2023 Crop Planning: Consider 2022 assessments, market opportunities in innovating next year’s crops
It’s the off-season. Crops are harvested and planning for 2023 is underway. Make sure you replicate this year’s successes and avoid this year’s failures by focusing on the ways you can build on what’s worked and fix what hasn’t. Watching key market trends, adding steps like field-specific evaluations and assessments, then making informed crop and input decisions help you best lay plans for next year.
“It’s very important to conduct evaluations of each field, considering things like varieties, treatments and inputs specific to every piece of ground,” according to Grow West Technical Service Manager Layne Wade. “Write them down and consider them specifically in terms of how you can be more efficient and productive next season.”
Regardless of the crop mix, such assessments are key to your ability to make informed decisions for the 2023 crop year. Take those observations specific to every field, vineyard, orchard, grove or greenhouse and resulting insights on what worked — and what didn’t — in 2022 and apply them to this checklist as you develop your 2023 crop management to-do list:
- Crop yield and quality
- Management systems and strategies, including IPM programs
- Specific crop inputs applied throughout the season
- Environmental conditions that impacted crop performance
Think about these conditions and variables in an overall financial context, specifically the ROI of crop inputs and their influence on yield and quality. Wade also advises thinking about other financial variables like crop insurance programs employed and their contributions to overall revenue.
Have the conversation with your PCA
Once you can tell the story of your 2022 crops with these types of agronomic and financial performance information, get in touch with your Grow West team, starting with your PCA. The conversation is especially important moving into next year, with expected logistical disruptions continuing to influence available supplies of things like crop protection products.
“PCAs play a major role in planning pest and fertility management and the economic levels of those programs,” Wade said. “Supply chain issues will continue to be an obstacle, so you need to have a plan and place orders ahead of time. This is very important in having the materials you need to maximize performance and ROI. Keep in mind that lower-cost product alternatives don’t always contribute to better, cost-effective management. A thorough assessment of past performance comes into play in helping determine what is best.”
Field-level trends to follow in making 2023 crop plans
Given the changes in some export markets in the last year, Wade advises ensuring you’ll have the same necessary market access or the ability to make necessary changes to ensure that access continues in 2023. Much like in 2022, accounting for available water and securing adequate labor to conduct key operations for whatever crops you grow and how you will manage them will again be major factors in planning your 2023 crop year.
“Picking crops and varieties that use less irrigation seems to be a priority. Labor is a very real issue as well, and some of these vine and seed crops require a tremendous amount of hand labor that is extremely time sensitive, and it can be difficult to cover the acres needed in an appropriate amount of time,” according to Woodland-based Grow West PCA Joe Malm. “Growers are paying close attention to weed management. Allowing weeds to get out of control in a crop for one year certainly can have implications 2-3 years down the road, and with the extreme labor costs for weeding crews, growers are really going the extra mile to diligently manage for the future.”
Market dynamics to keep an eye on
This combination of marketplace awareness and having the right products in-hand — whether familiar standbys or new tools like biologicals — will be especially important, for example, in the wine grape sector in 2023. Statewide annual output driven largely by drought has been below 2.2 million tons since 2019. But that’s expected to change, and it will be important for growers to watch market demand for signs of the most potentially lucrative varieties, then renew or extend contracts to lock in prices in case a “supply glut” develops and prices decline.
Once those pieces are in place, Grow West PCA/CCA Mike Boer said growers should focus on specific ways to sustain production in what is likely to be another dry year. That may mean considering new innovations to help overcome challenges like drought.
“The most significant innovations for 2023 and likely beyond will address drought tolerance, stress resistance and irrigation efficiency,” said Geyserville-based Boer. “Soil-applied biologicals and nutrients, as well as variety genetics, irrigation and weather-sensing technology and equipment are things to think about in the next year.”
If you’re considering changing crops to better utilize things like irrigation water, think beyond just the tools and inputs you need to raise them. In Kevin McCosker’s area around Lodi, the Grow West PCA has a lot of customers who raise forage and row crops that are marketed to the area’s dairies. Though they will sometimes make feed ration adjustments to take advantage of favorable market prices, larger dairies also contract feed supplies well in advance. Staying attuned to this type of local market dynamic can help fuel informed crop rotation decisions where growers have multiple annual crop options.
“Dairies are going to always have their plan as far as corn, forage and alfalfa. They really don’t skew from that very often. Silage corn, a three-way barley/wheat/oat mixture and alfalfa are all viable options depending on local demand,” McCosker said. “Water is the number-one variable, and seed companies are introducing modified seed that is drought- or salt-tolerant. They’re helping farmers plant a crop that can mature successfully being irrigated four times versus six. Paying close attention to nutrient management is critical too. Knowing where your ground has the highest nutrient- and water-holding capacity allows you to potentially manage in zones and in some cases can drive new variety selections and advance yields.”
Choose innovations wisely
Adapting to challenging growing conditions isn’t easy. Things like drought and meager product availability often drive the opportunity to innovate and find new solutions. But that thought process shouldn’t be one of simply finding an alternative to a mainstay. Rather, it should sustain market-ready production in the short term and lay the foundation for improved crop output and quality further down the road. That sort of new thinking is most successful when it diverges from simple purchase decisions to the application of field-level data and observations from 2022 to operation-wide applications in 2023 and beyond.
“Change is hard for all of us, but we are good at adapting,” McCosker said. “Yes, there are some scenarios that will be hard to adapt out of, but things like planting cover crops, applying fertilizer at different stages and planting different crops to take better advantage of irrigation water are all things we can do to adapt and continue to increase yield.”
Talk to your Grow West PCA to start making your 2023 plans today.