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Helping Local Farmers Find Higher Yields

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Helping Local Farmers Find Higher Yields

David Schraufnagel
David Schraufnagel

He knows the land, and the growers. Of course, being so close to the people and the issues has had its hurdles. It has been difficult to make nonemotional recommendations to the families he grew up with. David Schraufnagel says it's also been a little scary to make suggestions that have directly affected the livelihood of people he's known his whole life. But now that he has years under his belt, he's found that being able to support his friends is extremely rewarding.

Schraufnagel focuses on taking care of cash grains and dairy farmers in the area, and he sees three main jobs in his role as an advisor to make them in his area successful: First, he works together with the farmers on seed selection for the right field and the right crop rotation. Second, he makes sure everyone is regularly taking soil samples. Based on the samples, Schraufnagel puts together fertilizer blends that are adequate for the crop and the situation. Finally, he works with growers to put together a pesticide program.

"At the end of the day, the growers, who look at certified crop advisors and me as experts, want what's needed for their crop," Schraufnagel says. "They ask me, 'Will you tell me what is the best?' After that, we do all the work in the off-season, from the fall the year before with soil sampling, to sitting with the grower and putting together all the seed selections, fertilizer blends and pesticide programs. Pretty much everything they need to be successful the following year."

Schraufnagel has learned through experience the importance of knowing the farm, the territory, and what the land and the farmer need. Every farmer is unique, and every farmer has a different plan than the next.

The right advice can change significantly, depending on what part of the territory the farmer lives in. The Western and Northern territories of the Fond du Lac geography have soils that contain more clay, higher organic matter levels, higher pH levels and lower drainage capabilities. Loam soils persist more in the East and South. They consist of lower pH and organic matter and have better drainage capabilities.

Schraufnagel explains, "To put together the right fertilizer blends, the right varieties of seeds and the right fertilizer pesticide programs, the changes can be extreme, even in a 10-mile radius. Everything needs to be customized based on those soil types."

Schraufnagel recommends regular soil testing to make sure each plan is customized and up to date. With any soil type, he addresses the primary deficiency first. He makes sure his growers have the "main product" for the soil, and then moves to micronutrients based on what the tests tell him and the crop being grown.

"No matter what crop we're growing, we use that soil test to address the secondary nutrients, or micronutrients," Schraufnagel says. "With some of these premium products, we are starting to get these premixes, allowing us to get a combination of multiple nutrients in a granular fertilizer. When you can get multiple nutrients in a single granule and you can get a uniform distribution over a field, that is key to growing a uniform crop."

Starting with MicroEssentials®, Schraufnagel utilized Mosaic's premium products for uniform distribution in his area. MicroEssentials has been a critical factor in recommendations he puts together for his growers. MicroEssentials SZ™ – with nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S) and zinc (Zn) – contains elements especially important for the corn and soybean growers in his area.

Sulfur is a secondary nutrient Schraufnagel's area is lacking, especially with the reduction in S in rainfall. Sulfur is important to plants, no matter where they are grown, because it's an essential component of amino acids, which convert into protein for the plant. It is also required for the production of chlorophyll, and helps the plant produce energy for itself. Sulfur is immobile in the plant, so new growth suffers first when S levels are not adequate to meet the plant's needs.

When it comes to treating S deficiencies, there are several important considerations to keep in mind, including making sure that S is available to the plant throughout the growing season. MicroEssentials offers two forms of S, delivering season-long availability of the nutrient by combining both readily available sulfate and elemental sulfur that does not leach and becomes available later in the season.

A smaller quantity of zinc (Zn) is needed in the field, but it is still extremely important. It is heavily involved in enzyme systems that regulate the early growth stages, and is vital for fruit, seed and root system development; photosynthesis; formation of plant growth regulators; and crop stress protection. Zn is not mobile in the soil, so the small seedling's root system may have difficulty finding and taking up Zn reserves. Zn availability and uptake also can be limited by other environmental and crop management practices.

"It's hugely helped our business and the business of farming in the area," says Schraufnagel. "We've got products now that have both sulfur and zinc in the same granule with phosphorus. With the all-in-one mix of MicroEssentials, we get both our sulfur and our zinc needs in one granular. It's key when I make fertilizer blend recommendations."

MicroEssentials opened the door for another product made by The Mosaic Company that is needed by Schraufnagel's growers.

"Boron, especially for alfalfa, is the micronutrient my growers need. The impact of Aspire® in this geography has been tremendous. We've had an issue with boron deficiency, and Aspire – a product containing boron in each individual granule of potash – has provided uniform distribution of boron throughout the whole field. There is nothing else like it on the market."

Schraufnagel looks to provide his customers with the best service possible. In delivering that best service, he looks to leaders in the industry to create not only a winning product, but also to provide a leading perspective to the agriculture industry.

"My expectation for a market leader in this industry is to bring new, innovative technology into the mix," Schraufnagel says. "I want them to show us the next thing we need. Right now, there are a lot of things we need. But we're starting to see the products that fulfill that need and that we can take forth and give to our growers. That's exactly what we're starting to see, especially with some of these companies like Mosaic – they're bringing the newest and the best. They're listening to us. It's helping our growers be one step ahead of the competition, without a doubt. "

Schraufnagel, like the farmers he helps, knows the land and its needs, so when products like MicroEssentials and Aspire become available, he knows industry leaders, like The Mosaic Company, are listening. The support of Mosaic and his own knowledge enable Schraufnagel to provide the right advice and guidance for growers in his area.

"When it comes down to these premium products, with everything included and mixed in, the farmers notice a difference," he says. "If you've got a product offering that same micronutrient that I need, that you're telling me I need, I want that. And so once growers see it on their farm, it's an easy sell. Ultimately, that's the most rewarding part of my job: getting to the successful end result."