Joel began his career as a retail agronomist and then became a district sales manager for CROPLAN® seed. As he was helping retailers and growers succeed, Joel gained an up and close perspective of the agronomic and technology challenges they face. Joel’s passion for agronomy and technology led him to his current role as the WinField Ag Technology Applications Lead. In this role, he tracks and evaluates the rapidly evolving landscape of Ag technology and develops new partnerships between Winfield, its customers and the technology companies. He also serves as the WinField spokesperson, positioning the company in the Ag technology and Precision Ag marketplace. Joel splits his time between the WinField office in Shoreview, Minn., and working with WinField retailers out in the country. Joel grew up on a Holstein dairy farm in southern Wisconsin that also produced corn and alfalfa. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in agricultural industries and marketing. He currently resides on a small acreage in Owatonna, Minn. with his family.
Learning to Calibrate Conservation as an Agronomist
Walking fields as an agronomist and training your eyes to see opportunities for yield is what I call being “calibrated”. Once an agronomist’s eyes are calibrated, they can spot patterns and problems either up close, or from the road at 55 mph.
Last week I asked Tom Buman if there was a chance for me to calibrate and identify land management and conservation opportunities. He invited me to the Land Improvement Conservation Association (LICA) farm east of Ames, IA to see firsthand what solutions a conservation agronomist employs through Agren or NRCS. As it turns out, land management has a lot in common with hybrid seed placement.
The first rule of selecting hybrids is that there are “no silver bullets” to help you optimize inputs you use per bushel of yield. It takes an understanding that yield is a system and that soil nutrient interactions have a significant impact on the success of your hybrid and the environment.
Similarly, I’ve learned there is a system to land conservation. During my time with Tom, I must have asked him the same question a dozen times about what conservation practice everyone should use on their farm. And his answer, was the same as mine is for a hybrid – there are “no silver bullets.” Around every corner he pointed me to the pros and cons of choices and rules for success that are similar to hybrid placement.
- Have the data and tools for an informed decision-making process and where possible, use a precision approach.
- Know the grower’s objectives and their ability to implement the plan.
- Build a plan and be an active manager of the plan’s success, measuring what you are managing.
Conservation is not just the role of a farmer and conservationist. As agronomists, we use precision ag tools to meet farmers’ profitability goals through optimized inputs per bushel. We have another role coming — to use these same base skills in driving responsible agriculture at the farm gate.