Between a record-shattering fire season in the West and the unprecedented global disruptions of COVID-19, 2020 was certainly a year to discourage prediction-making. But that won't stop us from trying!
Here are five predictions for what lies ahead.
1. More growers will embrace experimentation
Though the impacts of a tumultuous 2020 season were felt differently across various parts of agriculture sector, a common pattern emerged among the growers best able to ride out the changes. Those who'd diversified—often as a result of deliberate experimentation—were better equipped to respond to volatility.
As other growers take notice, we predict that even smaller operations will start to incorporate experimentation into their long-term management strategy. We may see growers move from ad hoc trial and error to a more systematic approach toward incorporating new technology and different varietals,
Micheal Dunn, a remote sensing specialist with Anez Consulting in Minnesota, offers some advice to farmers testing out new practices. “It can be hard to assess the efficacy of the changes in only one field trial, so it’s important to try a few different plots, possibly four replications," he suggests. "Bring in a consultant that can help set up a trial for your farm to see what is going to work best on your ground. Look at different micro-environments in your fields, because you may get a totally different response in separate areas of the field depending on soil types."
One possible hurdle to this kind of rigorous testing? "It’s harder and harder to find good management people," points out Max Jehle of Max Ag Consulting. "And that problem isn’t going to go away.