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  • NutraDrip Irrigation

Grower Panel: Kelly Garrett, Galen Grimm and Kurt Grimm


Kelly Garret: 

Kelly Garrett is a 6th generation Iowa farmer and runs a 7,000 acre no-tillage operation growing corn, soybeans and winter wheat in western Iowa. Garrett’s focus on soil conservation, yield stability and innovation has led to multiple honors from the National Corn Growers Association, including top yield honors in no-till irrigated. In 2020, Kelly became the first farmer in the nation to sell carbon credits to a corporate buyer and in 2022 Garrett was named Field to Market’s Farmer of the Year. 

Garrett co-founded XtremeAg to facilitate knowledge and innovation, sharing among progressive farmers around the nation and is continuing his passion for regenerative agricultural through the launch of XtremeAg’s new Soil Health Initiative program.  (credit to XtremeAg.com)

 

Galen Grimm: 

Galen Grimm runs Precision Farms with his brother, Glen Grimm, in Kansas. Grimm’s first drip system was in 2012 after the dry year. Grimm had an odd, shaped field and wanted to figure out how to irrigate it. He had a water source, but typical pivot irrigation wouldn't fit the field; sub surface drip (SDI) was the only system that would economically fit.   

Galen is a TEPAP graduate, a participant in the total ACRE program, and a National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) contest winner who continues to look for more ways to improve his farming practices. 

 

Kurt: So up here with me today, I’ve got Kelly Garrett. Kelly is a grower from West Central, Iowa. I've been working with Kelly. What year did we put the first system in?  

Kelly: Fall of 2015.  

Kurt: And home for you is? 

Kelly: Nearly a hour northeast of Omaha.  

Kurt: It's in Iowa. The loess hills if you've ever been through that area, it's all grass-back terraces. It looked like something that should be in pasture and it used to be. I rode in the combine with Kelly, and he purposely pointed the combine down the hill and the back tires came off the ground. It's that steep. It's insane. It's topsoil that's the same 50 foot deep. 

Kelly: We've never found the bottom.  (laugh) 

Kurt: It's amazing dirt, but definitely a challenging terrain, challenging topography. Kelly's had some great success there. On the other side here, I've got my brother Galen. Galen, tell us about our operation here and a little bit about our drip irrigation history.  

Galen: I farm with my brother Glen here. 

Our 1st drip system was in 2012 after the dry year of 2012. We had an odd, shaped field and that was the first. We wanted to figure out how to irrigate this thing. We had a water source, but typical irrigation wouldn't fit. Drip was the only system that would economically fit on it. That was the 1st drip system. 

Kurt: Very good. Kelly, maybe start us out here with a little bit, just give us a brief overview of the journey from the time we put the 1st system in to today. Where you were at, dry land yields. What did you learn in the 1st year or 2? Give us a little bit of the journey of where you started, where you're at today and what that's done for your yields. How you manage? Maybe give us kind of a quick overview. 

Kelly: We were 100 percent dry land. We farm about 7, 000 acres. I now have 370 acres of drip. In a couple of years, we'll be ready to put in some more because of a recent land expansion that we had. We typically will see a 25 to 30 percent increase in irrigation yields over dry land yields very reliably. Last year it would have been much more than that. 

Our corn last year, overall, about 5000 acres of corn, our corn made 190 because of the drought and it's pretty easy to have irrigation yields at 290. On soybeans, I would tell you that we will increase it 35 to 50 percent. The soybean increase is more than the corn increase. Our average proven dryland (APH) yield is about 215. Our average proven yield on the irrigated acres is 290. That's where I talk about a 25 percent increase. I remember that first year Kurt was riding with me and the first field we put in was partially irrigated, partially dry land and the dry land corn that year in ‘16 was making about 210 in that area and the irrigated acres were making 280. 

That stayed right there. We got that easy 25 percent bump from the irrigation and now I spend a lot of time researching how to go higher. It isn't because of the limitations of the irrigation. It's the limitations of the soil, the plants, and really the biggest limiting factor is us. 

We have to figure out what we're doing. We've got all the low hanging fruit out of it. There's a lot of potential left, it's sometimes above my pay grade.  

Kurt: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about the nutrients that you've learned work through drip and that you really focus on. How has that transition from that 1st year to that 2nd, 3rd and 4th year, where you really started to push the yields even higher. 

What nutrients are you running? What are you learning that really works? 

Kelly: We always thought we had to add nitrogen and we've never got a payback from nitrogen through there, but we do through potassium, phosphorus, things like that, we really get a big bump there.  

A carbon source through the drip, we really get a big bump there. Things like that. One thing I've learned is how bad our water is, and I find that interesting when they're talking about the manure and things like that and the other people you are referencing. I've never met anybody with good water. My surface water is great and, part of our irrigation is reclaimed surface water. Part of it is the well water. The well water is terrible and, high in iron, high in bicarbonates, things like that. I would say that we started to find in the last couple of years we weren't still stair stepping upwards. or we're learning more things and checking those boxes. 

 We had to figure out why and it is the water. Now we spend a lot of time treating the water, working on the bicarbonates, and our foliar feeding through the sprayer on our dry land has got better. The kill from the chemicals and the herbicides has gotten better because we learned how bad the water is because our sprayer runs off the same water as the irrigation. 

 Then when I go talk to hog manure people and things like that, and a lot of times it's talked about hog manure, the fertility isn't as good anymore, and they've changed the feed and things like that. I don't think that's true. The soil takes on the properties of your water, and if your water is going to suck, so is your soil after a while. 

 It just happened to me faster in the irrigation because, of course, how many more gallons am I putting out there? If you're spreading 3, 4, 5000, gallons of hog manure every year. Over time, that soil takes on the properties of your water and if your water is high in iron, high in bicarbonates, things like that, that ties up that fertility. 

That's what happened to us in the irrigated fields and now we spend a lot of time looking at the water. I would tell you the thing that we've learned at keeping the biggest yield limiting factor right now, starts with the soil and then the water is number two. You talked about those people that the corners are making more or yielding more. It's a pH problem. It's a base saturation problem. That's a bicarbonate problem. That's what's in the water and it's fairly easy to predict now because again, I've never seen good water.  

Kurt: Yeah. And I'm just thinking about the growers that are here today. 

We've got a lot of nasty water that I think we're going to talk more about after lunch but I think that's 100 percent hit the nail on the head that we've got to start addressing. Galen, tell us a little bit about Precision Farms nutrient plan. What are the things that we've learned here on our farm and things that we're going to look at doing different next year. What has worked, what hasn't worked and how are we managing irrigation and fertility today differently?  

Galen: In the past, we have not done a lot of phosphorus and potassium through our systems because we haven't had an economical source that we have felt like we've got a good response from or we haven't done a good enough job of managing it. This past year on the system right out here, Kurt and I had a little disagreement so we changed a little bit how we did some things. 

I had some zones. He had some zones. Basically we're working on dollars. He put his phosphorus product  (ICL 0-60-20)  through. I put my phosphorus down with the strip till bar,. Dollars were the same at the end of the season, and it's not exactly like super clear, but we didn't go backwards any for sure.  Going forward, that's one thing we're gonna look at for this year is particularly phosphorus. Can we dial that in through our drip systems? With ICL fertilizer it looks like it will be a good option for doing that.  

Kurt: So let's talk a little bit about phosphorus. Kelly, tell us what your phosphorus looks like. How do you apply phosphorus in your system and then maybe we'll go into nitrogen a little bit. 

Kelly: Our main source of fertility is a liquid byproduct out of a feed company out of Sioux City. Every 400 gallons has about 80 pounds of phosphorus. Highly available. I first started with that because the Phosphorus number was really tanked in August, and we had an agronomist I was working with at the time who had knowledge of that product. 

And now I deal very heavily in that product. And it's really my only source of phosphorus. A little bit foliar with the planter, and that product is also high in sulfur, which helps with my bicarbonate problem. Every time I'm irrigating, I'm pumping that product. If I'm irrigating 260 gallons a minute, there will be 40 gallons an hour, 50 gallons an hour of this liquid byproduct. It really is just a  liquid byproduct going through my system because I'm putting out the phosphorus. There's a little potassium (K) in there. There's carbon in there and there's sulfur in there and that sulfur comes from sulfuric acid. That sulfur is what we're using to treat that irrigation. 

 Galen: What have your soil test levels done below (down deep, in the root zone, 0-12")?  

Kelly: Soil test levels, they're high.  

Galen: You've raised them?  

Kelly: We've raised the soil test levels with that plant food product. Over the last year or two, we've changed the PH level of that ground a little bit because bicarbonates of the water were raising it. We're finding that the nutrition that was there was tied up from the calcium and the bicarbonate from the bad water is, now becoming available and in the last year or so. We've taken a big jump forward in the year.  

Kurt: Any other thoughts on phosphorus in your application right now? Currently 100 percent through the strip till has been our primary practice is a dry 

Galen: 11-52-0 

Kurt: 11-52-0 through the strip till. Like Galen mentioned, we're going to push more through the drip. Dollar for dollar, it was like he said, the yield data is a little bit hard to analyze. We think there were somewhere between an 8 and 12 bushel increase where we ran the phosphorus through the drip, compared to the dry strip till 11-52-0. I think there is a response there. Phosphorus is a nutrient that stimulates root development. It gives the plant energy. Super important that we're addressing that through the drip system.  

Let's talk a little bit about nitrogen. Galen, why don't you go first? What's your nitrogen program been in the past? Some of the discussions that we've had and how you manage nitrogen and maybe some things you're open to consider for this year. 

Galen: Typically, our nitrogen program is we put 60 to 80 percent down in the fall. 

Kurt: What has NutraDrip's recommendation been for % through drip vs preseason? 

Galen: I don't even know. What would it be? 

Kurt: It would be about 80% in season, 20% preplant. 

 Galen: For us, the challenge is early season, getting that system going. A lot of times we don't turn on our irrigation systems until July and by July we need more than 20% nitrogen (N). So, a lot of our challenge is just logistic manpower issues like we have a hard time getting our systems going, running, get fertilizer applied. In the past, this is the way it's been, tissue sample. We're looking for 250 to 300 total pounds usually on a system. 

Kurt: Kelly, what's your nitrogen program look like?  

Kelly: It continues to come down. 80-85 percent goes on in the fall with anhydrous, provided we can get it all done with the weather. Hopefully we get it all done in the fall. Then we'll put on about 8 gallons in the 2 by 2 with the planter. We don't get a response through the drip with the nitrogen, but through further education and research, it's not the drip's fault. It's the soil. This is one of the things that they give me a hard time about in XtremeAg, because of my soil. 

In working with Mike Evans and my son, Connor, things like that we're taking more and more soil tests all the time. Last year on July 1st on one of our irrigated fields, this is when the sun comes out and the microbial system really gets heated up. This is the blessing of the soil. There's 600 pounds of nitrogen available in the top 2 feet, and we've applied 160. That's the microbial system. That's the Iowa soil working for you, things like that. We now believe the reason that we never got a response through the drip system is because the plant can't use it all. It can't take it all up and, now we work with Jared Cook out of Idaho a lot on the chemistry of the plant, and my number one priority is balancing the soil. 

 When I say balance the soil, I'm talking about base saturation.  Now I'm talking about balancing the plant. When we balance the soil, we make everything in the soil become available and from a base saturation perspective, in my soil, I have too much calcium. Perfectly balanced soil, 65 percent calcium, 13 percent magnesium, 4 percent potassium and then you probably want to have 8 percent hydrogen. Nobody's probably ever told you need hydrogen before but if you overlay a base saturation map with your yield map, it will correlate. I don't care what the soil type is. I don't care about any of that. The base saturation map will correlate to the yield map. If you're not making decisions off your yield map, I don't know what you're thinking about because that's where your income comes from. You need to be looking at that.  

Our nitrogen is variable rate applied with that anhydrous bar and you're going to think I'm saying this backwards. I'm not. We put on 80 pounds of nitrogen in a high yield area. 80 pounds of anhydrous in a high yield area. We put on 160 pounds in a low yield area, and we continue to bring that down. You think that's backwards because it takes a pound of nitrogen to raise a bushel of corn. You're right, but you're not giving credit to what's coming out of the soil, or at least coming out of my soil. Everybody's soil is different. You need to validate that. Okay. We continue to turn it down. 

 Last year, we had a test for Iowa state, working with their agronomy department. 0 pounds of anhydrous 60, 120, 180 and 240. 0 of course was bad. It was like 143 dollar an acre loser. The best ROI was the 60. The 60 pounds of anhydrous, all the way up to the 240 pounds of anhydrous. This is in a field that's been corn on corn for 10 years, no commercial fertilizer, other than my liquid by product and this anhydrous. 60 pounds of anhydrous, they all yielded within 5 bushels of each other. 60 all the way up to 240, it's because of the nitrogen coming from the soil, and so the 60 pounds was like a 37-dollar ROI. Because again, the yield is essentially the same. So, we continue to do that and now when we talk about the balance of the plant. The plant uses micronutrients to produce amino acids to convert the nitrogen to protein and if we don't have enough micronutrients, we're not going to convert that plant to protein, and you have excess nitrogen. We call it assimilation. We want to assimilate all of that nitrogen. Our target is a 95 percent goal. We even had a theory last year, a hypothesis,with all that nitrogen in the soil, we could never achieve balance. We did. We achieved balance. We're taking sap samples and soil samples every week throughout the field. My son does it. We're looking for an intern this year because he's threatening to mutiny and quit because he's taking in nine fields, soil and sap samples every week. We want to be 95 percent assimilation. At V 10, we dropped to 85%. We flew the plane. We flew on micronutrients. We did it again at  R1 and when we had ear set, I was so excited because we had 75 percent of the plants had two ears and I'm like, holy cow, we have figured this out, dry land and irrigation, we're really on to something here. 1,300 parts per million, we were there. Then we couldn't hold all those ears and we aborted them. We aborted a lot of the doubles. I now believe that the root system of that plant did not bring up all of that nitrogen because Jared really told us you could dump a semi load of micronutrients out there, I don't know if you'll ever reach assimilation. Well, we did, so now I believe that the root system can't bring it up. So, we're looking for products. I find this (ICL) to be very interesting. We are looking for a way in my topography with my terrain, to be able to foliar feed that nitrogen and to spike that plant. 

It'll take more micronutrients, of course, but the goal this year on our irrigated acres is to reach assimulation at 2000 parts per million and we're using SAP tests now out of New Age in Michigan, is the name of the lab, and we don't use tissue samples anymore because they're not predictive. The data set isn't tight enough. There's too big of a margin for error, and we're trying to predict what the plant's going to do and we need solid data. Our nitrogen program continues to evolve. I continue to push more fertility into the R stages and take it out of the vegetative stage. American agriculture does a great job of producing a very sexy looking vegetative crop. We need to produce a reproductive crop and there's an inherent difference there. Front loading all that nutrition like we have done over years produces a lot of vegetation. When the plant has unassimilated nitrogen, it will dilute itself. The way it does that is putting on excess vegetative growth. When your beans get tall and rank, that's because the soybean is out of balance. There's too much nitrogen and it's storing those excess molecules in that vegetation to try to come into balance, to go into reproduction. Every excess nitrate molecule takes three water molecules to surface it. When you talk about stress mitigation and things like that in a dry year, think about that. Think about increasing the water there that you need. We need to bring the plants into balance. 

 Jared had an exercise in Idaho on a dairy farm. He balanced the fertility on this guy. His silage went down 8 tons. He went from 32 tons to 24 tons, and that guy was irritated. His yield went way up, but the silage went way down because of the excess vegetation. Just because we can't see it in the crop doesn't mean it's happening. The new thing coming is the short corn. If we balance our fertility plan, your crop will be about 12 inches shorter, which is less susceptible to wind, and we need to produce a reproductive crop. I don't have all these things or my team at home, we don't have all these things figured out yet, but I believe we were very close last year to breaking the next yield threshold. I am NOT at all satisfied with what we've accomplished because we see so much potential there. It's chemistry and chemistry I like because it's black and white. It's math. We've now validated what the problems are and we just have to solve them. The nitrogen question for me, it's to be very complex because of what we feel like we learned in the last year. I don't want to hit the easy button anymore. It's boring and there's so much potential out there.  

Kurt: I would add to that and say that we have also found on our soils and our practices here, trying to get this upfront nitrogen lower, because too much nitrogen up front makes the plant go vegetative and throws things out of balance. 

That's the summary of it. Usually producers think well, I want higher yield, I have to have more nitrogen. You might back down the amount of nitrogen up front to make that system balance. Too much nitrogen is a problem. 

 Kelly: Just because it's a micronutrient doesn't mean it's less important and really, we talk about macros and micros. That's an inaccurate statement itself. Think about farmers. You got nitrogen, then you got P and K, and they can't even spell the word micro. They can't. They can't and just because it's a micronutrient does not mean it's less important.   

Kurt: Are there any particular micros that you're applying or more of a blanket approach. 

Kelly: It needs to be a very balanced approach. Evans talks a lot about cobalt and nickel. There's more than zinc. Zinc, moly and copper, then you could talk about macros and micros in the micronutrient stage. Cobalt, nickel, iron, all of those need to be in balance and you need all of them You know copper, moly, zinc, cobalt, nickel. We talk a lot about those to get the nitrogen assimilated in the plant What good does it do to put all that nitrogen out there if you can't use it? Boy, it looks nice and green, but that doesn't pay. 

Kurt: Maybe let's shift over to soybeans for a little bit. What do you think are the keys for pushing soybean yields? What have you learned that works, what doesn't work? Maybe some things that haven't worked would be a good. 

Kelly: Turning down the population. My average soybean population is about 90K. 90,000, especially on irrigation. Our variable rate planning recommendation is, in corn, goes from 24,000 in a low yield area and this is in dry land. 24,000, a low yield area to 32,000, 34,000 in a high yield area. We try to raise half a pound of corn per plant. On irrigation, we'll bump it higher. We'll get up to 36,000, things like that. The higher populations, if we would balance the fertility, I don't think we need the higher population. I almost wonder if I could turn it down to 26, 000, put three ears on the plant.  

We dissected a corn plant with Jared Cook at about V8, there's five years in every plant. You can see them in there, so how good a job do you think you're doing when you're producing one out of five? You would not make the Hall of Fame in baseball being a 200 hitter, I can tell you that. Wouldn't it be great if we could just get two out of five. That would be great. On soybeans, our population is 80,000 in a high yield area up to 120,000 in a low yield area because the plants will branch out. In some bad areas where we want to add some vegetation, we'll go up to 140,000, and that would be the one way. You need to turn down that population. 

 The root system on a soybean is bad, and when we overpopulate our soybeans as farmers, what do they do? They compete for sunlight and if they're competing for sunlight, they're not putting any energy into that root system and you're really causing yourself a problem there. On an irrigated field, Kurt's teeing this question up, on an irrigated field, three years ago in 21, I had a yield population study because we kept talking about it. A farmer will say I turned down my population and he'll turn it down five or 10,000. You're not going to learn anything. You have to do something radical to learn something in my opinion. I would tell you most farmers in my area are planting 150,000 plants per acre on soybeans.  

There's a bottom between my house and my shop. It's an 80, so you got half mile rows and I had my son, Connor, out there and we started at 120, 90, 60, then we set it at 30, but the planter won't go down to 30, 000 soybeans. It'll go to 34 and then we turned it back up to 150. The only mistake I made was the 34,000 was right out my dad's front window and he was mad. 34,000 beans doesn't look like much when it comes up and but then he wanted to tear it up. I'm like, we're not tearing it up. We got to leave it. Then this 150 came up and the 34, I thought it died, but that's because just again, just because you can't see it doesn't mean there's not something going on. That 150 came up and it was growing and it was green and you would have swear we sprayed nitrogen on it but they're competing for sunlight. 

So then we fast forward and everybody in town is talking like what's wrong with that strip. Something's wrong with the planner and Connor wasn't paying attention and everything comes up. The highest yield was the 90. It beat the 60 by 1.2 bushel per acre. The 60 was the highest ROI, but that wasn't even the exciting spot. The 34,000 out yielded 150 by 3 bushel. At the end of the day, we did something radical and we learned something. So turn down your population. You're wasting seed. You're making your seed guy go on a free vacation, but you're wasting seed, and you're wasting money, and you're wasting yield. 

Use a plant growth regulator. We use plant growth regulators, in furrow, at post chem, and at fungicide, on all acres of corn and beans. A plant growth regulator will make everything grow more efficiently. It will help with the nitrogen problem and the beans getting rank and things like that. I've had farmers tell me that they don't want to put fertility out on their soybeans because they get too tall and fall over. 

They're trying to limit their yield because the beans will fall over. Why not find another solution? Plant growth regulator and your population are the two solutions to that problem. People talk about the difference in corn and beans. There isn't one. They're plants and they just grow a little differently. You want to know what our infurrow is for corn and beans. It's the same. The only fertility left is calcium and zinc. All the other fertility has been pulled out because it doesn't pay for us. Again, that's in our soils. Galen's are different. We take calcium and zinc. We need to spoon feed that in, we can't get that into our plant out of the soil. The only difference between the in furrow on corn and soybeans is the insecticide. We run insecticide on every acre of corn. Don't plant triple stack corn anymore. That's a defensive trait and it pulls yield out. We can put the insecticide in cheaper and we show a yield gain, side by side.  

Kurt: Galen, any thoughts on soybeans? 

Galen: We've struggled to find anything that's been economical. This area historically grows pretty good soybeans. Dry land APH around 60. So we've had a hard time, besides water, getting something to have a positive. I'll back up what Kelly says about population. We did a similar test started at 150, went down to 25 and for 6 weeks, we're like, man, we got to go replant that strip because the 25 just look terrible and we sprayed it again because there was no canopy. That strip at 25,000 yielded 76. We  probably left 5 bushel on the ground because they were so branched and the branches broke and get underneath them. I think the 80 or 90 was the highest.  

Kelly: Another thing we learned out of that plot, that's why we learned we need the calcium. The calcium will make that plant so much stronger. I've left 20 bushel in the field before, because the plant can't, you put so many seeds, so many pods on there. It just physically can't support itself and that's very frustrating. Then it looks like you've got a cover crop out of there when it rains and it's warm out but the calcium, that's why the calcium goes infurrow. We use Liberate from Agro Liquid, I'm not trying to promote them, but that's the only calcium is so hard because of the electrical charge to find a product that works, but Liberate calcium from Agro Liquid, we can mix with some other things, that will make the soybean, the plant, the skeletal structure of the plant, stronger. That's why we run it all the time now is because we're lacking there and it makes the plant tougher, support itself, so that doesn't happen.   

Galen: Calcium is something we're looking at. We just haven't figured out which direction.  

Kurt: Wanted to dig a little bit into the carbon. You mentioned carbon, you're doing some carbon through some of your products you're using. Give us just a quick overview of what growers need to be thinking about with the carbon market. Let's talk about carbon market. How does that tie into some of your management practices you're doing? You've been paid, maybe give them a review of some of the things you have accomplished with carbon markets and where you're today with that. 

Kelly: Carbon is the most important nutrient that we have. A corn plant is 45 percent carbon, 45 percent oxygen, 6 percent hydrogen, but when you're talking about N, P, and K, you're all worried about the other 3-4%. Nobody talks about carbon because there isn't really anybody that can sell it to you. We get it out of the air through photosynthesis so when Nutrien or Simplot or Wilbur Ellis can't sell it to you, it really isn't at the front of your mind. Nobody's ever going to give you a free hat that says carbon on it. The carbon is the most important nutrient that we have and the carbon market is a very easy thing for me, because I farm that way anyway. 

 I didn't change my practices to chase these dollars. I'm not necessarily trying to save the world. I want to make the most money I can and do the best I can for my family. No till and cover crops, and anything I can do to promote that into my soil, raises my yield. The fact that people want to give me another revenue stream for that, I think is fantastic. 

XrtremeAg was approached in the spring of 2020. They were looking for an early adopter, and because of where I live and the way I farm, it was a tailor-made fit for me. We went through this protocol with them and the procedures with them. We're making it up as we went along at that time. That was in the Nori Marketplace, and we established all that. We established that through the years of 15 through 19. I had sequestered 1.1 tons of carbon and it turned out to be like 22,750 tons of carbon, which a ton is a credit. So, Shopify made the 1st purchase, December 1st, 2020 of my credits. They bought 5,000 credits then at $15 a piece. We got a check on December 1st for $75,000. I never thought that it would get that far. When we got them, all sold, it turned out to be like $340,000. That was on 3000 acres of my farm. I then became involved with TruTerra. I'm still involved with TruTerra and now we're also involved with Arva. I am over $600,000 dollars of carbon right now. In the last couple of years, with XtremeAg and the retailer we work with, we've put a half a million acres into sustainability programs and help farmers get not quite 7 and a half million dollars. I'm going to make another sale on 3,700 acres of carbon this year. It'll be for 21, 22 and 23, and we'll have to see what it sequesters. The check I'll get this year will be north of half a million dollars. I'm very confident it'll be north of half a million dollars. The price of carbon with TrueTerra now has gone up to $30 a ton, $30 a credit. I don't understand this, but they have changed the algorithm and now they're showing, like in my corn-on-corn acres, they'll show that we'll sequester in our area three tons per year. So, there'll be some $90 per acre checks per year. It just depends on the field, and we'll know that in probably August. 

Kurt: Okay, and if I understand it right, that's not even included in the 45 Z. 45 Z is a separate program. Maybe talk a little bit about that. 

Kelly: That's a real topic of conversation on social media.  

Kurt: Yes, correct.  

Kelly: I opened a hornet's nest there, didn't I? 45 Z is a tax credit that is written into the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Kurt: Yes.  

Kelly: Inflation Reduction Act and it states that it has to do with your CI score. So, CI score stands for carbon intensity and I'm happy about this because it's a way to measure your carbon footprint. A lot of things are talked about where we're doing this sustainably. Define that. Or are you doing as good? Am I doing as good as Galen? Now we have a metric or unit. The CI (carbon intensity) comes from the Department of Energy. The math of it is over my head, but you can put it in the computer, and it'll spit out a score to you. The 45 Z states that an ethanol plant that gets its CI score under 50 can get a 2 cent per gallon tax credit for every point they go below 50. 

All right. The accepted unit of measure is that every bushel of corn translates into 2.7 to 2.8 gallons of ethanol. If you divide two cents into, say, 2.7, every point on that scale, to us, is worth 5.4 cents per bushel. Okay? The average score of ethanol in the United States is 55. The average score of corn is 29.1. 

The 29.1, of course, goes into the 55, because corn is the feedstock for ethanol. It is very easy to see that. So now what we are advocating for at Xtreme Ag and a couple of other organizations I'm working with, what we're advocating for is that we as producers get our CI scores and then share them with the ethanol plant.  

The ethanol plant really doesn't have much chance of getting down below a 50 very far. The carbon pipelines, we're going to allow them to get below 50, but now that the court, thank goodness for us, now that the courts have ended those, at least for the time being, until I believe the middle of 26. Now that the court has ended that, the ethanol plant, they don't have a chance to get below 50 , unless they take our scores. So what we're doing as farmers, or what you would be doing if you choose to participate, is offering traceability back to your farm and it'll cost you probably, some people are saying $5 an acre to verify your score. You can go online in a few different places and put in your practices and things like that, and it will spit out a score for you and give you a general idea. Again, the average is 29. 1. My score is a negative 6. It was a negative 2. We changed a few things, and I'm down to a negative 6. For example, I'm 35 points better than the average. And again, that average comes from the Department of Energy. We're a long way from pulling this off.  

Somebody tweeted something about this. There was a tweet that I read. It said, would farmers change their practices to lower their CI score to get a premium and 50 percent of the people said no. 30 percent said they didn't know. 20 percent said yes. I retweeted it and I said, how can you say no when you don't even know what the premium is? And then I talked about the 45 Z and I shared the information I have now, and many people across Twitter, some of them are supportive, some of them, you know how they are very skeptical. Then it even went into Facebook and things like that. They just say it's crazy. 

 The math is there. If we can get it, can we get an ethanol plant to take a hold? Maybe not. What we're advocating for with XtremeAg and we're talking with 3 different ethanol plants right now, is we'd like half. 35 points times 5.4 cents per bushel is a $1.89. The $1.89 premium per bushel, that if I share my score at the ethanol plant, that they can pick up on the 45Z. Okay, and I'm just telling them I want half. A lot of people say that's crazy to expect 94, 95 cents, but they can't get it without me. They can't get it without me. We'll have to  see, there's some plants that are offering 20 cents and things like that. If your score is 20, a 20 cent premium, really that's not terrible because if you're 9 points below, you're about nine points times 5.4 cents is 48 cents So if you have a 20 CI score and somebody offers you a 20 cent premium I don't think that's a terrible thing at all. If your score is low, you really have value in your farm, and I, what always happens in agriculture, when the basis improves or whatever, we, as farmers bid it out because we'll go to the land sale or the rent auction. We just, we bid out all the net for ourselves. But here's an example, that if you have a great score, that's your individual score. That isn't the corn market. That isn't the general public. So to say, you won't change your practices to improve your CI Score. I think that's crazy, am I promising you that I'm going to get 94 cents? Absolutely not. The law is written, and it starts in January of 25, but the IRS still has to interpret it. The government for maybe the first time in history has done a good job so far, but they could still screw it up because they haven't interpreted the law yet. If we talk about it and growers get educated and things like that, putting in cover crops, I believe will lower your score about 10 points. 

There's 20 cents per bushel. Now, you've got to learn how to use the cover crops so it's not a yield limiting factor. Again, this is, when I talk all the time, I say, the reason I farm, is I want to work in tune with mother nature. I want to be in collaborative with mother nature, not competition and when we're using a lot of synthetic fertility and things like that, we're damaging our soil health and I believe we're working in competition, and I believe we need to work in tune with mother nature to break the next yield threshold. That's why I try to balance the soil. I burn the hair off.  

Audience: But how in the world is a normal joe like me, to implement something. I wouldn't even know where to start. Was there a company out there that does this? Is NutraDrip going to do this for us? We need somebody in the area that starts a company that comes in and offers this service to do everything that you talked about. 

Kelly: This is what we do at XtremeAg. What XtremeAg is helping farmers improve their ROI. That's our goal. 

Audience: I just want you to write you a check at the end of the day and say you're going to do it for $5 an acre. I don't want to hear about it.  

Kelly: There's 3 of us. We just started a new LLC. XtremeAg owns a 3rd of it. It's called Regenerative Roots Solutions  

and the goal of this LLC is to help educate farmers on their CI scores to help you lower your CI scores. There's 3 of us, XrtremeAg, my marketing consultant, and because he's brought somebody in from the fuel space and Mike Busing, the retailer we work with, we've all started Regenerative Roots to do this. To be the conduit and the data collection piece. Mike is the guy that we work with on the carbon markets now, with TruTerra and Arva. He takes 10 percent of what you get because of the data piece. He's got to go through every field and every boundary has to be correct. He's got to document your practices, things like that. He has a staff of people that does that to help you with the carbon. Now we're working on the CI Scores. And yes, there are places because Mike is the one that handles all my data. It is a huge job. On some of the carbon stuff there's 250 data points for every field. Right now, the CI stuff they're talking about 36 but there's an update coming to the model in the middle of March and things like that and I can't imagine it won't get to be more. That's why it's a big job. I didn't want to do it because I'm not above average when it comes to that.  

Audience: But you have a team behind you. 

Kelly: Yes.  

Audience: That's what the normal farmer, that's just a farmer, a couple thousand acres. I don't have enough time to spend in the office.  

Kelly: No, you don't. You don't, I don't either. That's what we work with at XrtremeAg. When we started XrtremeAg, Mike Evans is one of my agronomists and my business partner. I could see, the Nachurs products, the Agro Liquid products that I had never even been introduced to so we started XrtremeAg. I couldn't even source them in my area and Mike was an agronomist with Nutrien. This is during COVID because it's 2020 and Nutrien told his employees, you either have to stay home or go to the office. You can't go visit people. Mike is high energy like I am. He didn't want to stay home. He knew we didn't care. Starting with that shutdown was about what March 10th or 12th that year. Mike was at our place every day. Nutrien was paying him and he was at our place every day because he couldn't go anywhere else and this is when we started XrtremeAg, and I could see all these trials we're doing so on Labor Day, so Mike quit in August, quit Nutrien, and we started Integrated Ag Solutions, and we sell and service the products that are for XrtremeAg. My farm is by far the biggest customer and we just put up a new building, a new office because we're growing and this is what we work on every day. 

Audience: What are your thoughts? (Asking Kurt) 

Kurt: Yeah, I'm 100 percent there. I'm 100 percent that it's, we need to look into it. Galen's just started working with Mike. Getting Precision Farms data into it. Jason Maschhoff's been working on it so we've been watching it. One of the things that I know is coming, it's why I brought up greenhouse gases, is because carbon is a small portion of it. Once we get greenhouse gases included into it and we're paid for how we apply nitrogen that's in there now, but I don't think it's fully built out for things like subsurface drip irrigation. That's going to be an even bigger credit. As much as I don't like government intervention, we can't ignore it. Those dollars can't be left on the table. 

Kelly: Especially with $4 corn. I don't like government intervention either, but the carbon space is the wild west and until the 45 Z came out, there was never an accepted metric. I like being with Truterra and Land O Lakes. I think that's very secure on a spot, but it is the wild west. How many different carbon programs are there? Now with the 45 Z, the government has come. Without the government, there's never gonna be an accepted metric, but they could still screw it up. I don't mean to be skeptical, but history tells us that. To put a plug here for Kurt and you want to improve your CI score. Stop making passes across the field and apply with your drip irrigation. That's 1 of the ways to lower your CI scores to eliminate passes. 

 You're going to sell for years backwards, like the carbon I'm about to sell will be for years. 21,22,and 23. Then going forward, there is like a five-year data collection piece, but if you choose to go in and work that ground, it does not penalize you. Many people worry about that, but it does not penalize you.  

Kurt: So if you sold your credits for 21, 22 and 23, and then you decide I'm going to go in and chisel plow this... 

Kelly: It has no bearing on the carbon money that they gave you.That yes, then, then in 24, if you went in and chisel plowed that ground, and then let's say, in 26, you wanted to sell the carbon for 24, 25 and 26, and you report tillage, it'll lower your tonnage or your credits because you weren't no till. Now have satellites and they can tell they can look back at the satellite imagery. 

Audience: My other question is this for landowners also, or just tenants?  

Kelly: No, it's for the farmer, so it's for the farmer. So that's up to you, whether you want to talk to your landlord or not.  

Audience: No, we're the landlord.  

Kelly: The carbon market wants to work with the grower, so you would need to work with your grower, your tenant. I have a couple of people that want a part. I have a couple of landowners or, landlords that want a portion of the check. I have a couple that don't care. And I have a couple said, you keep the check and they raise my rent. I should have never talked to him about it.  

Kurt: Any other questions? 

Audience: What have you found on watering soybeans? We always hear about water late, let the roots get down, this kind of stuff. What have you guys found on that?  

Kelly: I think that's a very valid statement, where our soybean APH is about 60. Beans frustrate me. I don't like them because we're so bad at it. We're not very good at raising corn. We're worse at raising beans and so, our APHs on beans are about 60. Last year, my beans made 72. I was quite happy. I'm talking dry land overall. We typically raise 90 bushel beans. In 22 our soybeans made 97 and 98 under the drip field averages. And this year, in the effort to we had a research deal this year. Our beans, you know what my beans made under drip this year? 55. The reason is we were trying to spike the nitrogen late when we talk about the assimilation and things like that. We talk about having too much nitrogen. We apply the product very late and the beans made 55 because they have white mold. But when I talk about beans, trying to dilute themselves and get tall and lanky in a very extreme case, if you have white mold, it's because you have too much nitrogen. I'm 100 percent confident of that. I'm excited about the white mold this year, because I know that we really moved that bean. I didn't apply enough micronutrients to assimilate or balance. But yes, watering late is the way to go. Why do you want to produce all that vegetation? You're spending that money on that water to produce that vegetation. Now you can't let them die. There's a line there but the late water reproductive is the time to pay attention. 

Galen: R stages.  

Kelly: When you get in the R stages.  

Audience: Corn population. I'm from Minnesota. For years they've told us second and third ear corn means you're not planting thick enough. What's your comeback on that?  

Kelly: It's baloney. First of all, who told you that? I'll answer it. The guy selling you the seed.  

Audience: Yeah, probably.  

Kelly: Yeah, probably. The guy that gave you the free seed. When the corn is good, it gets too much credit. When the corn is bad, it takes too much blame. The guy that told you that is the guy selling you the seed. Yes, Kurt would tell you to put in more drip. Are you going to believe Kurt? Kurt would tell you to put in more drip. It's amazing to me how the American farmer thinks that the seed cord salesman is gospel. They get the free Pioneer hat and whatever he says is right. You know what Pioneer tells us? To plant 36 and 37,000 and I just don't, and I'm not trying to pick on Pioneer, they're all like that. You need to be raising a half a pound of corn per plant. That's what I would tell somebody starting out and I now believe after what I've seen in the last couple of years, I think we can surpass that. But why is the second ear bad but there's still two of them.  

Okay, if I can go to 28, 000 and produce 2 ears, or I can go to 36, 000 and produce 1, even though the 2nd ear is smaller, its still the 2nd ear. When we were out there and I was doing the kernel counts and stuff, the 1st ear will give us 200 bushel corn. The 2nd ear might only give us 120, that's still better than planting 36, 000 with your plant health and things like that. We've talked a lot about that, and I sometimes think that we're trying to be too big of a control freak.  

Every plant and variety can flex. Why do you care how it flexes? Why do you care if it puts on bigger kernels or another ear? That shows you how far away we are from the potential of the crop. Kurt said they had this it was 50 bushel. I think we're so far away from the crop. I think we're so far away from the potential of the corn crop.I don't think that matters and I think you need to you need to plant a huge diversity of numbers every year, because I can't tell you which one's going to be better than the other.  

Audience: Corn plants have a potential of eight ears. There you go but now you're telling me two's bad. I'm just saying what they tell us. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Audience: I want to know what your comeback was. 

Kelly: If it has the potential of eight, why is two bad? Because he's selling you seed. Take some seed back once and see what he says. Yes. We've overpopulated. We're overpopulating and producing vegetation. That's what a good seed dealer is. You're looking at the long-term game, not the short. I believe that there's at least five years in there and we're getting one. We're doing even worse if you're right and there's eight. We're doing even worse if there's a potential for eight ears and we're only getting one. I don't think it does. 

Audience: Based on your analogy there, why aren't you cutting your population down more?  

Kelly: We're working on it. I cut it down to 20,000 and then we have weed problems. Just like he said with the 34. When we get below 24, 000, then we have trouble with weeds, things like that. Now, 24, I would like to tell you that I would guess, but we don't know this. I think 24 to 28,000 is plenty if I can reach this assimilation at a high enough nitrogen. And when we get below 80,000 beans, we have a weed control problem. And as the weeds are getting tougher and tougher in all the crops. 

Audience: Will narrow row corn have a potential benefit?  

Kelly: I tried that, and that's a four letter word. In 2021, we planted 15 inch corn, and Connor and I were so excited. And then we went to combine it. It was way worse than the 30 inch corn, and we argued about who had to run the combine, because that that 15 inch head was so terrible. Do you remember that? That was bad. You're right. It was a great theory. While we had this, we're spreading out the plants and we're doing all this. Boy, did that suck. It's probably fine.  

Audience: Being able to pull the population down, you still would have some weed control.  

Kelly: Yes, you would we did not see it in the 15 inch corn. Kevin Matthews is on 22's. 

Audience: ...I think we we've had 15 inch corn. Now, 20s from 30.  

Kelly: Yeah, I thought it was a great theory. Boy, we had 130 acres of it and it seemed like 13,000. When we went to harvest it. There's a reason you didn't stay on 15s. It was standing well, just to get it to feed into that head, and to keep all the ears in the head, and things like that and it was easy for us to try 15s because we had a 15 inch bean planter. We're switching to 20 inch beans now, because of the no till and because of planter problems and maybe we'll try 20 inch corn and get a head from somebody and try it. I'm not going to tell you 20 is bad, because I know. You wouldn't think that 5 inches is that big a deal, but holy smokes. 

Kurt: All right. Any closing thoughts or comments? I think the steaks are ready,  

 

 

 

 

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