December 3, 2020

Ready, Set, Grow: Follow the Riggert Brothers’ SciMax Journey

SciMax SolutionsLike many growers, Mike and Brian Riggert are seeking new ways to unlock plant potential and take their farming operations to a higher level through SciMax Solutions.

The brothers, who farm north of Whittemore near the Lotts Creek area, have participated in SciMax Solutions for six years. They each farm more than 1,000 acres, for a total of nearly 2,400 acres of corn and soybeans. They utilize grid sampling, yield monitoring, and variable-rate technology for planting and fertilizer applications, including nitrogen.

This year we’ll be following the brothers throughout the growing season and beyond to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how SciMax benefits local growers and can help you maximize your yield potential.

Q: What motivated you to participate in SciMax?

A: Technology changes fast in agriculture, and we wanted to keep up. We started with grid sampling and yield monitoring and later added variable-rate fertilizer application. We also started doing variable-rate planting and variable-rate nitrogen.

Q: What SciMax tools have been most valuable to you?

A: Variable-rate fertilizer applications have been very valuable. Not only are we making decisions on grid-sampling data, but we’re also looking at the crop’s removal rate, based on the corn or soybean yields. We want to replace the nutrients we’ve removed while building up nutrient levels in the places where they are low. Sometimes we’re able to cut back on nutrient applications. In one field where we normally applied a flat rate of 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre, SciMax helped us determine that we only needed to use 71 pounds.

Q: Why do you like the SciMax Learning Group?

A: The Learning Group covers all the acres in the basic level of SciMax and includes variable-rate planting, variable-rate fertilizer, and more. We enjoy talking to like-minded growers and sharing ideas, because we learn a lot from each other. That’s why we attend SciMax’s meetings and Shop Talk forums, where farmers can discuss the products they like, what forms of nitrogen they prefer, and the types of equipment they’re using.

Q: How does SciMax take the guesswork out of crop production?

A: We meet with our SciMax specialists at least 10 times throughout the year and work especially close with them at harvest. Dan Stokes, our seed solutions specialist, helps calibrate our monitor and conducts yield checks. We also work with Janie Imming, who comes out to the farm to download harvest data into the computer system. After all the data has been compiled, we meet with the SciMax team to view the reports and break the results down on a field-by-field basis. We analyze how each one yielded and how it was influenced by the nutrients we applied. This information helps us choose hybrids and varieties for next year and determine the variable-rate planting populations we’re going to use. We also look at areas where we might want to do trials with fertilizer or other products.

Q: What interests you about conducting on-farm trials?

A: We like to test new options and see how they work on our acres. A lot of thought goes into our on-farm trials. We try to pick spots in our fields that aren’t prone to drought or flooding, and we replicate the strips four to five times. In 2012, we conducted a fungicide trial with SciMax. We’ve also done corn population trials (with 38,000 plants per acre at the high end). In another trial we tested different nitrogen rates, comparing fall-applied anhydrous with encapsulated urea. This year we’ll have strip trials of variable-rate anhydrous versus encapsulated nitrogen fertilizer.

Q: How does SciMax reflect your philosophy on sustainable farming?

A: As a farmer, you never stop thinking about what’s next, and you always want to do better. Managing nitrogen is like trying to hit a moving target, because weather conditions change, and crop removal rates vary from year to year. Our goal is to apply fertilizer where it’s needed and keep it where the crop can utilize it. We know our farming practices affect people beyond our field. SciMax helps us focus on continuous improvement to protect the soil and water.

Q: Why do you recommend SciMax?

A: There’s a lot of data in precision ag today. The SciMax team members sort through all this and help find solutions so you can specialize in what you do best, which is farming. SciMax gives you the knowledge and confidence to try new things. We get our money’s worth from SciMax. Actually, all their technology, expertise, and information is a bargain.

Editor’s note: Mike, 33, and Brian, 31, are following in the footsteps of their grandfather, Herman Riggert, and father, Elmer, who farmed in north-central Iowa for many years. The Riggert brothers are graduates of Sentral High School (Mike in 1998 and Brian in 2000) and North Iowa Area Community College, where they studied agriculture and farm management. The brothers began farming full-time right out of college and enjoy working together as a family, which includes Mike’s wife, Stephanie, and their three young sons.

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