Growers today have access to an endless array of products and potential solutions that promise to boost yield, improve soil health and improve their return on investment. But growers and those who support them know that farming is complex — what works for one grower, or even on one field, may not work for others. Finding the right tool for the right problem is vital, and yet product placement guidance is lacking throughout the industry.
Placement guidance helps growers make the best choices for their operations in order to improve yield, lower costs and boost crop health. It’s a cornerstone of Sound’s operations, but why is it still so rare in the industry?
Fitting Placement Into the Operation
Yield is a function of genetics, environment and management, and the relationship between these factors is one of the most fundamental in crop production. Over the last century, through careful breeding and biotech, breeders have done an amazing job of optimizing the genetic potential of crops. The environment, on the other hand, has always been a challenge for growers. Growers deal with hyper-local conditions such as soil type and pH, as well as environmental challenges like rain, drought, heat, frost and disease pressure.
Environmental conditions, management practices and inputs interact in complex ways on each gower's farm.
A grower’s farm management practices attempt to bridge the gap between crop genetics and the year’s unforeseeable environmental conditions. Each season, a grower places bets based on the best information available to them, and technology providers work hard to give growers access to information in order to reduce uncertainty. Companies like Sound aim to deliver new management tools to help growers realize their crops’ genetic potential in a world of complex and unpredictable environmental factors.
Given this complexity, agricultural inputs work better in some environment/management combinations than in others. Because of the vast variation in environmental conditions, no one product will have the same effect everywhere. For example, some microbes are more viable and thus more effective when certain soil conditions like organic matter or moisture content are met. Understanding the interactions between management practices and environment is key for growers to unlock the full potential not only of their operation as a whole, but also the products and technologies they use.
A grower’s farm management practices attempt to bridge the gap between crop genetics and the year’s unforeseeable environmental conditions.
Perfecting Placement and Performance
Why don’t input companies do more to help growers understand exactly where and when their products will work best? Why do they try to sell on all acres, knowing that there will be variation in response? First, understanding the intricacies of exactly how your product works is hard, and many companies genuinely don’t know. Second, it limits sales given it reduces the serviceable market. Finally, it adds complexity and time to the selling process.
“We’ve been working on optimizing placement for SOURCE, our microbiome activator, for years, and we’re committed to continuous improvement,” Eric Davidson, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder at Sound.
A major result of these efforts is the Performance Optimizer, a tool which uses a grower’s yield and the amount of nitrogen applied to generate a farm-level recommendation. It recommends one of three ways to incorporate SOURCE into a grower’s operation: replace 25 pounds of nitrogen and 25 pounds of phosphorus, replace 25 pounds of just phosphorus, or maintain nutrient applications and add SOURCE to boost yield. The Performance Optimizer uses over 700 data points representing tens of thousands of acres from field trials and real-world performance.
The Performance Optimizer is backed by years of data to provide growers with personalized placement guidance.
“Because of all the data that has gone into developing this tool, we know that SOURCE can improve a grower’s bottom line by allowing them to reduce fertilizer without impacting yield,” adds Eric.
Another way Sound works to provide placement insights to growers is through the Agronomy team. Every day, the team is in the field consulting with customers. By understanding each grower’s specific environmental and management needs, Sound’s Agronomists offer in-depth guidance on how to optimize a return on investment.
“Providing placement guidance is not easy, and we continue to improve,” says Eric. “At Sound, we take a data-driven approach to our technology and research, allowing us to provide growers with the best information so that they can succeed, which is how we succeed too. It’s a win-win.”
Growing Into a Stronger Future
Weather and other factors outside of human control will always present challenges for growers and those who support them. Sound continues to work on improving our placement and performance tools. Each season, we incorporate new field data to improve our ability to predict performance and guide placement. The Sales Agronomy Team continues to provide personalized recommendations that take into account data on SOURCE’s performance, as well as the environmental and management complexities at each operation.
Sound will continue to guide growers on where and when to use SOURCE to provide the best outcomes, and we hope to see this approach adopted more widely throughout the industry.
“In the end, it’s about transparency,” says Eric. “When our growers win, Sound wins.”
Ready to learn more about SOURCE?
SOURCE improves nutrient availability to your crops by stimulating nitrogen fixing and phosphorus solubilizing microbes. The result is more macro and micronutrient availability leading to healthier, more productive plants. A foliar application of SOURCE provides 25 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus per acre.