A new arena for the relationship between producers, suppliers and agronomists
Social distancing has created distance between supplier and producer. Producers are able to attain every input needed this spring without “seeing” anyone. Chemicals and seed are dropped at the farm gate and fertilizer supplied in a truck as a dead drop zero interaction.
Independent and line company agronomists will need to communicate and relay agronomic information utilizing digital tools. Scouting software can provide updates on crop progress and input needs online. Through these tools, agronomists can still provide timely agronomic information.
If agronomists don’t utilize digital tools, agronomic information can be provided while maintaining social distance through text, email, and real-time photos. Even FaceTime can be utilized for real-time field walks. For those utilizing these tools, agronomic information should flow between agronomist and producer well. It may take adjustment for those that prefer in-person field walks.
Without question, agronomists should be having conversations about expectations with their producers now throughout the season. This is a new arena and needs can change on the fly. Continued understanding for the producer’s communication and decision needs and preferences will be important to ensuring that producers are being adequately supported.
Those not as technologically savvy who rely on agronomist recommendations in person may pose more challenges. Depending on the scenario, producers may require increased faith in their agronomist’s distanced recommendations. In-person meetings after a weekly crop walk can go a long way. Especially for those producers that are more confident after in-person discussions. Nuances and ‘what-if’ situations come from these discussions. Phone calls will need to replace these in-person interactions, especially for newer producers/agronomist relationships with less familiarity with virtual delivery mechanisms.
An area that will suffer will be in-field agronomy extension through ‘tailgate meetings’ and plot tours, which can be used to teach new concepts and revisit fundamentals. Some agronomists and companies are moving to virtual meetings to replace these interactions.
For a workforce that is already isolated in many ways, these challenges will increase through required isolation measures. Mental-health support through all avenues will be important. Especially coming out of and, in some cases, continuing the “harvest from hell”. Agronomists will need to make minor or major adjustments, depending on their client’s needs, to ensure proper supports are in place.
Ian Doig of GrainsWests’ article: Locked Up and Ready for Business: Alberta Seed Processors Fully Operational Following Launch of Pandemic Safety Measures