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Become an innovative leader

There are four types of farmers: followers, early adopters, innovators and bleeders. I prefer to talk about a hybrid type — an innovative leader.

If you’re this person, you won’t wait until traits and insecticides are proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, but you won’t be a guinea pig either. You will be informed, sharp and in control.

You need to become all of these things. Competition in agriculture will be fierce. Countries like China and India will want farm products because of their populations and booming economies.

You’ll compete with Brazil and Argentina to once again become the bread basket of the world. Stay sharp and focused. Don’t get distracted by misleading advertisements and commercials.

Helpful hints

Here are 10 tips to becoming an innovative leader. Each one helps you remain competitive.

No 1. Learn, learn, learn! Seek unbiased sources of information. Extension specialists are still some of your most unbiased sources.

No. 2. Raise your own computer expert. Either learn to use computers very well, or involve a child in farming! There’s a wealth of information at your fingertips on the Web. Successful farm operations of tomorrow will need computer expertise.

No. 3. Pick and choose meetings wisely. Attend ones that promise information, not just a free meal. Consider those organized by Extension, independent farm consultants, and technology and equipment companies. Ask speakers lots of questions. If you’re bashful, ask questions one-on-one afterward.

No. 4. Press seed supplier for data.Your seedsman should supply data on seedling vigor, plant and ear height, root and stalk strength, and disease and insect resistance. Ask for it on new hybrids and varieties, too. Also ask for data on isolines. See if there’s data from multiple years and multiple locations. Gauge the extent of their testing program. Don’t be distracted by offers of cheap seed, gifts, or other bells and whistles.

No. 5. Exchange ideas with neighbors. They likely have similar soil types and conditions. See what works for them. Share what works for you. But don’t wait forever to try new ideas. You’re competing with farmers in other states and countries, not your neighbors.

No. 6. Plant a replicated test plot. Pick a uniform field, and plant two replications. Include what you’re using now plus a few others you’re not using. Compare hybrids side by side during the season.

No. 7. Discard lower one-third. Drop the hybrids and varieties in the lower third of performance each year. Replace them with newer products. Granted that just because a hybrid did well last year doesn’t guarantee performance this year, but it’s better than planting many acres with unknown hybrids or varieties.

No. 8. Create a data base. You’ll soon build your own data base. Then when it’s time to discard varieties, be objective. Don’t worry about offending salesmen whose products don’t measure up.

No. 9. Plant hybrids from different gene pools. Planting hybrids from different brands doesn’t guarantee different gene pools. Try a few acres of newer products of different genetic families to stay ahead of the game.

No. 10. Never base hybrid and variety selection totally on commercials. This means you won’t plant the newest products on most of your acres the first year. Instead, plant a few acres and compare to consistent performers.

Nanda writes from Indianapolis. Reach him at dave.nanda@gmail.com.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.