The first crop Stefansen ever planted on his farm near Prague, Oklahoma was in April of 2015 on 70 acres. With no history of farm management to guide his new operation, Stefansen found himself behind the 8-ball when it came to acquiring the knowledge to make his farm a success. He spent thousands of hours researching everything he possibly could. Then, he came across the resources of Ag PhD and quickly became a fan, going on binges of Ag PhD TV and Radio and attending every type of Ag PhD event numerous times, from Agronomy Workshops and Soils Clinics to the Ag PhD Field Day.
“I just appreciate the transparency of information,” Stefansen said. “I had the scientific foundational knowledge, but I didn’t know how to apply it in a real-world example. Having that transparency for free is just mind boggling, and it led me to be successful. So many people pay to go to these seminars with high yield growers. The fact that you give this away is phenomenal to me.”
Since his first crop, his farm has grown to 175 acres, and he now raises a continuous double crop of soybeans and wheat. And in 2018, armed with his background in biology, his study of Ag PhD, and through working with Hefty Seed agronomist Aaron Elam out of Garden City, Kansas, Stefansen achieved a dryland soybean yield of 132 bushels per acre with Hefty Brand H42X8 soybeans.
Stefansen said that even though Elam was based 7 hours away, that did not prevent him from being an engaged collaborator on Stefansen’s journey to high yields, coming to the farm twice a month between podding and harvest to walk fields and do counts.
“Aaron worked harder than any person I’ve ever seen that wasn’t the actual farmer of that particular farm,” Stefansen said. “It blew my mind how willing and able he was to come down and make sure I had everything I needed for a successful crop.”
In addition to the assistance of Hefty’s agronomy staff, Stefansen was also pleased with the selection of available varieties, as well as the thoroughness of information and recommendations provided.
“Hefty has the best technology at the best value,” Stefansen said. “If you were to look at competitors, they only have two seed options for you. Opening up your seed guide, it’s of biblical proportions with all the varieties you can choose from. A lot of the details that people need to know to make an informed decision are right there in that book.”
Another selling point for Stefansen is the value built into Hefty Complete Seed Treatment, which tied in well with his understanding of soil biology from his college studies.
“Everything about the biological approach feeds in to the way my brain works,” Stefansen said. “It makes perfect scientific sense to me. The first time I actually compared QuickRoots, it was a night and day difference with more root mass and root hairs. I’ve used it ever since on every crop. There is also ROOTastic inoculant, which I compared side by side with several different inoculants. It’s been the best soybean nodulation inoculant that I’ve found. The fungicide and insecticide side of things is also a no-brainer. The value with these already being in Hefty Complete is awesome.”
Although he has achieved a yield of 132 bushels, Tyler Stefansen knows there is always room for improvement, and every season presents its own unique challenges and lessons to learn to improve crops going forward.
Doug Van Duyn
COLTON, SOUTH DAKOTA
“You really have to change how you think before you get a different result,” Van Duyn said. “And that’s what Rob Fritz has helped me to do more than anything. I’ve worked pretty closely with Rob for a number of years now, and he is a wealth of knowledge. He’s able to do that because of the organization that the Hefty’s have developed, the culture of showing people how to do things better instead of being centered around sales. This is one of the few guys that I’ve worked with in my career that truly, truly is as excited about my success as I am. That’s what trips his trigger. I’ve never felt I’ve even had a sales-type presentation made to me. It’s always been education.”
Van Duyn and Rob have been trying to push the envelope on his farm through making drastic changes to planting dates and populations in both corn and soybeans, as well as making sure to manage soybeans just as closely for yield as corn. By using techniques like seed singulation, in-furrow and variable rate fertility, and timely fungicide applications, Van Duyn has continued to experiment with what works and what doesn’t to improve emergence, standability, and overall crop health to increase yields on his farm.
But the key is to take what works continue trying new ways to move the needle forward.
“We’re not going to stop trying to change and improve,” Van Duyn said. “We’re going to use some of the things we’ve learned in the last few years that we’ve felt truly made some improvements in our results.”
Much has changed for both Doug Van Duyn and Hefty Seed Company over the past 50 years. Though both operations have evolved immensely from where they began, the core philosophies remain – for Van Duyn, it’s to constantly improve yield and profit; for Hefty Seed, it’s to give farmers like him the tools they need to succeed. As Doug continues to strive for higher and higher yields, Hefty Seed Company and agronomists like Rob Fritz will be there to help, with the agronomic knowledge needed to find the answers to unlocking those higher yields.
Having grown up working on his family’s farm, Chris Edwards had some familiarity with how to make a crop in a low-moisture environment, but when he took over management of that farm three years ago, his wheat yields and profitability had hit a wall – he needed some advice on how to move the needle again and wasn’t sure where to start.
“There was a yield plateau where we just couldn’t get more than 60 bushels,” Edwards said. “Even on the wettest years, we’d get 60, maybe 65. I just wasn’t comfortable going out my first year and doing it without some guidance.”
Chris’s father, Mike, suggested that they sit down and have a discussion with Dave Dye, their local Hefty Agronomist out of the nearby location in Quincy, WA.
When every farm has unique challenges, it is essential to find the right solutions in terms of both agronomy and return on investment specific to the needs of the individual farm. Helping farmers to learn why and how to cost-effectively solve yield and crop health problems is a key tenet to how Hefty’s does business.
“I see it as more of a partnership than where I just show up and take an order,” Dye said. “I don’t like to tell somebody to just go and do X, Y, and Z. I want them to know why I recommend what I do. Chris really feeds off of that.”
When Chris sat down with Dave to discuss methods to make his farm more profitable, a big focus was on making sure the crop received adequate fertility and protection throughout the season. Soil sampling more strategically and more frequently, applying foliar fertility, and mixing fungicides with those applications became the first priorities.
Throughout this process, the important element to keep top of mind is always return in investment. You can spend a lot of money to build a healthy crop, but everything has to pay at harvest.
“Dave strives for a 3-to-1 return on investment,” Chris said. “If he doesn’t believe you’re going to get back at least that, he’s not going to recommend it. That’s huge for me. Using fungicides for disease protection and applying foliar fertility have been fantastic as far as protecting my plants’ health – not only that, but also bringing money back into my pocket.”
After he started working with Hefty’s, Chris also began attending Ag PhD workshops to reinforce learning the reasons behind why he and Dave were making changes on his farm. Understanding the value of balanced soil fertility and cultural management practices have further helped with moisture conservation, which is essential for continuing to push yield in his geography.
“The way we farm out here, we didn’t like stubble because drills couldn’t get through it – we just pounded the ground with tillage tools,” Edwards said. “It was an eye-opener to me that stubble needs to be there to conserve nutrients and water. I switched to no-till when I learned that when you don’t work your ground, you immediately save almost four inches of moisture. That’s a huge deal for us here.”
The combination of enhanced fungicide application, fertility management, and moisture conservation have made a significant difference in terms of yield and profitability on the Edwards farm, breaking his old 60-bushel ceiling.
“I’ve now had fields that have bumped the 80-bushel mark, so that’s huge on our non-irrigated ground in this part of Washington,” Edwards said. “And Dave and I are working on some plans for us to be able to grow 60 bushels in the driest of years, not the wettest. There are some areas of fields that are still non-productive, and we’re working on building our soil organic matter to restore the ground.”
As Chris continues to push for greater returns on his farm investments, Hefty Agronomist Dave Dye will remain a year-round source of information for the Edwards farm, there to guide Chris through his soil tests and walk fields with him to help diagnose diseases, deficiencies, and more.
“When the time comes, we’ll get on the four-wheeler and ride every field together,” Chris said. “If he sees something out there, we’ll sit down, and he will explain to the best of his knowledge what’s happening. Dave has gone above and beyond the call of duty for my farm. If I need something, he’s just there. He’s a great guy to work with and really invested in the success of our farm.”