What do you want from the coming year?
This is our first issue of 2023, so while the time for New Year’s resolutions may be past, it remains a time of reflection on the previous year and consideration for the growing season ahead.
Goal-setting can be difficult in agriculture, with so many variables beyond your control. It’s tempting to think about determining success by yield – and for good reason, as that’s the main metric that nets bragging rights and puts money in the bank. But a stretch of bad weather or major weather event at the wrong time can put the kibosh on record-breaking yield aspirations faster than you can say “looks like rain.”
You may have heard of SMART goals – the acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. It’s a set of parameters to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure or disappointment right off the bat.
The time-bound factor is probably the easiest to determine; you can use the entirety of the 2023 growing season, whenever that ends for you. Or you can choose a specific month or something a little more vague, like “once harvest is complete.”
Consider: “I want to increase my corn yields.” Well, okay – how? By how much? And is that amount reasonable? Breaking down a goal into its constituent parts can point out weaknesses in the plan or help you consider what might be more realistic.
Saying you want to grow 200+ bushel per acre corn is great. But if your average yields are closer to 150 bu/ac, is it reasonable to think you can push that number up by 33 per cent or more in one growing season? What measures will you take to make it happen? With the uncertainty of fertilizer costs and availability, on top of factors like insect pests, disease, weeds, timing and weather, which differ from region to region and year to year, is this the year to push yield expectations sky-high?
So, with a little consideration and running the numbers on what’s doable for you, the goal could be “I want to increase my corn yields by X per cent from Y bu/ac to Z bu/ac (based on what’s realistic for my field) during the 2023 growing season by doing a soil test to determine my soil’s nutrient needs and balancing them with inputs through variable-rate management.” Wordy, but it hits all the SMART goal parameters and will be easier to track and reflect on come November.
And remember – setting a goal isn’t only about achieving it. Adages like “shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” or “it’s not the destination; it’s the journey” may have been rendered a bit cheesy through repetition, but the sentiments have merit. Whether you accomplish exactly what you set out to do, do better than you did before, or completely bellyflop and take only lessons and some bruised pride from the experience – you tried something with the intention of improvement. A well-crafted plan is always worth trying.
And, come this time next year, you’ll be that much better equipped to try again.