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Adapting to a Rapidly Changing, Knowledge- and Technology-Driven Industry

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Lance Loveless, CPS

"The greatest thing about my job is the opportunity to help others succeed, whether it be employees or farmers or both," Loveless says. "Probably the most rewarding thing to me is to be able to satisfy a lot of different people in the farming community. They're not just customers, they're friends."

The CPS location Loveless works for, located just 4 miles south of Delphi, Indiana, and about 25 miles northeast of Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, is in an area ripe with productivity for many corn and soybean farmers. The area is also home to a diverse farming community, with farmers ranging from the 200-acre hobby farmer who works in town to the 9,000-acre farmer whose farm is his business, along with a number of large pork producers.

High yields are the norm for the Delphi area, according to Loveless, who says that the county average last year was nearly 200-bushel corn and 60-bushel-plus for beans. The high yields, Loveless says, are due to good local organic matter.

"In my main area, we've got mainly two or three soil types," Loveless says. "I'm very fortunate and the customer's very fortunate. We have good soil types and good drainage. They're productive soils."

Unfortunately, it is due to that very same productivity that farmers in the area face challenges with soil fertility.

"When it comes to soil deficiencies in our area, we tend to have to add a lot of nutrients to our soils to combat the deficiencies because of our high-yield goals for corn, soybeans and wheat," continues Loveless.

The main nutrient deficiencies facing Delphi farmers are sulfur and zinc. Other factors, like heavy rainfall, can also contribute to poor soil nutrition. One of the best ways to combat issues farmers face, Loveless says, is through education.

"A farmer has a lot of decisions to make, and it's important that he learns and makes the right decisions for the micronutrients – when to apply them, when the crop needs them, and how important they are to him."

In order to determine these nutrient needs, Loveless observes that farmers have been doing more soil testing and more tissue sampling. Soil testing and tissue sampling involve knowing of the soil, the crop and the nutrients at play. Due to the large number of factors to consider, soil testing and tissue sampling are a unique process for each farmer.

"If it's, say, a specialty crop and they use manure on their fields, then we tend to go out and soil test every year or every two years," Loveless says. "If it is just a normal corn/bean rotation, then typically every three to four years we soil test. And in this area, we do it by soil type, because the weather and a lot of the conditions that we have determine where the crop's taken from."

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Once Loveless and his farmers have completed soil testing and tissue sampling, they determine the nutritional needs of their crop, after which Loveless makes recommendations on which product to use to meet their soil's nutritional needs.

When making a recommendation, Loveless always considers the efficacy of the product as well as the return on investment. One product Loveless finds meets both of those needs is MicroEssentials®. MicroEssentials® SZ™ is made up of a combination of four nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc – making it a nutritionally balanced fertilizer. Unique chemistry, proper nutrient ratio and patented Fusion® technology enable MicroEssentials to provide uniform nutrient distribution, improved nutrient uptake and a season-long boost in soil fertility.

"When deciding on a fertilizer program for a customer, I want to utilize a product that will benefit him the most and will bring him the most economic yield," Loveless notes. "MicroEssentials is one of the products that we utilize here to address our sulfur and zinc deficiencies. The product is designed to replace the nutrients based upon specific yield goals. It fits very well in our portfolio."

Another reason why Loveless uses MicroEssentials is due to its unique formulation, which is designed to increase nutrient uptake in young seedlings, boosting plants to their full potential. Every granule incorporates both sulfate and elemental sulfur, and as a result, MicroEssentials is something Loveless' farmers can apply to their soil system to take care of the needs of the crop.

"Quite frankly, with a lot of the sulfur products that we use, there's nothing available late in the growing season because they're sulfate sulfurs," asserts Loveless. "We need the elemental too, and we have that with MicroEssentials."

What all of these things – MicroEssentials, soil testing and tissue samplings – represent for Loveless and his farmers is an awareness of how rapidly changing as well as technology- and knowledge-driven the industry has become. This, he believes, gives them the ability to be more forward thinking than ever before. However, in order to be able to predict issues and address them, first farmers have to be well educated on these new technologies and practices, which, as technologies continue to evolve and change rapidly, can be a challenge.

"The products and the information about crops that we are learning and the technologies we have today are tremendous," Loveless says. "I mean, we have drones to fly fields. We have information. How we put that information together and what we utilize – that's the tough part of this business right now, just to keep on top of it all."

While a changing industry can place new pressures on farmers, it also can provide them with better products and tools with which they can react to various pressures and needs as they arise.

"Probably the most important thing for me to tell farmers is that they need to be educated," adds Loveless. "They need to learn what works best for them on their soils. There's a synergy between micronutrients and macronutrients necessary to raise a crop and hit those higher yields."

Loveless hopes that with such industry growth in technology and information, it will be easier to achieve a balance between increasing yield and efficiency with being a good steward of the land.

"I want people who are going to bring things to the market that not only increase the yields and help farmers be more productive, but also I want it to be products that are good for the environment," Loveless says. "That's really what my goal here is. We want to be good stewards of the environment. We want the products that we use to help our yields while at the same time we want to be good stewards of the soil."