Meeting the Challenges Year-In and Year-Out

Kevin Carlson

As the temperatures drop and harvest nears completion, crop management takes a brief break, but Kevin Carlson knows that running a successful cash crop operation isn’t a one-season job. He understands the challenges growers face and meeting them requires year-round planning.

Carlson, raised on an Almelund farm, has been serving growers in the northern reaches of Federated’s service areas since 1988. He started in agronomy sales at what was then Pine City Co-op and, through a series of mergers between co-ops, moved into his role as Federated’s senior agronomist, working out of the Rush City location.

Carlson understands that growers need to keep looking forward, planning for the next crop even as the current one is drying in the bins. He mentioned nutrients as the first concern, and added another plug for soil sampling (can Federated Agronomists ever stress soil sampling enough?).

At this time of year, “we see it all,” he said. “It’s quite common to have pH and nutrient issues to deal with [revealed in soil sample results]. Sometimes the test results are surprising, sometimes not.” And, crop management decisions are best made with good information.

“The big thing,” he said, “is to deal with the issues. Especially pH – and then with the nutrients.” While it may be too late for additional soil sampling this fall, it’s not too late to apply ag lime.

Carlson knows that crop inputs are a big investment, and ag liming is no exception at $50-$100 per acre on average. But crop yields are dependent upon proper pH (as well as nutrients). “The investment is for the longterm,” he said, “on both owned or rented land.”

Yields can improve with every investment in strong inputs, and yields are the primary change Carlson has seen over the years. Corn yields have doubled and bean yields have nearly doubled since the days when this U of M-St. Paul agronomy grad started scouting fields and making crop recommendations.

The one thing that doesn’t change is the need for strong relationships with growers. “I’ve developed a lot of long-term relationships over the years . . . working with growers . . . dealing with their challenges,” he said.

Carlson divides his time between working with growers directly and leading the Federated agronomy sales team. “I try to lead with my experience . . . what I know in this retail business,” because the challenges don’t go away even when crop plans are at their best.

Whether it’s time to harvest a Federated plot (some grown on his own land), deal with tough weed control issues, interpret soil test results, or spend time with his “Brady Bunch” family (including teenagers still at home), Carlson is always committed to helping Federated growers. And he will be happy to take your call when you “contact your Federated Agronomist” with questions!