MARSHALL - Though turnout was sparse because of cancellation and rescheduling, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College crop management seminar went on at Marshall Middle School on Thursday.
"The seminar is provided to bring experts to the farmers," said Paul Lanoue, farm business management instructor at the MinnWest, Marshall office.
The three main topics covered in the seminar were: using precision technology to make farm operations more efficient, hybrid seeds and chemicals for this year's planting, and an overview and summary of last year's raw yields and cost of production.
Adam Oeltjenbruns, one of the attendees, farms outside of Amiret.
"Dad and I are involved with farm business management," Oeltjenbruns said. "We're trying to find out what the future holds for ag and where we can invest for the future."
Jordan Vandeputte, a salesman with Titan Machinery, grew up on a farm in the Marshall area. Vandeputte showed how the GPS navigation system had revolutionized farming, making it possible to virtually automate plowing, seeding, fertilizing, and spraying.
Among other applications, modern GPS-controlled tractors can survey land while performing other farm operations, and download the data onto a desktop computer. With the appropriate software, a farmer can design a drainage system, and download the design into a tractor's onboard computer to lay drainage tile according to the design, Vandeputte said.
Mike Homandberg, a representative from Hefty Seed, presented on hybrid and varietal selections of corn and soybeans.
This year farmers are planning on switching 5 to 8 percent more land into corn, Homandberg said. Planting corn in fields previously planted in corn without rotation through a soybean crop means having to apply more fertilizer, but high corn prices are motivating farmers towards corn-on-corn planting.
"They can make another $150 per acre compared to beans," Homandberg said, "even with the extra fertilizer and seed costs."
Al Brudelie, dean of management and education at MinnWest, summarized last year's crop yields as part of a nine-year trend of rising farm profits and cost but warned the trend of rising profits could not continue indefinitely.
"We used to say farmers would have two good years out of 10, where they'd just be getting along or breaking even," Well we're nine years into a two-year cycle."
Brudelie said, to nods of agreement around the table, that there had been a human cost to rising land rents.
"I'm really seeing issues pop up in the ag industry," Brudelie said.
According to Brudelie, after record profits and rising prices for renting land, non-farming heirs to farms are pressuring their relatives who stayed on the farm to raise land rents and terminate leases of tenants who won't pay higher rates.
"It's all about greed," Brudelie said. "It's driving a wedge between people who used to get along."
At the conclusion of the seminar there was a demonstration of various kinds of spreadsheets for agriculture.
Dennis Schroeder designed a spreadsheet to keep track of costs of production, return on investments, and cash rent costs.
"We feel these tools are here to help people make decisions and manage operations," Schroeder said.