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Last year was a banner year. Soybeans. Corn. Conditions didn’t seem to favor one more than the other – it was all good. So why then did one of Eggert County’s top producers fall alarmingly short of his yield goal? If it can happen to Gerald Fitzgerald it can happen to anyone. Unless his brother Darrell can figure out what happened, who’s to say it won’t? Use the information on this website – from the latest weekly podcast, to character descriptions and especially case files, to solve The Great Yield Mystery.
This week on The Great Yield Mystery, Darrell Fitzgerald hears from Gerald’s regular waitress, who says Gerald was a little “off”. Whenever Gerald is feeling down, he heads to the equipment dealer, Troy McCoy. Troy tells Darrell that Gerald bought a top-of-the-line planter last year, calibrated perfectly, at least according to Troy.
I’m starting to get the hang of this investigation thing. And I might be on to something.
Five weeks into this, it feels like I shouldn’t still be hung up on how a season starts, but so much of a farmer’s ability to hit his yield goal is reliant on getting plants off to a good start.
For instance, I was reading up on planting, and came to a better understanding of just how important planter performance can be. Dad always believed that soybean planting didn’t need to be nearly as precise as planting corn, since bean plants fill gaps pretty quickly with branches and foliage, stifling weed competition.
But smart people who have been studying high-yield soybean systems longer than five weeks say poor planter performance can actually have a significant negative impact on yield, since doubles can put two plants in competition for the same nutrients and sunlight. And canopy closure can be dependent on early-season conditions, which means exposed gaps from skips can become weed infested and cost yield (or weed control dollars).
I’m not too worried about canopy closure and weed control. Gerald is known for impeccably clean fields, and as we discussed with Seed Boy, his seed choice displayed impeccable branchiness. But there still might be something here.
Sure, Gerald’s brand-new planter should have eliminated any issues with getting the seed in the right place, but it seems a little too coincidental that in his first round with a new piece of equipment, something went wrong. And after a conversation with the local dealer, I wonder if this new technology — or Gerald’s misuse of it — could be the solution to this mystery.
As long as anyone can remember, Gerald Fitzgerald has set the bar for successful farming in this community.
Gerald’s success reached legendary status in 2014 with the highest corn yield anyone can remember on his best field. Folks wondered if he was about to do the same when he turned that field from corn to soybeans in 2015.
But Gerald isn’t walking as tall this year as he was last. An open seat sits at the coffee shop each morning where local acre-owners compare notes, and one can only wonder if this local farm star will ever re-claim his previous perch atop the county yield statistics.
Gerald may have been the quarterback of the Eggert East football team, but it was Darrell who played left tackle and made sure his brother’s blind side was protected.
Some things never change. While he no longer dons the pads to protect his brother, Darrell is as brotherly as any brother might be. That includes paying careful attention to his successful operation and making sure Gerald gets the right advice from the right people.
So when he saw his brother’s shoulders slump around harvest time, Darrell took action.