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Answer Plot solutions

More than 100 attendees reap the educational benefits of TFC and WinField United’s large-scale VIP event
Story and photos by: Sarah Geyer 9/30/2019

 

Shade, water, fans, and firsthand education were available in abundance on Aug. 14 at WinField United’s Answer Plot in Manchester. More than 100 participants, including many East and Middle Tennessee farmers and staff from their member Co-ops, attended the half-day, hands-on workshop, co-sponsored by WinField United and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, with session topics that included herbicide programs, foliar nutrition, and using data to manage acres.
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On Aug. 14, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and WinField United co-hosted their first large-scale VIP Answer Plot event. More than 100 attended the half-day workshop in Manchester, including many East and Middle Tennessee farmers as guests of their member Co-ops.

WinField United’s Answer Plot® program conducts roughly 30,000 research trials on 150 Answer Plot sites located in more than 30 states. The Manchester plot is one of four regional locations; the other three are located in Jackson and Greenfield, Tenn., and Hopkinsville, Ky. 

Over the years, the trials have extended beyond hybrids and varieties to include fertility, herbicides, adjuvants, biologicals, and seed treatments. Each year organizers add new trial scenarios based on regional needs and issues as well as emerging technologies and techniques.

Through TFC’s partnership with WinField United, Co-op growers have benefited from the Answer Plot’s extensive statistical storehouse. The four regional plots also provide an opportunity for producers to see firsthand the in-season results of these side-by-side research trials.

“Historically, TFC has used [WinField United’s regional Answer Plots] in two ways,” says Brett Jones, agronomy specialist for TFC. “Each spring, we host a training session for Co-op agronomists where we share the latest information. Then we have ‘VIP sessions’ where a member Co-op brings a small group of five or so growers to a site. It’s an intimate setting and works well, but we [TFC’s agronomists] wanted to find ways for more growers to benefit from our regional plots.”

The TFC agronomy team decided to build on the successful foundation of the small VIP events by creating a similar experience for a larger group of people.

“We also decided to target East and Middle Tennessee growers and their member Co-ops,” says Brett. “These two regions are often overlooked when it comes to row crop conversations, and this event is one way we can change that.”

Next, the team sent a survey to the participating Co-ops and, based on the results, developed sessions on herbicide programs, using data to choose and manage best-in-class corn hybrids, foliar nutrition, and soybean acre management as related to population considerations, seed treatments, maturity selection, and yield preservation with fungicides and insecticides.

“There are a lot more row crops in East Tennessee than people realize,” says Cory Vineyard, an agronomist at AgCentral’s Maryville location. “I believe our farmers are hungry for information. They need to know what’s new in the industry and what’s going on. I feel like this event was a good way to introduce them to some new concepts and show them that information hands-on.”

After a brief introduction and welcome, attendees were placed into five groups of 10 to 20 participants. Each group rotated through four pre-selected sessions based on topic interests identified through the survey. Each 45-minute session was led by agronomists from both TFC and WinField United and included a classroom-type setting under a tent and a hands-on demonstration in the midst of the test plot.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where participants could share feedback and ask questions that would dig deeper,” says Brett. “We had additional TFC and WinField representatives there so if someone wanted a side conversation, we could make that happen. We didn’t want anyone to leave with an unanswered question.”

Lincoln County farmer Jim Arnold reflected on the day while enjoying lunch, catered for the event by Prater’s BBQ.

“I enjoyed every session,” says the member of Lincoln Farmers Cooperative who raises corn, soybeans, and cattle on his farm in the Howell community. “They shared a lot of information for us to digest and think about.”

Jeff Howell, a farmer from Sweetwater, noted one session that was especially helpful for him.

“I’d say the fungicide part was probably the most interesting, particularly their spray recommendations and their take on adjuvants,” says the AgCentral Farmers Co-op member who raises corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay on his farm in McMinn County. “I’m new to spraying and still learning, so that session was really informative.”

Clay Richardson, an agronomist with AgCentral’s Athens Farm Center, echoed Jeff’s opinion, specifically praising the side-by-side comparison plots of Roundup® and Ammonium Sulfate (AMS), Roundup and methylated seed oils (MSO), and the plots with the various pre-emergent chemistries and a post-application of Roundup.

“It was very beneficial for the growers and us to see the multiple modes of action versus just one mode of action with Roundup,” he explains. “With just one mode, you could see morning glory and pigweed, but the plot with three modes of action had nothing.”

There was consensus among attendees about one thing: Co-op customers should take advantage of the four Answer Plots located in the region.

“If a farmer hasn’t visited [an Answer Plot], they need to try it at least one time,” says Jeff. “It doesn’t matter what you are learning – whether sprays, seed, or whatever – being able to have a hands-on and eyes-on experience is not only interesting but also educational.”

Growers who are interested in visiting an Answer Plot location should check with their local Co-op manager or agronomy specialist for opportunities to tour the nearest site. For more information about the Answer Plot program, visit www.answerplot.com.

 
 
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