The other day, I was riding in the pickup on the way to a farm show with Chris, and I was trolling around online. While I was going through my twitter feed, it hit me that something is going on in Agriculture that just couldn’t be ignored. As I look at the online footprint of Ag today, there is a trend that kind of ticks me off. There is a fair bit of complacency for what I am going to call the 3 “A’s” of modern Agriculture. Those three “A’s” are Agronomy, Acceptance, and Agvocacy. I think that each one of these topics is incredibly important to all of us, even though on the surface they seem a bit superficial. I want to spend some time talking about what each of these means.
First I want to discuss Agronomy. In the effort of full disclosure, I have a B.S. in Agronomy from UNL. But this explanation is not from a place of education, but from a position of experience. I have been working in the field of Agronomy since May of 1998. In that time, I have had some of the best mentors and some folks around me that I consider friends that are really smart. A long time ago I understood that Agronomy is a science, just like Chemistry or Biology. The more we study and experience it, the more we learn not only new things but also that what we consider conventional wisdom is wrong.
The adage is that an expert is anybody that can talk for more than 10 minutes about something and is more than an hour from home. I think the modern version of that is somebody who can formulate 144 characters and has an online presence (by the way the irony of this is not lost on me). What has my attention are the claims that people make in the name of Agronomics. This product can increase your yield ten bushels, that one can improve test weight by 3 lbs, etc. If I were to take a loop around any farm show and buy one of everything, I should be raising 500 bushel corn.
The problem from the agronomy side is that we are losing context. And I believe that it’s a problem of brevity, not a problem of honesty. In the effort to stay relevant online, messages about agronomy get whitewashed far too much. I mentioned before that Agronomy is a science. Science requires research, and research should generate data. The problem with research data is that it is messy. In the online world, messy data is much like picking up your prom date in a dirty car. You can do it, it is functional and practical, but the attention goes to the container instead of the contents, and therefore, everybody is consumed with the wrong item in the chain.
My take home for today is this. There is nothing wrong with talking Agronomy online. There is nothing wrong with people talking about what they are doing, or the results that they are getting. But… we all have to do better in the accountability department. We have to ask to see more ROI’s, understand where and how they got this data. Putting the information out there and being transparent. The only thing I distrust more than an Agronomic claim made without data available to support it, is an Agronomic claim made with data that shows it never loses. That is not impossible, but it is highly improbable. The online footprint of Agronomy is incredibly important, and something I certainly don’t want to see us discredit or steer away from. I truly believe that the online Agronomy community is a great place to go to begin to gather information, start new ideas, and learn from others mistakes and successes. But, for my money, somebody you trust and has had their fingers in your dirt is probably the last person I will talk to in my decision chain, not @agroguru1 (not a real profile) before I lay my money down and invest in my operation.