You can't control weather. Nor can you control markets. You can, however control time-tested agronomic techniques to bulge your bins and break through breakeven budgets. The technologies we have today make it easy for us not to implement common sense strategies because technology can do a lot for us.  It is still better, though, to use a combination of agronomic skills and common sense.

We've compiled 7 tips from industry and extension crop specialists about how you can traverse today's rocky economic climate.  Some of the ideas cost money, some cost time, and some don't cost either, but instead, are just common sense management steps that you can implement.

Spend Sufficient Time Selecting Seed - Many farmers don't spend enough time evaluating plot results.  Why it pays:  Data shows yields may differ by 40 to 50 bushels per acre between two hybrids in the same field with identical inputs applied.  Data also shows environment can cause one soybean variety in the same field to out yield another by 15 to 20 bushels per acre.

Look Beyond the Test-Plot Pretty Boys - Everyone wants that silver bullet, that one hybrid that works every year.  No such hybrid ever existed.  Every hybrid has an Achilles heel or some kind of fault.  Remember this when there's a test-plot pretty boy in your area that consistently tops yields year in and year out.  Finding its weakness can help you better plan your seed strategy.  Get your hands on as much independent and company data as you can.  Gleaning gobs of data can reveal not only hybrid or variety strengths but also weaknesses.

Plant Rootworm-Traited Corn Only If You Need It - Many farmers know the damage that corn rootworm can wreak.  Many though, haven't found rootworm at levels to justify planting rootworm-resistant corn.  Planting conventional corn can save you money.  Challenges exist with this strategy.  Since the bulk of the industry has paired top-notch genetics with trait packages, concern exists about planting conventional corn with less-than-stellar genetics.  Why it pays:  Savings may be gleaned by planting corn hybrids minus a rootworm trait in low-risk rootworm areas.

Buy Rootworm-Traited Corn in Risky Corn Rootworm Regions - There's a flip side to all this, though.  Corn rootworm can make a big swing in a year's time.  It can quickly go from a low population to a high one.  Be particularly aware of rootworm if you farm in an area plagued by extended diapause.  That's when rootworm thwarts the corn-soybean rotation by its eggs skipping hatching in soybeans and instead, hatching in corn two years later.  Why it pays:  Without traits, we've documented yield losses of 60 to 80 bushels per acre.

Check Out a New Field's History - Soil testing on newly purchased ground or before renting land and including fertilizer costs in rental agreements can save you from a crop disaster.

Avoid Creating Fluffy Soil Syndrome - A summertime plane ride over your fields is a great way to detect what some soil experts call fluffy soil syndrome (FSS).  The more tillage you do, the more tracks you leave in the field.  A summertime aerial view of a field that's been excessively tilled will reveal dark green plants within the tracks.  Unfortunately, that leaves paler plants over the rest of the field that's been tilled into a pulp.  Dark green plants result within tracks do to good seed-to-soil and root-to-soil contact.  Normally, that's good.  Unfortunately, the eye-popping plants found in tracks aren't occurring in the rest of the excessively tilled field.

Apply Sulfur to Corn - Corn can't access as much atmospheric Sulfur as it could 50 years ago.  Increases in no-till, early planting and heavy residue from high-yielding corn also create Sulfur deficiencies.  Corn uses lots of Sulfur that isn't being put back in.  Why it pays:  Sulfur fertilizer sparked a mean yield increase of 38 bushels per acre on soils suspected for being Sulfur deficient in a 2006 ISU trial.





With years of playing and coaching polo, Lou Lopez starts each day welcoming students on the UVa Polo Farm.  As General Manager & Head Coach of the Virginia Polo Center in Charlottesville, each day brings new faces and new polo-lopezexperiences.

Growing up in the Northeast and studying agriculture at Colorado State University, Mr. Lopez's love for horses, education and agriculture runs deep.  Lou began his professional career as an agriculture educator and followed his passion to becoming UVa's polo coach 14 years ago.  "Polo is a huge part of my life and always will be", said Lou.  A genuine quote, after starting numerous polo clubs throughout the country and winning 8 national collegiate titles.

The Virginia Polo Center is a 75 acre facility that provides University of Virginia students, both men and women, an affordable opportunity to experience the sport of polo.  Additionally, in the summer months, Virginia Polo offers polo lessons for all ages and riding skill levels.

In keeping with the philosophy of the founders, Virginia Polo strives to instill in every student the merits of responsibility, hard work and dedication.  In return, the polo-logostudents reap the rewards of fellowship, teamwork and have an opportunity to compete in an intercollegiate sport at the national level.  These valuable lessons endure throughout their personal and professional lives long after college.  Virginia Polo is a student run organization in which all members share responsibility equally and the Board of Directors is dedicated to providing sound management and financial support for the 55 horses and 42 polo riders.  Virginia Polo is not supported by the University of Virginia and relies primarily on outside financial sources throughout the year.

With a strong mission, comes great leadership.  Both elected and volunteer leaders of the polo center are continuously finding ways to improve its facility, riders and horses.  Top notch instructors, superior equine management protocols, quality horses and industry leading equine nutrition are all some of the focus each day.

Thpolo-kidse future of Virginia Polo is bright.  Lou, the Board of Directors and staff continue to build the program both off and on the field.  Most recently, the polo center received a large donation to build a new facility.  The facility will be called the Beh House and will serve to host polo teams in the near future, including the high school polo nationals this coming April.

"The Virginia Polo Center is a testament of a successful polo facility.  Not only successful horsemen and equine enthusiasts, they are dedicated to investing in their animals, people and local community," said Daniel Phillips, Assistant General Manager of Augusta Cooperative Farm Bureau, Inc.  Augusta Co-op is proud to provide quality equine feed to the Virginia Polo Center.

To help support the Virginia Polo Center, contact Lou Lopez at (434)979-0293.


As we enter into the late summer and early fall season, it is time to start considering fall application of nitrogen on stockpiled pasture. Stockpiling pasture can save considerable cost to grazing operations. Cool season grasses, such as fescue and orchard grass respond very well, which makes up the majority of pastures in this area.  Strip grazing also aids in the continued vigor of the cool season grasses throughout the winter.  The general time to apply nitrogen to pastures or pastured hay fields is mid-August through September.

There are lots of advantages to fall application of fertilizer on pasture.  The general response from a fall fertilizer application is around 20 lbs of dry matter increase per lb of nitrogen applied per acre.  The forage will have an average protein of 14% and have a higher TDN from October to December than typical dry baled hay.  Applying fall fertilizer can reduce winter feeding cost by as much as $100.00/cow/year.  Fall calves can have a typical gain of 2 lbs/head/day and cows will have better body condition going into the winter months.  Also consider the health of your pasture or hay field.  Fall application of fertilizer will increase winter hardiness, root development, and faster 'green up' in the spring, which can help with weed control.

Potash is a critical nutrient to grass.  As a matter of fact, grass can use as much potash in a hay season as nitrogen in the course of a year.  It is a good agronomic decision to apply potash to pastures and hay fields in the fall for root development, crown health and development and drought tolerance for the next season.  Potash has been at a substantially low price this season, another strong reason to consider potash this fall.  Potash is a nutrient that we all need and in a lot of cases is low in soil tests across the Shenandoah Valley.  In a pasture setting, an application of 50 to 75 lbs of potash per acre will be sufficient and in a hay field setting, an application of 100 lbs per acre is very typical.  If poultry litter is utilized, then potash may need to be added, as poultry litter is low in potash compared to the grass crop's needs.  Again, the reason to consider potash is two-fold; it increases stand health, longevity, and yield and the price this fall is very low.

If you have any questions regarding agronomic needs, contact Troy Grimm at (540)885-1265.

For various reasons, most of us have extra unused pesticides stored somewhere on the farm.  Perhaps we bought some extra one time and then decided to use something else - maybe we forgot about some that has been sitting on the shelf and it has been exposed to adverse weather conditions that now make the pesticide unusable.  Sometimes, Grandpa or Dad left some pesticide on the shelf, and we inherited the pesticide.  The good news is that there is an outstanding program in Virginia to clean up the mess!

Below is a link to a brochure that describes various pesticide cleanup days that will be held around Virginia during September and October 2016.  Take the time to clean up those unused pesticides on your farm - An ounce of prevention can prevent a serious mess down the road!  Don't let that adorable new puppy you just got wander into a mess because of their natural curiosity at a young age.  Don't let your kids or grandkids suffer a needless trip to the hospital because they consumed a poisonous pesticide when you weren't around.  Reduce your liability on the farm.  Take advantage of this outstanding program with no questions asked!


Augusta Cooperative names Mountain Hollow Dairy of Harrisonburg, VA an 'Outstanding Dairy'.

Mountain Hollow Dairy, owned by the Wenger family, was honored with one of four Augusta Cooperative 'Outstanding Dairy' Awards during June Dairy Month 2016.  This award is presented to dairy operations who demonstrate a commitment to the Virginia dairy industry, outstanding stewardship to the land, and maintaining superior animal health practices.

Purchased by Eldon Wenger, the farm was converted into a 60 Holstein cow dairy operation in the mid 1990's.  Since then, the operation has expanded to over 100 cows.  Eldon's son, Gerald and Raymond are now part of the operation.  In addition to the dairy, the Wenger family owns a poultry and row crop operation.

Mountain Hollow Dairy is in the business of producing high quality milk while maintaining superior cow comfort through traditional technologies.  Outstanding genetics, superior rations and feed efficiency remain at the forefront for the dairy and their success.  They have worked to perfect these principles with their collaboration over the years.  Diversification to their operation has also allowed the second generation to maintain involvement on the farm.

"The Wengers are a testament to the success of traditional dairying.  Proving that the basics of nutrition, cow comfort and proper management not only leads to profitability but overall stability of a dairy operation" said Daniel Phillips, Assistant General Manager of Augusta Cooperative Farm Bureau, Inc.  "Mountain Hollow Dairy is a provider of milk to one of the region's largest milk cooperatives, the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative.  Augusta Cooperative is proud to service the Wenger family.  On behalf of Augusta Cooperative, in celebration of June Dairy Month, we want to extend a special thank you to the Wenger family for their dedication to the dairy industry and for providing our country with quality milk each and every day."