The Agronomist and Social Media

The role that SM can play in the Agronomist’s life

SOCIAL MEDIA

Agronomists all over the world engage in social media (SM). Depending on how it’s used, it can be a productive forum for promoting products and ideas germane to your business.

But there’s a balance. I’ve always viewed SM platforms as a way for customers to see the real you. They want to see your perspective on life and business and frankly don’t mind if you promote your employer and products.  Obviously, if every post is about a product and how great is it, you’ll be dismissed quickly and viewed as nothing more than a used car salesman. Avoid direct criticism of competitors. Focus on you and yours and let your followers decide on the importance and value of your posts.

While privacy matters, sharing photos and family activities is very popular among followers because they get to see you outside of the business. You’re a member of their community and it’s okay for customers to see that you’re normal…or abnormal, depending on their perspective. They want to know if they can relate to you and vice versa. Certainly, engage in this manner if you’re comfortable with it but don’t fake it. Most folks can see through phony posts.

Every SM platform is different but decide on your focus and develop a strategy. Some platforms are centered around photos and videos while others are more for storytelling. I find that most of the agricultural community prefers Twitter for “pure” agriculture (#agtwitter) and Facebook for family and groups. Each has its purpose, and one may fit your “style” more than another.

You can participate in as many as you like but one warning – it can consume time. Decide on a game plan, create posts that are productive and watch your time commitment. Also be sure that your employer is supportive of your engagement. Not all are.

THE GOOD and THE BAD

The good. I’ve been on Twitter for about seven years (as of 2021) and have 6,500+ followers. My intention from the beginning was to use it as an educational tool; to teach about agronomy as it relates to the seed business. Quizzes, daily posts, videos, threads, polls, retweets of productive posts from other agronomists, tons of photos and selfies with the latter helping followers to get to know me.

Some posts have high levels of engagement with over several million “impressions” over the course of a few months. An impression is when a reader pauses to look at your post, clicks on it or retweets it. While not all positive, most of these impressions either raised awareness of products or ideas or even taught a customer or two something about agronomy. Also, I prefer to engage in a positive way versus using controversy. Too, unless deleted, posts can be searched so my content is somewhat “forever.”

The bad. Your attitude is key to being successful on SM. “Thin skinned folks need not apply.”  Folks will reply with hateful, ignorant, uneducated, unproductive comments that will absolutely bring your blood to a boil. I generally don’t tolerate this behavior and let them know it. The “mute” or “block” buttons can be your best friends. Engagement in SM doesn’t have to be stressful. Help yourself out though by keeping posts professional with correct spelling and punctuation. As I like to say, “carry on as if you actually attended your college classes.”

How you present yourself on SM speaks volumes about your character. Be mindful that prospective customers might be watching “from a distance.” If they meet you and remember that ugly post you made about somebody they know (politicians included), you’ll likely not have a business relationship with them.

I want you to do well.  ~ph

The Agronomist and The Customer

An agronomist’s perspective on interacting with customers

THE CUSTOMER

Agronomists interact with customers in many ways. Taking soil samples, interpreting yield results, planting and harvesting plots and handling product complaints are just a few examples. Most of these interactions are pleasant but certainly not all. If you are genuine in your intentions, that of having their best interests at heart, the day-to-day work comes easy and the customer will appreciate all that you do, even in the worst of times. Too often, sales quotas and chasing the sales bonus often come before what is ultimately the right decision for the customer’s operation.

The adage, “respect isn’t given, it’s earned,” is true for many facets of life. Rural communities thrive on deep-rooted family and church values. Lasting relationships with agronomists that are built on trust can take a great deal of time to develop. Credentials such as M.S., Ph.D. or CCA are often shown on business cards but your performance and attitude dictate whether these titles deserve any more respect than the agronomist without them that has been in the community for 20 years.

In my experience, a well-respected agronomist always takes the time to listen before speaking. For the inexperienced, every meeting with a new customer should be 90% listening and 10% talking. There is so much to learn about new farming operations – the family, the land, the crops, the livestock – all important components that will impact your work. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no embarrassment for jotting down information and letting the customer see that you’re actively engaged. This is equally true for the seasoned veteran. Forgetting or ignoring critical facts, making assumptions, or simply not getting the information correct can lead to bad decisions that will cost the customer and ultimately your reputation in the end.

THE GOOD and THE BAD

The good.  My first job after receiving my M.S. in agronomy was in soil conservation and I held a position in a regional NRCS office. One of the first visits I made was with a cohort who took me on a visit to an ag retailer. I was new and didn’t want to appear over-anxious to engage or show off my knowledge that was now verified and proudly displayed in a frame.

After listening to the conversation for over 20 minutes, the retailer looked over at me and said, “I like you. You’re listening and not trying to inject everything you know into the discussion. You’ll be good.” This has stuck with me for 33 years.

The bad. Ten years later I was on a complaint call for cotton. It was a call where a lot of things were involved – when it was sprayed, products and additives, spray rates and so on. The ultimate claim was that yield would be impacted. (Complaint calls like this one are often emotional since income can be significantly impacted.)

I was assisted by a more experienced agronomist who knew the customer. We listened and asked several questions. I recorded several notes in a field notebook. After about an hour of looking things over I came back and basically asked the same questions again making sure we had it right.

The customer was incensed by this and felt we thought he was lying. Why else ask the same question twice? He called every supervisor he could find a number for, but not me.  We haven’t spoken since.

My cohort told me afterwards that he knew about the customer’s disposition but didn’t think it was important enough to share. I believe I was right to ask and clarify but learned that setting up the additional questioning in a more professional manner might have helped. (“Mind if I ask a few more questions?”)  Might of, I said. 

Remember, relationships matter at all levels of the business but more so in your local community. Too, the customer is not always right and colleagues might not always have your best interests at heart. But it is up to you to decide how you’ll carry yourself in your relationship with customers and peers.

I want you to do well.  ~ph

Photo credit: Iowa State University

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Kingscrost Hybrid Seed Book

A Rare Book Describing the Seed Business in the 1930s

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know I enjoy agricultural history. All facets interest me, but hybrid corn development and the seed industry are fascinating topics. Hybrid corn is considered one of the greatest advancements in American agriculture with early beginnings around 1901. Yields of open pollinated corn were limited from the 1860s through the early 1900s but hybrid vigor quickly released the genetic potential of corn (Zea mays) and yields improved substantially and quickly with successful breeding programs sprouting up all over the Midwest region. The growing and selling of hybrid seed to farmers became a “business” proposition in the 1920s and several companies formed or expanded as a result.

One such brand that came into prominence was Kingscrost Hybrid Seed Corn, a part of Northrup, King & Co. which had roots in flower and garden seeds back to the 1880s. Headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, their focus was primarily on early maturity corn hybrids in the 90-to-110-day maturity range (a reference to the approximate number of days for the seed to reach physiological maturity). They were competing with companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dekalb (De Kalb), Funks Brothers, Pfister and others.

There is an abundance of books, manuals, sales literature, and other items that can be found describing the science and business of hybrid corn. For a recent review I encourage you to visit Terry Daynard’s blog on the brief history of the hybrid corn industry (tdaynard.com). Most of the books he cites are out of print but still available with some patient searching of auction sites and bookseller websites.

Given all these materials, few, if any, tell the story from beginning to end of a how a seed company grew and marketed their seed. That’s what makes this Kingscrost book remarkable. In my 20+ years in the seed business, I’ve seen only one other manual similar, but it wasn’t as complete or thorough. This book describes the general science and field principles behind the breeding, includes black and white photos showing them in practice and then provides the marketing/sales pages that a seed representative can use to promote the hybrids. (My guess is that it was put together as a training resource.) The last section of the book gives more thorough explanations of the various aspects presented throughout. Ironically, most of the basic principles and terminology described are still in use today, 80+ years after its publication.

It is a large book with board covers, contains 100 pages and measures 9 x 12 inches. I’ve added some additional notes in the beginning to give context and specifics on how I put this together and a look at some sales items at the back to give an idea of what the farmer experienced. If possible, browse it in a 2-page viewing format as I laid the pages out as they appeared in the book.

My goal is to share this so that students, teachers and ag enthusiasts, in general, can enjoy this aspect of agricultural history. Download a copy and share the link with others!

I want you to do well. ~ph

Milo or Sorghum – What Say You?

I was recently asked by David Ocker (@davidocker286 on Twitter), “Where did the nickname for sorghum, “milo,” originate?”

While there are several sources that can enlighten us on the history of sorghum and its relatives, I thought this excerpt taken from the book, Crop Production – Evolution, History and Technology by C. Wayne Smith ( Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1995), provided valuable insight on how various sorghum types, including milo, came into production in the United States.

“The first grain sorghum introduced into the New World came by way of slaves imported from West Africa. These introductions were probably used as ship’s stores (food supply for consumption during the trip) for the voyage across the Atlantic. These were probably race guinea and became known as guinea corn and chicken corn. Although grain sorghum is a major food crop in much of the world, and indeed was domesticated as such, the fact that its first introduction into present-day United States was as a food for slaves probably destined it to become established as a food for the poor only and consequently found use predominately as a feed grain in the United States. The term chicken corn may denote that it was quickly established as a corn (feed grain) of appropriate size for chickens. At any rate, grain sorghum is today a feed grain in this country, while being a major food grain in most other countries where it is produced. It also is reasonable to assume that, since the industrialization of the food industry took place in the the northern tier of states, wheat and corn would predominate research and equipment development to the exclusion of grain sorghum, a regional crop of the South only used for feed. This same phenomenon occurs today with the major food companies ignoring gossypol-free cottonseed, which has protein quantity and quality for human consumption superior to many other seed crops.

Modern grain sorghum. Source: Roundstone Native Seed Company, 2021.

Deliberate introduction of sorghum began in 1857 with the importation of a “sorgo” type used for the production of syrup. These are referred to today as cane sorghum, sweet sorghum or cane, not to be confused with sugar cane. In that year, seed of Chinese Sugarcane, a sorgo or syrup sorghum, was sent to Texas by the U.S. Indian Service for production in the Brazos and Comanche Amerindian reservations. Additional early introductions were:

  • 1874: Brown and white seeded durras called “gyp” corn, as they were falsely believed to have originated in Egyt;
  • 1876: Kafir type from South Africa:
  • 1880: Milo, milo maize, or giant milo: race and origin unknown;
  • 1890: Shallu, a guinea-kafir intermediate from India:
  • 1906-8: Feterita, race caudatum, or intermediate race durra-caudatum, from Sudan;
  • 1906-8: Hegari type, race dauatum, from Sudan; and
  • 1906-8: Pink kafir from South Africa.

All of the early sorghums were for forage or were dual-purpose – i.e., they were grazed, baled, and/or seed harvested as feed. Early farmers in the more arid plains of Oklahoma and Texas quickly realized the difficulty and uncertainty of producing corn as a feed for work animals and turned to the more drought-tolerant grain sorghum. The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin No. 13 published in 1890 reported 23 varieties (i.e., cultivars) of sorghum available to Texas producers. That publication noted that farmers valued both the stalk and grain as feed stuffs. The need for more drought-tolerant crops in the arid plain states resulted in the majority of early plant improvement in grain sorghum being accomplished in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

The early sorghums in the United States were tall-growing and late-maturing, facts that we will return to subsequently. But the milo maize introduction of 1880, later referred to as Giant Milo, spread to Texas by 1890 and was particularly tall-growing. In fact, the common Texas folk tale of this sorghum was that it took a ladder to reach the head, an axe to cut the stalk, and a grubbing hoe to uproot the stubble. Seed of tall sorghums of that time were harvested by a person standing on a mule-pulled wagon to cut off heads and then of course accumulate the heads in the wagon for transport.

Shortly after the turn of the century, farmers found early-maturing heads of Giant Milo, which gave rise to a cultivar called Standard Milo. (Note that much of the literature will use the term “milo” to refer to grain sorghum of the durra race. Much of this race is characterized by a recurved peduncle such that the head is upside down at maturity.) Also about 1900, a farmer in Oklahoma selected Dwarf Yellow Milo from Standard Milo, seed of which were purchased by A B. Conner for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and distributed to farmers in north Texas near the town of Chillicothe. The distribution probably occurred between 1905 and 1910, as the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA began research efforts at Chillicothe in 1905. An earlier-maturing cultivar, Early White Milo, was selected from the yellow milos about 1910.”

So, did this excerpt really answer the question on where the name “milo” came from? I think given that milo was a type of sorghum introduced and cultivated throughout the United States since 1880, it stands to reason that the name carried over through the generations. At least in my travels throughout the south and Great Plains regions, milo and sorghum are used interchangeably. And given that a high percentage of it is for grain production, I understand both to mean the same. Perhaps other regions of North America call it something different?

In today’s world of grain production, varieties of sorghum other than the standard grain sorghums sold by the major seed companies are generally grown and sold by heirloom seed providers. Scouring the web, it’s easy to find providers of kafir, sweet sorghum and other old world varieties. You’ll often find old cane presses being demonstrated at country fairs and antique farming shows.

(If the reader is curious about the etymological origin of milo, look no further. The answer to that question lies here in the online American Heritage Dictionary: https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=milo.)

I want you to do well.

~ph

Broomcorn: The Frontiersman’s Cash Crop

This is a short blog about broomcorn. Broomcorn is a type of sorghum that is widely adapted and proved to be productive at about any latitude. There are a bunch of archived resources on broomcorn that can be found on the internet as well as printed publications. It is an interesting crop and one that was important up through the early 1900s. It was introduced in the Northeast and made it’s way across the U.S. basically following the progression of settlement. I first read about it in essays and books about the Dust Bowl. As a cash crop, it seemed to be a second favorite to wheat and was often planted if the wheat failed.

One of the best introductory but comprehensive articles on broomcorn is this 1953 journal article, authored by J.H. Martin, senior agronomist for USDA. It’s easy to read but of interest is seeing how the broomcorn business rose to prominence in certain geographies and then fell off as other crops were found to be more profitable. The last paragraph is particularly wonderful with a salute to an outstanding breeder, John B. Sieglinger. Generally speaking, breeders are unsung heroes in our food and fiber industries and it was treat to see a major section in the paper give credit to them.

Enjoy, and remember, everyone needs a broom to sweep their floors and witches need them to fly around on during the Halloween season!

I want you to do well. ~ph

Selling to Farmers (De Kalb, 1939) – The Book

One of the most intriguing books I own is Selling to Farmers by Larry Williams, published in 1939. It is relatively small in size, hardbound with green boards and features the De Kalb winged ear of corn on the cover. (Yes, “De Kalb,” not “Dekalb.”) The De Kalb County Agricultural Association was founded around 1918 and was the grass roots foundation of the Dekalb seed company.

Several requests have come in from folks looking to find this book. I’m not aware of any reprints but the link below is a copy provided by @dror_sharon (Twitter) who graciously offered to scan the book and create a PDF file to share with others. It takes time and effort to do this – his contribution to the seed industry and agricultural and literary communities, in general, is much appreciated. Thank you, Dror!

The book was a training manual for new sales representatives. In context, the “sales rep” was a farmer who was managing his own farm but also represented the De kalb seed brand. He grew the hybrids on his own land and used his experiences (testimonials) to sell seed to neighbors. But the behavior required to become an effective seed professional was not common knowledge, in my opinion. Sure, there were reps from equipment companies and other suppliers that they interacted with. But until the adoption of hybrid corn seed, most folks saved their own open-pollinated seed for future plantings. They didn’t really interact with seed company personnel or have any experience with the selling process of hybrid seed. The late 1930s was the advent and growth of seed sellers across the Midwest and other regions. This book, then, was a presentation of the behavior and practices needed to be successful.

While certainly dated (descriptions of social norms throughout the text, for example), the principles are still sound 80 years later. Throughout, there are several discussions of behavior that are based simply on treating people with courtesy and respect. For me, they are good reminders of how much better I can be as a seed professional and, more importantly, as a person.

I want you to do well. ~ph

Selling to Farmers: His Opinions and Convictions

(One of the most intriguing books I own is Selling to Farmers by Larry Williams, published in 1939. It is relatively small in size, hardbound with green boards and features the De Kalb ear of corn on the cover. Yes, “De Kalb.” Not “Dekalb.” The De Kalb County Agricultural Association was founded around 1918 and was the grass roots foundation of the Dekalb seed company (today a brand of seed owned by Bayer). This is one of a series of posts featuring its contents.)

A training manual for sellers of De Kalb seed. It’s contents are still relevant today.

“His Opinions and Convictions” is from the first chapter of this training book and focuses on the farmer – his customs, buying power and habits, hobbies and pride, needs and the general nature of his business.

His Opinions and Convictions

“The farmer has spent much time alone riding down long rows of corn, working in fields alone many hours of the day. And, he has had much time to think. It is to be expected, then, that this man has formed opinions of some kind on practically every subject. His opinions may be wrong, but they are his opinions and he expects other people to respect those opinions. He will fight for his opinions, but he is easily swayed by suggestions, however bullheaded he may be in an argument.

This business of being alone and thinking alone makes him a particularly friendly and sociable person when the opportunity presents itself to make friends or to meet people.”

Whether it’s 1939 or 2020, farmers still spend long days alone in a tractor…thinking and forming opinions.

Yes, times have changed. Today’s farmers still spend much time alone riding down long rows, albeit at much faster speeds than in 1939. But higher speeds and increased efficiency have resulted in farms becoming much larger and I would guess that the typical farmer still spends as much time alone in the field as they did back in the good ‘ole days. (There’s probably a published research paper on this very concept. I’ll have to look.)

The section simply points to the fact we are free people with opinions that are to be respected. As it says, their opinions may be wrong. They could be based on actual experience as in “I tried their hybrids for several years and they never worked on my farm,” or based on what they hear from the neighbors as in “white cob hybrids are hard to thresh,” even though he’s never grown them on his farm. My advice is to never argue about matters that are not specific to the business at hand. No doubt you are correct in your position but differences of opinion can cause customers to avoid buying from you. My English mother always said, “never discuss politics, sex or religion except with family or close friends.”

Finally, the part about how working alone makes them particularly friendly is spot on. I also think it has to do with the fact that rural communities are spread out and folks just don’t encounter many people during the day. Regardless, when I visit folks, either from “just passing through,” or by appointment, I’ve rarely come across a farmer that wasn’t friendly and didn’t want to visit. Honestly, I can’t remember ever being turned away when asking to ride along in the combine.

To summarize, the customer is not always right… but please respect their opinions AND respect their time…don’t take advantage of their friendliness.

I want you to do well. ~ph

Selling to Farmers: Age

“Age Has Little to do with Success, Time Has Much”

(One of the most intriguing books I own is Selling to Farmers by Larry Williams, published in 1939. It is relatively small in size, hardbound with green boards and features the De Kalb ear of corn on the cover. Yes, “De Kalb.” Not “Dekalb.” The De Kalb County Agricultural Association was founded around 1918 and was the grass roots foundation of the Dekalb seed company (today a brand of seed owned by Bayer). This is one of a series of posts featuring its contents.)

A training manual for sellers of De Kalb seed. It’s contents are still relevant today.

The following text is provided in its entirety. It’s from Chapter 10 that focuses on planning for success. Yes, “men” or “man” are used solely throughout. It was 1939, after all..

Age Has Little to do with Success, Time Has Much

“The outstanding success of men past sixty in science, art and commerce is proof to all of the opportunities and chances for all men to make good, regardless of age. Indeed, in the sales field the best men of many firms are past fort-five. So, youth with its energy and age with its wisdom start even in the selling field and battle for fame and fortune where both are theirs for a price.

The all-important requisite is the deep-seated desire to sell. The art of selling is always to conceal the art. Practice teaches both young and old that influencing without apparent influence makes sales and dollars as well as friends for them.

How well is the value of the service or product established in your mind? This value is the thing you are to get others to enjoy. You are out to give values, not to take anything away from your prospect. Then tell me, in a business of getting others to share in values you know are great, what has age to do with the program? You are charged with the task of getting others to believe and visualize benefits which they may enjoy. You can be as adept at age 25 or at age 65 as your understanding and ability will permit. You are not too young at age 25 to show proof and value, and impress others with benefits. Nor can a man of 65 find age a handicap in bringing others to take advantage of values he can prove are there if they will but accept them. Vision and planning for success are both keen in men who love life, regardless of age.

Let the young man who feels his youth a handicap try stressing values and increasing enthusiasm about his product and he will find youth and asset and people will admire his enterprise and help him on toward success. The same thing works for the older man, for the moment people notice his vigorous drive for business they respond with a desire to see a man with such pep succeed.”

Yes, 81 years ago, all ages of salesmen could be motivated to impart values on customers. And what I really like about this section is that it appreciates the energy of youth and wisdom of old and their roles in selling to farmers. I’ve often been the oldest member of a sales team and always enjoyed the younger teammates. No, they don’t have my experience, but eventually they will because they have a drive to succeed. Often, the willpower to overcome deficiencies and gain experience is all that’s needed to thrive in this business.

I want you to do well. ~ph

Seed Corn Prices of 1947

A trip back in time gives us this glimpse of a promotional mailer from the Reist Seed Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Costing the company 2 cents to mail, it’s basically a simple fold of a card-stock quality of paper with black ink and a red seal. Nothing special. And it includes the actual seed prices. That kind of information today, in the year 2020, is a guarded secret. Competitive intel like that, especially if discovered early in the sales season, causes marketing specialists to drool on themselves. This particular one is dated August 15th. Announcing prices in August would be extraordinarily early for any of today’s seed corn companies.

“Free” cotton bags (1 bushel capacity) were an enticement. Certainly reusable and environmentally friendly.

Notice that both open pollinated varieties and hybrids were available, but at a price difference of roughly $3 per bushel sack of seed. It was well established by the mid-1940s that significant yield increases could be realized planting hybrid seed. Perhaps the adoption curve was not quite as strong in some regions so both types were still offered after WWII. Also of interest is the availability of “early husking” varieties (this would likely include existing hybrids that have the characteristics that make an ear of corn suitable for hand husking, such as high ear placement, excellent standability and loose husks).

Lastly, the offering of formaldehyde and tobacco dust can not go unnoticed. These types of “pesticides” seem foreign today but are unique to an era that was growing by leaps and bounds in the post-war era and did so without much government oversight. I must admit, however, that I have no idea how one applies tobacco dust!

So many folks came before us. In reverence, I always find it fascinating to look back and study the progression of technology.

I want you to do well. ~ph

The Art of Cherry Picking

Folks who sell seed corn for a living often get excited about sharing photos or actual specimens of their products – for example, ears of a new corn hybrid. Some braggadocio is expected but any grower with experience knows they are NOT showing off the average ear. In a survey of 1,000 growers, I would guess that 999 would scoff at an ear sample or ear photo presented to them by a seeds salesman believing it to be typical of any field environment (the 1 true believer likely being a family relative). They know full well that the sales person walked into the field, scouted around for an abnormally large ear, and then brought it out proclaiming it the savior of corn production ills across the fruited plains.

Hey, we’re a competitive bunch! The competition does it all the time and we’re not going to just stand by and let it go. If they post a photo of 22 rows around, then, by God, we’ll post one with 24. Test weight of 62, you say? How about my hybrid that went 63 in the plot? This one-upsmanship can get a little annoying but in small doses keeps it interesting. In large doses, you’re just being a used car salesman and nobody’s interested. Building excitement and creating momentum is part of sales. We want customers, existing and prospects, to notice and hopefully ask about the very products we’re bragging about.

22 around is not uncommon but the 26 that the competitor found was likely brought in from another state.

One of the key principles in seedsmanship is representing products honestly. Is cherry picking ears dishonest? Maybe in the purest sense, but most seedsmen (male and female) know that it’s okay when presented with context. The ear with 22 rows and 60 kernels per row that magically appeared after just a few minutes in a corn field will always be met with skepticism and an eye roll. But when you admit that you picked the best you could find, most folks take the ear sample to represent its genetic potential. That’s right – if the environment is just right, a lot of ears could look like this. Experience shows that his type of presentation can generate a lot of interest from growers. Keep it exciting but keep it honest!

The photographer of this ear collection, @wardynmi, shared with growers that he chose the largest ears.

In the ear collection photo above, the author shared with readers that he chose the largest ears of each hybrid. The experienced eye can’t help but be impressed. Image 35,000 of these ears per acre? If that were the case, yields would probably eclipse 400 bu/a. But imagine if he collected the smallest ears he could find. If the largest ears represent genetic potential then what do the smallest ones represent? You got it – the genetic potential to be small. The combination of small, medium and large ears in a field is what a grower harvests. That’s the reality of fields with varying soil types. Agronomists make a living trying to minimize the number of small ears and maximize the number of large ones.

A service call necessitates collecting ears that represent the field in question – the good and the bad ones.

Salesmanship is one thing. Sales support is another. Service calls are part of the business. Growers may send you pictures or bring you ears of corn and perhaps a complaint about performance. While the seedsman can be criticized for cherry picking, in a way, so can the grower. Often in my career, a customer has brought ears that were cherry picked to exaggerate the field condition. This is somewhat understandable as poor product performance can be emotional and will certainly have a negative impact on profitability. But in all my years of working in the seed industry, the field is rarely as bad as the ears that were presented to me. But they did get my attention – which is what cherry picking is all about!

I want you to do well. ~ph