Richard Taylor, a University of Delaware Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist, has been helping farmers near and far, both as a consultant focused on finding the truths behind product claims and by participating in classes geared toward professionals in the business of crop production.
Taylor said his main focus in checking product claims is testing items “that are designed to supposedly help a particular problem.”
One such product was a fertilizer that was supposed to boost yields in soybean and corn. “Not only did we find that the product didn’t work in this region,” Taylor said, “but the nice thing was that the people producing it took it off the market here so it actually saved growers a lot of money.”
With that particular product, Taylor worked with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Agronomist Committee, and the product was tested in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania and then in Delaware. All the results were consistent.
Taylor said the testing of products is a complicated process and just because a product doesn’t work here doesn’t mean that it won’t have success in other parts of the world. For instance, while the fertilizer did not work as advertised around the Mid-Atlantic, it did work in Mexico, where it boosted yields in some corn varieties with older genetics.
Taylor stressed that it is especially important now for growers to spend their money wisely on products that work as advertised because of the high crop prices. “When corn was two dollars a bushel, wheat was four dollars a bushel, you couldn’t sell anything to a farmer that would boost yield,” he said. “They weren’t interested in boosting yields, they were interested in reducing costs. With the current high commodity prices, farmers are more willing to listen to product claims, but if a claim is valueless, it still reduces profitability. So our testing program is another way to help farmers reduce costs without affecting production, essentially, trying to boost profitability.”
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Danielle Quigley