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Pioneer Extends New Agronomic Services to Growers

27 September 2011

As a company that has a long history of providing agronomic support to farmers, no one should be surprised by Pioneer Hi-Bred's latest move, writes Sarah Mikesell TheCropSite senior editor.

Curt Clausen, Pioneer director of agronomy science and sales training for North and South America, at the Farm Progress Show.

Pioneer customers will soon have access to even more local agronomic research information through a new program focused on evaluating innovative production practices on a local basis. A national network of agronomy trial managers (ATMs) is being added to the existing Pioneer agronomic team to help growers identify improved crop production practices that could improve a grower's bottom line.

The goal of the program is to have ATMs in all regions of the US within three years, evaluating best practices to help growers get the best value from each acre. There are 20 ATMS are already working on agronomic testing programs, and Pioneer plans to more than double that number.

"We've had agronomists on the sales side of our organization for about 40 years, so growers usually know their local Pioneer agronomists," said Curt Clausen, Pioneer director of agronomy science and sales training for North and South America. "As the business is getting more complex, we need more feet on the ground in the specialized area of agronomy."

Clausen said the current agronomists really focus on products and advance the right products into commercial status. The new ATM position focuses on conducting local agronomic trials that will garner information to help Pioneer's growers be more successful.

"The program includes local research. It's product-focused, so we use our products to impose various management systems on, and it's innovative," said Clausen. "We need to push the envelope to improve yields. We can't just dedicate unlimited inputs to get that done, so we need to improve the productivity with modest improvements in inputs."

He said an example of Pioneer working with growers to understand local needs is plant populations.

"We sell seed so a lot of people give us a bit of grief about plant populations, and say 'you just want to sell more seed'," Clausen said. "Our goal is help our farmers be more productive. Yes, we'll sell more seed, but they're also going to raise more corn. In the end, if our customers don't win, we don't have a chance."

The trial research is leading interest in what Pioneer calls variable rate seeding, which uses different populations on different parts of a field based on the productivity of that area. Clausen said it's Pioneer's responsibility to help customers understand their fields through their "Right Product, Right Acre" strategy. He said Pioneer is not looking for quantum leaps in yield, but rather incremental gains.

Those gains could come from trying different production practices with fungicides, insecticides and/or micronutrients.

"The work that the agronomy trial managers do is on farmer fields, with their equipment, so it's practical conditions," he said. "We also do some work with universities, usually projects that take a little more manpower, or just don't fit well on a farmer's field."

When it comes to the trials, Clausen said Pioneer talks to growers who are out on the front edge and trying or contemplating new ideas and thinking. Pioneer takes the ideas and expands the thinking further, considering what the results might look like if guided in a various directions.

"We depend on our customers and learn a lot just talking to them," he said. "We hear what their challenges are, and work together to figure out how we can overcome them."

He said once the trials are complete, Pioneer will summarize the data, make it easy to understand, and get it back out to the customers so that they can implement it if they choose.

"We offer suggestions, because everything doesn't work for everybody," he said. "But we want to encourage people to try something a little bit different. If it's not going to be cost prohibitive or place a tremendous amount of risk, most farmers are receptive to doing that."

Clausen said Pioneer is committed to providing a higher level of agronomic service and management suggestions to their customer.

"We believe that we need to step it up because the expectations are getting higher by the customer, and the complexity is growing" he said. "Our ATM program is an example of our increased efforts to meet the customers' needs, and hopefully exceed them in many cases."

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