For Valdosta, GA, farmer Randy Dowdy, row crop production is an exercise in open-mindedness. The corn, soybean and cotton producer is constantly evaluating ways to make his operation more profitable.
That focus on improvement paid off in 2014, when Dowdy set the world record for corn yields, harvesting over 500 bushels an acre.
“We surround ourselves with smart people,” Dowdy says. “We’ve reached out to university and industry professionals, and we do a lot of on-farm trial work ourselves. We’ve got some lofty goals.”
His willingness to engage industry experts and employ new methods to achieve higher yields drew the attention of agronomists with BASF, and Dowdy has come to be the embodiment of the company’s innovative Grow Smart initiative.
“Grow Smart is a customized plan that BASF personalizes with growers for growers,” says Caren Schmidt, BASF technical marketing manager. “It’s putting the right portfolio with the right agronomics to help them challenge the status quo on their farm and increase the output of their operation.”
Schmidt says farming operations are increasingly more complex. The genesis of Grow Smart, for BASF, was to help growers make informed, fruitful decisions on the increasing number of variables that exist on today’s farming operations.
“We’re basically approaching growers and asking ‘How can we help you create the best management strategies to maximize your operation?’” she says.
BASF assisted with 78 on-farm Grow Smart trials across the country in 2015. Each plot must be a minimum of 40 acres, in which growers implement a customized plan that they create with help from a BASF representative. The plot is tracked throughout the year, and comparisons are drawn between the Grow Smart plot and each grower’s other commercial acreage.
BASF representatives say they hope to increase the number of Grow Smart cotton plots in 2016 and, in light of the company’s ever-growing cotton portfolio, it’s easy to see why.
“There’s basically no pest problem out there that we can’t solve in cotton,” says Dan Westberg, regional technical service manager for BASF.
Westberg and other BASF representatives are optimistic about the eventual deregulation of the company’s dicamba product, Engenia. The company has educated roughly 10,000 agriculture professionals on proper use of the product through the On Target Application Academy series in anticipation of a USDA ruling in the near future.