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Increasing Profits Is The Main Goal

Daniel FowlerDaniel Fowler Fowler Crop Consulting, Inc. Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

During the summers in high school and college, I scouted for two great consultants and went to work for one of them after graduating from North Carolina State University. Two years later, I started my own business – Fowler Crop Consulting, Inc. I love working with growers and helping them organize their plans from week to week.

During last year’s season, our conditions went from extremely wet like much of the mid-Atlantic region to extremely dry in our local area. Most of the crop turned out better than we expected, considering those late, dry conditions and shallow-rooted plants. The most troublesome weed we have to contend with – like many other areas – is glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. It’s really the driving force for our herbicide programs. In 2013, we also began seeing pockets of glyphosate-resistant ragweed. Our biggest problem was getting into the fields to make timely, early season applications when it was so wet. We did the best we could with the herbicides we have available, then had to decide what weeds we could live with and which ones had to be hand-pulled. As far as insects, we have pockets of plant bugs, but the biggest threat comes from stink bugs. Trying to clean them up while it was wet last year was quite a challenge.

To determine fertility needs, most of our farms are GIS-sampled by zone, then fertilizer is applied based on those soil sample results and grower yield goals. We’ve also worked with satellite imagery to help us with our fertility programs. At this time, we are looking into the possibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will provide more detailed infrared imagery and real-time information than we are getting with the satellites. This type of technology potentially can help us be more precise, especially with in-crop fertilizer applications and crop management. Hopefully, this will increase our farmers’ profitability. We are looking forward to getting the green light to work with UAVs once the Federal Aviation Administration decides how it is going to open up that market.

Going into the 2014 season, I think cotton acres in my area will be pretty close to what they were last year. Farmers are planting cotton where it is profitable. On the more marginal ground where cotton is not as productive, they probably will consider planting lower input crops such as soybeans and grain sorghum. There also are a lot of unknowns about the new Farm Bill and what commodity prices are going to do.

On the upside, my clients are hardworking, family-oriented people. A lot of them are involved in government affairs and different commodity boards at the national level. I think this type of experience helps make them excellent decision makers. They also expect me to stay on the forefront of technology, which is moving extremely fast, and keep on top of what is happening in the ag industry so I can determine how to help them increase their profitability.

At this point, I would say that we have the potential for a good year, but right now we are in a wait-and-see pattern and will do the best we can with whatever cards we are dealt.