In the next few years I do not foresee programming shifting, but if we start to look out longer term one can start to see manufacturer programming being replaced by the digital platforms that are being used today, although not to their full capacity.

What do you think? Should programming be considered more often by agronomists? Do you think programming will be displaced by some of the technology on the horizon? Let me know what you think!

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