Successful Seed Reps Use the Couch

- Rod Osthus

Ever hear of couch selling? It’s the only method top field sellers use to sell 21st century farmers. Couch selling is a metaphor I coined years ago to describe the act of putting farmers’ brains into a so-called relaxed, reclined position before getting down to business. The term is somewhat analogous to the way psychologists used couches over the years to ultimately quiet patients’ minds. The goal was to free them from extraneous thoughts that were keeping them from achieving their goals in life. Top sellers know they need to do the same with farmers. Farmers go through periods every year with their minds out of balance, focusing on problems instead of solutions. Sellers know that as long as farmers are focused on the negatives, no one wins, including the farmer himself. What farmers need most in today’s volatile marketplace is someone to help them stay positive amid oppressive levels of negativity. After all, more than 1,000 variables negatively impact their crops’ performance in some way every year and subsistence level market prices threaten their ability to survive. As a result, input costs put them in the mood to save money, not spend money. So, the first thing couch sellers know they need to do to get a sale is clear the farmer’s mind of all thoughts blocking positive thinking. They need to get the farmer out of that mental rut they often fall into. A rut is a coffin with the ends kicked out, and farmers can’t get out of that rut on their own. They need the help of a couch seller. The greatest asset today’s farmers could have access to, is a sales rep who understands the need for couch selling. They know that farmers are in a constant battle to stay positive and focused on the future. These seed psychologists know how to work with a wide variety of growers and diagnose a wide variety of problems. Some problems are short-term and can be solved quickly, while others are chronic and more difficult to eradicate. But there is a solution to every problem. Put your customers’ brains on the selling couch and see what happens. Once they’ve freed their minds of negative thoughts, you will have given them the hope they desperately need. They will thank you for it and so will their families. And who knows, they may even buy something in return.

How to Easily Benefit From and Gain Expertise

- Ketty Nilsson

It’s not rocket science, but it’s close. Applying today’s seed treatment technologies requires sophisticated equipment and know-how. Additionally, competition in seed processing is fierce, the products are expensive, and customers are demanding more value added to the seed with consistent quality year-round.

Seed treatment equipment operators must be up on the latest seed enhancement technologies and understand how and when to apply a number of products, such as pesticides, fungicides, nutrients, biologicals, inoculants, functional coatings and colorants. Also, budgets are shrinking, and staff turnover is increasing, so expertise is seldom found in-house.

How do you learn the skills necessary to unlock your equipment’s potential and optimize seed treatment technologies? There is a way.

Now, independent consultants can bring training and expertise to the companies that require them, anywhere in the world. These specialists can train staff, troubleshoot application issues, test products, customize recipes, methods and equipment, and provide impartial advice on all aspects of seed treating and equipment, no matter the seed treatment brand or product.

In fact, an independent consultant can examine the whole seed treatment process at your operation. Whether you’re new to seed enhancement technologies, have identified areas to improve in your existing processes, or want to build expertise in-house, a consultant is the most economical and efficient way to go about it.

These professionals are always testing new products, technologies and equipment, and they know what’s in the pipeline; they’re at the forefront of science—and they can help you get there too. You will get more value out of your equipment investment as well as gain a competitive edge in the industry.

I believe if you’re only competing in the marketplace on price and product you won’t last because today’s consumers want value. Improving your processes or technologies can produce that value.

Providing a consulting service to our customers was a natural step for NoroGard. Our in-house expert, who specializes in the application of all types and brands of seed treatment technologies, methods and applied products for coating and pelletizing has been working in all areas of seed treatment for 25 years, and travels around the world helping seed processors.

After all, there’s no point selling top-of-the-line seed treating equipment if operators can’t use it to its full potential.

An independent consultant can ensure your equipment serves you, and not the other way around.

What Is the True Cost of Developing Breeding Software?

- Yaniv Semel

Once you recognize the need to implement new plant breeding software, the next crucial decision is to decide whether to build a proprietary program or to buy off-the-shelf software. Large organizations with big budgets and skilled IT teams frequently think they can afford the cost and can do a better job than an outside vendor to meet their breeders’ unique management requirements.

But it’s not that easy. The do-it-yourself companies soon discover that building software solutions includes long-term risks and places a potentially huge burden on other ongoing activities. The period from starting development to releasing the first version usually takes much more time and money than was initially expected.

Then, when the program is ready, the company may find its needs have changed and its breeding program has new requirements. In other words, the software has become obsolete before it is launched. This starts a never-ending development snowball that is perpetually rolling downhill as software developers try to stay ahead of breeders’ continually changing needs.

Some breeders think that their processes are so unique that no software could possibly fulfill their needs. However, good breeding software implements extensive configurations supporting all modern processes employed in commercial seeds companies. No company would consider developing their own ERP or CRM systems, so why breeding software?

We have watched very large companies with very deep pockets spend millions of dollars to develop a proprietary breeding software program and then abandon it because it did not perform as expected. Eventually the investment of time and money begins to feel heavy. Financial managers may question if such a ‘journey’ is the right way to go. After so much resources have already invested, they wonder if they have passed the point of no return?! Or worse, is this a failed ambition and who’s fault is?

Implementing a solution developed by a third-party vendor provides a totally different experience. Users receive a mature software package that covers most or all of the breeders’ needs from day one. Technology is commonly upgraded by the software developer. Improvements, maintenance, support, security and backups are all provided by the vendor. Additional development cost will be for updates to a proven working solution.

Breeding activities are complicated no matter the crop. Translating those complex processes into software requires unique expertise in both software and breeding, which only a professional provider can have. After all, the core business of breeding companies is breeding and not software development.

Connect. Conversate. Create Results

- Devon Ingo

Last December, we did something entirely unexpected: we refrained from exhibiting at the largest U.S. seed industry convention. This was neither a mistake, nor a missed opportunity. Instead, we took those dollars that we would have spent on exhibiting and we visited our customers in their own backyards.

We met people in their office, drank coffee together and talked. We walked through their conditioning towers and got some dust on our shoes. We got to know them. As they showed us their facility, we listened to their stories, heard about their successes and dreamed with them about their ambitions. These conversations were intentional and meaningful.

What are we doing this year? You can expect us to be back in Chicago but with an entirely different presence, and one I’m super excited about. We are leaving our equipment at home and building out a set with small town Colorado hospitality in mind, complete with grass and refreshments. We want to start new conversations and continue building on those that we initiated last year. We want people to come into our exhibit, relax for a bit and take a break from the go-go that is the Chicago meeting, and feel like they’re in our backyard.

Have you ever noticed how coffee-pot and back-yard conversations often times lead to the best ideas. The idea of grabbing coffee with someone is so simple but the possibilities are endless. The science behind it: these are areas where people are comfortable. They’re relaxed and don’t have their guard up. They are willingly sharing information in an honest and transparent way. Connecting this way leads to creative conversations. It’s these conversations from which new insights come and from which new innovations come.

If you’re in Chicago for ASTA’s annual Seed Expo, we hope you’ll come connect with us “in our backyard.” We care about your business. We want to know what you like and what you don’t, and through these conversations, we can help you achieve improved results.

Five Tips for Event Networking (or, What I Learned in Manila)

- Kelly Saunderson

I recently had the honour of attending the 25th annual Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) Asian Seed Congress in Manila, Philippines. APSA is the world’s largest regional association, with membership from over 50 countries. Networking is a central function at events like APSA’s World Congress. Like all skills, practice makes perfect. Attending meetings and events is great practice for honing networking skills. If you are like me and trying to practice your networking skills, here are a couple of tips which recently helped me:

  1. Quality over quantity. ‘Working a room’ by trying to introduce yourself to as many people as possible may work for those truly memorable and charismatic people. For most people, engaging in a few longer conversations is the best approach.
  2. Target smaller groups. Networking is about relationships and making a personal connection. Instead of trying to break into a large group, join a table with only one or two people.
  3. Focus on being the best you. An introvert trying to be an extrovert is going to seem forced or awkward. Sometimes just listening intently leaves a lasting impression.
  4. Do your research. Study the conference’s attendee list. Identify who you want to connect with — and why. Do your research on those people. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for putting a face to a name and/or learning about a contact’s background. The more you know, the easier it will be to start up a conversation with them.
  5. Prepare a few ‘go-to’ questions. Have a couple of questions in mind that you could ask anyone. For example, something as simple as ‘where are you from,’ or ‘how was your trip in?’ If you really want to get remembered, try asking something unexpected but easily answered. Something like, ‘What did you have for breakfast today?’ It’s not a standard question so will often grab attention and create a reaction.

My golden rule with networking is to find a commonality. Where may interests overlay? Delegates at the APSA Congress may have spoken different languages and came from many different countries but were all there for similar reasons – to advance the seed industry. Don’t forgot to follow up after a networking event. A simple email or note can go a long way. You’ve made a contact, now the work begins to develop a relationship.

Throw Out the Seed Treatment Paper Trail

- Jason Kaeb

In the world where we have an endless array of gadgets and gizmos at our fingertips, making communication and data analysis easier than ever, paper is a sign of inefficiency.

Think about your paper trail as it relates to treating seed. A customer orders a batch of seed to be treated, which is typically initiated through accounting procedures. That order then must be transferred to the seed treatment facility/operator. Once complete, it must be passed back to accounting for billing. Then there’s the inventory component. That’s a lot of paper — and probably a lot of manual and/or double-entry of data. Without thinking about it, you might not consider how much time is spent tracking, reporting and sharing information as it relates to a seed treatment order.

That’s where application programming interface (API) comes in. This is the next step in seed treatment and seed delivery systems, and it’s a huge gain when it comes to organizational efficiency. Basically, it’s the ability to take a data set and automatically plug it in across multiple departments. The best part: the equipment does the work.

Here’s how it works: seed treatment orders are pushed out to treatment facilities. Simultaneously, recipes are pushed down to treatment facilities from an inhouse team or third party, allowing operators to select the proper recipe that corresponds with an order, without having to manually enter the data. During the actual treatment process, inventory of liquids and seed is automatically tracked, and alerts can be set for thresholds indicating low levels. Finally, when the order is complete, that inventory tracking data is automatically pushed back to the billing software for invoicing, noting the amounts of seed delivered and liquid delivered.

It’s all about improving efficiency and accuracy!

Remember: Data alone is not valuable, it’s what you do with the data that is valuable. This next-step with seed treatment systems will ensure that the data doesn’t get lost on paper and that it makes it into the hands of decision-makers.

Good Business Practices Beat Great Marketing Every Time

- Jim Schweigert

Competition in the seed business is fierce. The market share battles are creating more urgency for companies to strike now. This pressure can lead to overextending resources, making unsustainable business decisions or setting unrealistic expectations.

Here are two business practices to create long-term business opportunities without putting your company at risk.

Over Promise and Over Deliver

If you under promise in today’s competitive environment, you are leaving the door open for a competitor to offer a more attractive solution. Business decisions are being made at a faster pace every year. You don’t often have the luxury of having two to three “trial” years to earn new business. You need to make sure each perspective client or customer knows exactly what your business can do for them. Do not to sell yourself short.

You absolutely cannot under deliver on the expectations you create. The moment you don’t meet those expectations the client or customer could be lost. Setting expectations you can’t deliver on will quickly erode your reputation and negatively impact your business. Doing what you say you can do will build trust and give your clients and customers confidence in your performance and lead to future opportunities.

Fix Any Mistakes Quickly and Fairly

There is no such thing as perfect seed or perfect performance, but your clients or customers can still have a perfect experience. The moment something doesn’t go well is when your business integrity and reputation are tested. Treating your clients and customers fairly and resolving issues quickly proves you stand behind your company’s and/or products’ performance. When faced with performance issues, take immediate ownership and offer solutions.

Also, you cannot wait to alert your client or customer. Almost every issue has a resolution, but if you wait too long to communicate the problem, options may no longer be available. Quickly assess the situation, communicate the problem, take ownership and offer an immediate resolution. You’ll demonstrate your integrity and built trust with your client or customer.

The old adage to “Treat others as you want to be treated.” really does apply to business. I believe it’s even more important now than ever. The fight for every acre, every bag and every dollar is intense. Getting too caught up in the moment could lead to decisions that produce short-term results but damage your reputation in the future.


Time Brainstorming Your Idea is Time Well Spent

- Gerald Unrau

Whether you’ve decided it’s time to update your seed storage and handling equipment, or build a brand-new seed site for your business, knowing where to start can seem daunting. However, your vision is where it all begins.

The art of napkin sketches — or jotting down your ideas or vision — is important to the whole seed site design process. Don’t minimize the value of brainstorming: this conceptualization stage is necessary to turn your dreams into reality.

Brainstorming ideas for your seed site will help you check off the important things on your list while allowing you to consider the extras you could add to the site if and when you have the budget and means. Some of your ideas will be driven by need and some by your vision.

For example, even at this early stage, some of your current needs should be considered:

* What product are you going to be handling?

* What capacity do you require?

* Where is the location of the site?

* Do you have existing equipment or is this to be a greenfield site with new equipment?

* How do you want to fill the bins?

* Are you putting up sheds or other buildings?

Address these factors, but also give yourself room to grow. If you’re adding new buildings and storage bins to your site and you think you may be adding more in four or five years, you must have enough area at your location to expand, as well as the capabilities to expand (i.e. equipment that can handle being upgraded and extended). It’s a good idea to have that longer-term vision, so you have enough room to expand as your business grows.

Eventually you’ll base the design of your site on your concept, and this time you’ve spent brainstorming. I have a few things for you to keep in mind while you’re visualizing your site:

1) What type of equipment do you want to use?

2) What is the capacity you’d like to achieve?

3) What is the flow coming in and out of the yard bringing seed in and getting seed out to customers? Order your yard so that the flow in and out is easy and efficient for you and your customers to do business.

Storage and handling equipment specialists can assist you with this important conceptualization stage. They can help you turn your vision into reality. Meridian Manufacturing, for example, takes its customers from those initial napkin sketches, through the design process, and to the manufacturing stage. From concept to completion—it all starts with your idea.

Solving Seed Treatment Problems… We All Got ‘em

- Jon Moreland

The seed treatment market continues to robustly expand. Increased treatment rates plus changes in what we are applying (think microbials – live organisms) have driven this growth. I believe we are a long way from perfecting these processes with room at the top for innovation. If you treat seed, I bet you grapple with one or more of these issues.

  • Wet treatments have caused problems for years. Some of us admit to it, others are in denial. If your operators have to break soybean clumps out of the bagging bin with a rod, you have a problem. This issue increases each year as treatment application rates increase. There are mechanical – not chemical – solutions for this problem. I don’t believe there is a chemical, polymer or drying agent anywhere capable of addressing the complete problem. Sure, some chemicals cure or dry more effectively than others and hydrophobic powders can help. But honestly, we seem to have gone beyond the limits of making these additives completely effective.

Most solutions will require some sort of drying even for light film coating rates. For encrustation and pelletizing where drying has been a longtime necessity, many of those solutions can provide new efficiencies for drying wet seed treatments. Look for market solutions that use advanced air control, heat and even conditioned air to assist drying. If you are cramped for space, consider advanced equipment that performs the treating and drying functions in one machine.

  • Dust off has become one of the most controversial issues surrounding seed treatment. This topic is usually discussed around loss of treatment downstream in the distributor or even worse the customer’s hands. Dust off (or maybe dust that never got “on”) is a big problem in treatment facilities as well. Colored dust that coats a facility is more the norm than the exception. It is rapidly becoming an unacceptable safety issue. To address this concern look to your air handling system and pair it with equipment that is enclosed and designed for treatment use.
  • Clean out. Enclosed equipment is critical to containing dust off. Most operators cringe at this idea because they assume enclosed equipment is more difficult to clean. This is no longer the case. Kernel-clean can easily be accomplished with new equipment designs. Look for components designed with ample access doors and clean transition lines. Check where your seed will flow. With equipment manufactured to current standards there is no place for seeds to hide.

5 Checks to Ensure Seed Treatment Success with Small Grains

- Jason Kaeb

Just as planting equipment needs to be swapped out from seeding corn and soybeans to drilling wheat or other small grains, different adjustments need to be made to seed treatment equipment when going from treating a large seed to something much smaller, such as wheat.

While the seed treatment equipment may have been purchased and set up to treat soybeans, that same equipment can do just as good as job treating wheat seed with the right adjustments. In an automated system, most of these changes can all be preset and done with a few screen touches. However, if you’re not there yet, here’s what you need to be checking: cross contamination, flowability, seed rate, application rate, and seed metering.

Cross Contamination. With small cereal seeds, they seem to find every crack and crevice, which makes cleanout a challenge. To prevent any cross contamination, conduct a thorough cleanout. If you’re still evaluating equipment for purchase, consider equipment that is easily accessible so that cleanout between crops or varieties can be done as efficient as possible.

Flowability. Because small grains don’t flow as easily as soybeans, the drum tilt needs to be set at a steeper angle for a complete cleanout of the seed, but this also means that the first seeds through don’t get treated as well. Consider application equipment that doesn’t rely on gravity to discharge from the drum.

Seed Rate. Getting the right amount of seed treatment on each seed is important. Unlike with soybeans, small grains don’t get treated on a true seed basis. Instead, they are treated per pound. Note the application labels are on a per hundredweight (CWT) basis. Generally speaking because cereal seed is not consistently the same size, it’s recommended to treat per 100 pounds or per 100 kilograms.

Application Rate. Even though you might be using the same product, application rates will vary. It may require the use of different hardware, such as pumps and hoses, to accommodate those variances. This is not a problem, so long as it’s planned for in advance and not an urgent need. Additionally, keep in mind that there will be different requirements for dry products compared to wet, and differing water rates can change the look of coverage.

Seed Metering. This may pose the biggest challenge. A seed wheel is setup to deliver a certain amount of seed based on a test weight taken by the user and input into the system. The system then assumes that the seed wheel pockets are completely full every revolution. With the flowability challenges of different cereals, this doesn’t always happen, especially at a higher treatment rate. This alone is reason to slow your metering rate and ensure each seed wheel pocket is full. To help address this, KSi VariRate meters seed off a scale hopper, instead of converting from volume to weight. This eliminates the challenge of flowability and users can switch between small grains and soybeans without having to enter a cup weight or worry about making sure the seed wheel pockets are being kept full.

If you go through this checklist when making the switch to treat cereals and small grains from soybeans, you’ll hopefully have a few less headaches to deal with.

Remember: At the end of the day, accuracy and stewardship when treating small grains and wheat is just as important as when treating soybeans.

37 Years of Managing Materials at Oliver Manufacturing

- Jefferey Fawcett

I recently announced my retirement from Oliver Manufacturing, set to take effect this December, and I thought this was an opportunity to reflect on my career. As material control manager for 37 years, my duties included all the purchasing and management of inventory adjustments as needed. I’ve been responsible for inventory adjustments during our annual physical count and logistics for scheduling shipments, whether it’s parts or machines, going domestically and internationally.

In 1981, I started at Oliver as a temporary contractor. I was fresh out of college and ready to start a career. At the time, Geoff Burney was the CEO and he didn’t actually have any fulltime positions available. However, he needed work done on creating part numbers, something that I still manage to this day. The parts system in place needed to be refined. Around the end of October, a permanent position opened up and Geoff offered it to me. I’ve been here ever since!

Effective communication in my role as material control manager is vital. It’s important to have a good rapport with other departments as we rely on a lot of back-and-forth information from each other. I have to understand that we use an awful lot of those items, so we don’t want to buy just five or 10 at a time, we need to buy 100 at a time. Or, we don’t go through that many, and we only need five or 10 or if we are trying something new.

Thirty or 40 years ago, the expertise and knowledge I’d developed on thousands and thousands of parts would be painstaking to record and communicate. I’d end up writing a book or manual about it all! But because of natural technological developments, a lot of that knowledge is ready to be passed along with the mantel.

I’ve witnessed a great deal of change and a tremendous amount of growth. In 1981, I never dreamed that I’d be here in 2018. I sure am lucky to have been here for as long as I have, and I’ve had many meaningful relationships with different people at Oliver through the years. It’s been very rewarding. It’s been a pleasure to raise my family in the Rocky Ford and Arkansas Valley area. I’m finishing up in December – hopefully, I’ll be on vacation by the actual deadline. It’s been a wonderful journey!

Why Must Your Customer Always Be Right?

- Jon Moreland

Your customers can be, and frequently are, wrong. Either way, you should always afford them the right to be heard. Listening to customer complaints is part of doing business. It is also a way to gain valuable insight into issues surrounding your business. But listening does not dictate that you must acquiesce to unreasonable demands. Most customers who feel they have been wronged started with unreasonable demands or expectations. If refusing an unreasonable demand means you lose a customer – good for you.

When responding to customer complaints, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Support employees. Responding favorably to unreasonable demands tests your employees’ loyalty to you, your business and your policies. Your employees are your most valuable asset and your first line of defense against adversarial customers. Don’t discourage your employees by overriding their judgement when you show partiality to one customer over another simply because of an unreasonable complaint. Likewise, don’t train your customers to expect exceptional results from unreasonable complaints.

2. Be consistent. Making inconsistent responses to a common problem will undermine your business credibility. When unreasonable demands are based on false information, determine where the misinformation came from. If the misinformation is wide spread, decide how your business will react and keep your employees informed. Be consistent.

3. Recognize social media. The internet and social media have changed everything. When you resolve a customer’s legitimate or rightful complaint, few will ever know. But let someone out-finesse you into yielding to an unreasonable demand and your gullibility will be broadcast throughout social media before you return to your desk.

4. Focus on vital customers. Time is too valuable for you to afford to keep habitual complainers. According to the Pareto Principle (the 80:20 rule of the Law of the Vital Few), you can expect that 80 percent of customer complaints will come from 20 percent of your customers. You can also expect 80 percent of the time spent dealing with customer complaints will be spent on the 20 percent of complaints that were unreasonable in the first place.

Perhaps it was appropriate for Marshall Field in Chicago and Harry Selfridge in London to claim their customers were always right as they established their retail businesses in the early 1900s. However, it was soon pointed out to both men that this view ignores the reality that customers can be dishonest and have unrealistic expectations. That observation has never changed.

Niche Markets: The Cure for Low Commodity Prices

- Jim Schweigert

Since 2013, U.S. row crop farmers have experienced big yields and low commodity prices. This has put significant profit pressure on those in the Corn Belt. This pressure is also being felt by seed companies selling to these farmers. How can companies break out of this complex? Here are two ways your company can extend its current infrastructure and expertise to pursue better margin opportunities and get a leg up on the competition.

Sell Something New

Resistance to change is the biggest barrier to doing something new. Despite the challenging market conditions, most seed companies are doing OK. If that’s good enough, then the status quo works. But if you believe it can be better, you’ll need to push your team and company beyond their comfort zone. In almost every corner of the country, farmers are experimenting with some type of niche market: organic, food grade, alternative crops, plant-based proteins, etc. Many of these may be competitive to what your company sells, and the natural tendency is to resist supporting an opportunity that could cannibalize existing sales. But what if you embraced it? Your company could combine its local knowledge of farming practices, weather and soil to partner with farmers in their new ventures. Non-ag companies are aggressively investing in these markets and I believe seed companies can be value-added partners.

Explore Public Partnerships

Universities and technical colleges are incubating new ag and food companies than ever before. These academic institutions provide a wealth of skilled students and overhead support for startups, but they often lack the ability to execute and expand beyond the testing phase. You can gain insight into what new opportunities may be coming next and position your company to benefit by creating relationships with public researchers.

Further, if you have an idea that could give farmers an additional source of revenue or cost savings, reach out to these institutions. You might be able to tap into public funding, genetics or scientific expertise to support exploration of your concept.

Success in niche markets requires you to widen your scope of possible partners and brainstorm new ideas. Preparing for and pursuing new opportunities can diversify your business and set it up for long-term success. Selling seed to commodity farmers may always be your largest source of revenue and profit, but dedicating time to pursue new markets ensures you’ll have opportunities beyond the commodity corn and soybean complex.

Is There Any Way to Deal with Sudden Death Syndrome in Soybeans?

- Tom Kroll

Sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans is a tough critter to control. Getting a handle on this disease takes a full management approach.

SDS occurs in a disease complex with soybean cyst nematode. It is second only to cyst nematode as the most devastating soilborne problem of soybean in the United States. When this disease occurs in the presence of cyst nematode, symptoms occur earlier and are more severe. SDS is typically not detectable on the foliage of plants until after they begin flowering. The fungus infects seedling roots soon after planting. Above ground symptoms rarely appear before mid-July when the fungus penetrates the plant’s vascular tissue. The fungus produces toxins in the roots that are translocated to the leaves and cause foliar symptoms. The fungus itself does not invade the stems more than a few centimeters above the soil line.

SDS Management

Early planting predisposes soybean to SDS infection. In cool, wet soils, young soybean plants are vulnerable to infection by the SDS causal fungus. Avoid early spring planting in soils not favorable for rapid soybean growth. Fields with no history of SDS should be planted first; fields where SDS has been a problem should be planted later.

Cyst nematode injures seedling plants, which makes them more vulnerable to SDS. Begin SDS management with nematicides active against cyst nematode and/or resistant varieties. Nematicides, including some biological products, should be used before you consider using an additional seed treatment fungicide directed at SDS. Fungicides in-furrow or foliar-applied are not effective on SDS.

Resistance management options to control SDS are limited. Although soybean cultivars less susceptible to SDS have been developed, no highly-resistant varieties are available. Nonetheless, you may get the biggest bang for your buck by starting with a nematicide in combination with a variety that has some level of SDS resistance.

A few technologies are available for SDS fungal control. ILeVO seems to be the most effective against the SDS causal agent and has activity on cyst nematode as well. Thiabendazole (TBZ) may help at high application rates. While it is too early to know how well Heads Up will perform, limited results have been promising.

The bottom line: Plant later to manage SDS. When that is not an option, use a nematicide alone or in combination with a variety that has some SDS resistance. If the problem is severe, add a fungicide directed at SDS.

Why do You Need Social Media for Your Business?

- Zana Relke

Half of the world’s population is using social media platforms, according to Hootsuite — it’s safe to say that your customers are online. They’re interacting on social media channels and are going online to search for information and look for recommendations. If your company is not around to answer them, a competitor will be.

Use social media as a means of announcing relevant information. Are you expanding, entering a new market, recently certified, or offering a new product? By sharing your company’s voice through social media, it will open up unique opportunities to grow your business. I recommend three important social media platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

  • LinkedIn. The most popular B2B social media platform. It’s a great platform for generating new leads through networking and making connections with potential customers. It’s mainly used for business communications; your target audience is already there wanting to see what products and services your company is offering.
  • Twitter. A great medium for brand awareness. Amplify your content by tagging someone in a post, use hashtags to increase engagement, and add social captions so people get to know your brand’s voice. Be authentic. You have 280 characters to catch your customer’s attention and produce valuable information that your users want to hear.
  • Facebook. A great platform to interact with new and existing customers. The seed industry is a niche market — you are a subject matter expert and your role is to engage with your target audience by providing solutions. Take the opportunity to connect with your customers by asking for their opinions, answering questions, and addressing public feedback about your company. It shows that businesses are human too and it gives the process a personal touch; customers are then more likely to engage in a transaction.

Begin to build relationships with your customers beyond those that happen during normal business hours. For example, REI — an American company — sells outdoor gear, but they also give expert advice on hiking, camping and outdoor family activities. Remember, not everything you do through social media has to be a marketing campaign — add a little spark to your newsfeed and share a fun content piece.

Who is your audience? What do they want to hear from you? How do you stand out from the rest? These are all important questions you need to ask yourself. The end goal is to grow lasting and scalable relationships with your customer base.

Pelleting: How to Increase Efficiency and Capacity by 800%

- Ketty Nilsson

From vegetable and sugar beet seed to grass and tree seed, there is a growing interest in pelleting, which improves seed size, shape and uniformity. I’ve even noticed an increasing trend for pelleting canola and sunflower seed.

The benefits of using pelleted seed are many, including optimally-spaced, uniform plant stands, especially with the use of precision planters, and a larger surface area to apply nutrition and protection products, thus increasing the seed’s value. Additionally, when precision planting pelleted seed, the number of seeds required per acre is often reduced by 50 to 80 percent. When pelleting seed, there are a number of important advantages to using a rotostat seed treater (also known as a batch seed treater) over other types of treaters.

Quality control is a critical element to treating seed. You want to deliver the same high-quality pelleted seed every year, every batch and every seed lot, all year long. A rotostat seed treater’s PLC-based, closed system provides precise dosing rates and correct applications in every batch; thus, the consumer’s investment ends up on the seed.

This rotostat treater also improves quality control over other types of seed treaters, such as the drum treater, because the recipes and methods are contained within and carried out by the equipment, and not by an operator. Not only does this mean all batches have the same quality, but a company is not dependent on a specific operator to maintain quality and skills. Furthermore, reports and statistics are easily accessible and supervised.

The rotostat’s closed system also provides a huge advantage when it comes to an operator’s working environment. The closed powder feeder and dosing system for liquids as well as the treater’s automated cleaning process, which rinses all equipment and hoses, ensures operators don’t handle toxic materials. Pelleting with a rotostat eliminates the dust issues associated with drum pelleting, where operators are often exposed to the products they are applying.

Improved efficiencies of a rotostat treater include shortened processing times — it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to four hours to produce a batch of pellets with a drum treater, whereas it takes the same procedure five to 10 minutes with a rotostat treater. In addition, the wet sieving process is eliminated. Given these efficiencies, a rotostat treater pays for itself in no time, and its sophisticated technology will also lower your labor costs.

Defining Industrial Hemp in Colorado

- Christian Burney

Hemp is a big issue in Colorado, as many of you are aware by now. With big issues come ballot items, and the Colorado state election ballot book is a big one — there are 13 items on the state ballot. Now, these cover common state issues such as funding for education, transportation and, with the census coming up, congressional and legislative redistricting.

For the most part, it’s pretty standard stuff. But Coloradans are also faced with an interesting hemp dilemma that must be solved by Nov. 6. The fourth item on the state ballot is Amendment X. The item poses the following question to voters: Should the definition of “industrial hemp” be removed from the Colorado state constitution and instead use either the federal definition or refer to state statutes?

It is an interesting question. The definition of “industrial hemp” was added to the state constitution in 2012 as part of Amendment 69, which is most famous for its legalization of recreational marijuana. The state definition currently matches the federal one:

“The term ‘industrial hemp’ includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” according to the USDA.

The definition of industrial hemp could have big consequences.

First, if the definition is removed from the state constitution, deferring to federal law, and then federal law changes out of favor (or more out of favor, as the case may be), Colorado hemp farmers could be negatively impacted. But then again, if federal law were to change in favor of the hemp industry, as some have predicted may happen with the upcoming farm bill, then this deferment wouldn’t seem like a big deal. (Of course, we would need a farm bill for that. Where is that thing?)

Leaving hemp in the state constitution comes with its own set of problems, too. The constitution is supposed to protect ideas; statutes are reserved for legislation, which is guided by the constitution. The definition of hemp seems more like a statutory issue, particularly if changing it to react to the growth and evolution of an industry is a valid strategy in the future. Leaving hemp in the constitution makes it harder to change its definition later, but also begs the question of what other commodities or specialty crops “need” to be constitutionally defined?

Add Clarity, Tell Them Why

- Robin O'Mara

The Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence proclaims some fundamental truths and rights, including human equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — these things are self-evident. Most everything else needs a little explaining.

As an example, when you have a new assignment for your employees, it’s important to tell them more than the basics of what they are to do; tell them why. Tell them why your customer wants, or needs, it that way. People are more responsive to a message when they understand why. Give them a reason for why, or how, the task will benefit them or benefit the customer.

It’s one thing to clearly give an assignment. It becomes an entirely different assignment when you tell them why. Adding “why” gives your request purpose and meaning. Your doctor can tell you to take your medication, but a good doctor will why tell you why you need to take it and how it will benefit.

One of our goals is to design seedsmanship into the equipment we manufacture. A seedsmanship feature that I consider important may be overlooked or unappreciated by a customer unless I take the time to explain. Explaining to our customers why we make or do things the way we do adds value to their perception of our products. Features that are obvious and important to me and our engineers as they design new equipment are not always self-evident to our customers. Furthermore, explaining why adds clarity to your instructions. This is why we take the time to explain and share with customers why we make our equipment the way we do.

The same idea applies when giving instructions to employees, especially new employees who are just learning. They may be confident that they have heard the words I spoke, but as I watch them I become equally confident they did not understand what I meant. Had I taken the time to explain why, they would have had a better understanding of my intentions. Explaining why adds an end goal to your instructions and gives employees an opportunity for initiative and innovation. Instead of merely working to finish an assignment, they will be working to accomplish a purpose that will presumably benefit customers.

Taking an extra moment to explain why goes a long way toward making your meaning more self-evident and more effective.

Choose the Right Growth Enhancer for Maximum ROI

- Bill Diemer

There is an onslaught of growth enhancement products on the market today that would make any product manager’s head explode. Profitability should be top of the list when considering the right growth enhancement product. Your first question should be, “Does this product bring a strong return on investment (ROI) to my business and my growers?”

Yield performance may take several years of testing and product evaluation, but it is the first and most important step. After identifying the products with the best potential, you may need to consider the other criteria below to help make your final decision.

  • Ease of application and slurry rate. Let’s take soybeans as an example. The industry standard for soybeans is typically 4 to 6 ounces, maybe 7 ounces per hundredweight (cwt.). If a product has a high application rate, there will not be much room left for other products. Pushing the application rate to 10 or 12 ounces makes for very wet seed and could cause seed to clump and bridge which can cause flowability problems in your seed plant and plantability problems for the grower. Adding a dryer or a dry powder applicator may be a necessary expense that needs to be calculated into the seed treatment’s price if you want your growers to have a good experience.
  • Is it compatible with other seed treatments?
  • Is it supplied in package sizes suitable for your seed plant operations?
  • Will the product be available when you need it? Some of the growth promotors on the market are hard to produce which would require better forecasting and inventory control.
  • How will you go to market? Keep your message simple but compelling.
  • Pricing. Some seed companies put together one standard seed treatment package and price seed treatment and seed together as one. Others use an à la carte good-better-best price structure to offer more options and then bolt on the additional products. Don’t complicate the offer. Seed treatments are meant to enhance the seed’s genetics, and bring added value not complicate your customers’ purchasing decisions.

There are a lot of products on the market. Do your due diligence and identify the products that hold the most promise for you and your customers.