Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Used to Be True

I am a science fiction fan. I have been all my life and will probably die a fan. Often some words of wisdom can come from a sci-fi movie that makes sense in today’s world. In the movie Men in Black, Tommy Lee Jones told Will Smith something like the following: Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe, five hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet, imagine what you will know tomorrow.

Welcome to the world of production agriculture.

When I started my career in 1976, it was all about fertilizer and chemicals. We really didn’t know exactly how they worked but they did work. Then came Precision Ag. This was going to revolutionize farming by applying the proper nutrients at the correct location in a field. From the early 1980s to the present, it is estimated that the majority of fertilizer and chemical dealers who do custom chemical application use some sort of precision application methods. Actual farmer driven acceptance and use has lagged behind mostly because of cost.

Next came Biotech and GMO. Biotech was basically using biological organisms to help the plant defend itself from insects. One organism was used back then and now multiple insect and disease preventing bacteria and fungi are added to crop seeds driving the cost through the roof. But now we are starting to see resistance in some parts of the country.

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are the current latest and greatest. They have been around for a long time starting with Roundup Ready corn which was first commercialized in 1998. Since then we have added sugar beets, alfalfa, and canola to the list. This is all about getting good weed control economically with one product. What they forgot, again, was a term called resistance. So many weeds across the country are resistant to Roundup that the initial low-cost solution is becoming very expensive.

So goes the world of production ag. What we know at one time to be the latest and greatest changes very fast because we work in an ever changing environment. Soils, insects, diseases, and weeds are always changing. They were here before we were and they will still be here when we are gone.

The lesson for today: don’t get too comfortable with all you know today. Remember there will be a lot more to learn tomorrow.