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Montana received significant snowfall on Oct. 1. Pictured are the Bears Paw Mountains near Havre, Mont. (Lance Lindbloom/Special to Agweek)

Logistics, economics, agronomy and a touch of technology

Goodbye summer and hello ... winter? The 14 inches of wet snow that fell on Oct. 1 was a much needed reprieve from the blasted heat, drought and fires we endured most of summer 2017. Single digit temperatures that followed the snow were a stark reminder that one has better odds at the table then trying to predict what the weather is going to do next. As we round out October in more of a moderate fall-like setting, we might have the full four seasons — although extremely lopsided — that we hope for.

Harvest rolled through very quickly this year as waiting for crops to dry was not an issue. Yields overall were down, not surprising, but in looking back — exactly how much water does it take to produce a bushel? This was a summer of incredible challenges but also opportunities for learning.

Most crops are off the fields and in the bin by now. Last week I rode in a cart during a late chickpea harvest. It is amazing what those plants endured — extreme summer, then a little bit of rain followed by piles of snow, then extreme wind conditions and yet, when all is said and done, the color and quality were above average. What a tough little bush of a plant!

With a break in the weather and a hope for moisture in the soil, many producers are moving to finish fall field work before we hit those beautiful minus 25 degree days. For those contemplating a movement to a variable rate fertility program as part of their overall precision management, deep banding can offer producers this opportunity. Why use this strategy in the fall rather than the spring?

• Less stress! Spring is chaotic with 100 things needing to be done. When dabbling in new technology for the first time, fall affords the time to learn.

• Logistics. Farmers are in the "capturing the sunlight" business. In our environment, our total growing degree days are short, and the sooner we can get a plant in the ground the faster we can start building those organic solar panels. Fall deep banding allows for less filling and stopping when it is "go, go, go" in the spring.

• Economics. Nine times out of 10, our fertility pricing is much more favorable in the fall.

• Agronomy. In the fall we have the ability to apply nutrients the plants need without the risk of what can happen with seed-placed fertility.

• Technology. Most equipment crossing the field today already has the technology built in. It's a good time to turn it on and get it done!

Fall is also the perfect time to reflect and digest exactly how producers will use precision in their agronomy in the coming year. The following quote by fellow agronomist Markus Braaten resonates with the philosophy of precision being more than a controller moving up and down — "Even the decision not to do precision management is a precision decision."

To help in this decision —

• All fields have variability. The task we are challenged with is defining which fields have enough variability to justify reallocating resources to improve return on investment.

• Then, do we have the ability to manage it?

• Lastly, and more importantly, do some serious number crunching. Just because we can do something, does it make sound financial sense?

In our cold, sometimes desert-like conditions, with moderate yield opportunities, that pencil needs to be sharp and cognizant of all the pieces that play in this complex yet exciting puzzle.

Until next time, I'm going to beat everyone to it and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.