Innovation: A family matter for Nebraska RevX Fields growers

Farming for Jena Ochsner and her husband Levi — a fifth-generation farmer — is truly a family affair, as they work alongside their young son and Levi’s parents. The pair is always trying new practices on their operation to ensure high yields, including testing new products on their corn and soybean acres and participating in programs like BASF’s RevX Fields.


“Levi and Jena are the kind of growers that take everything to the next level in order to push their yield,” said BASF Innovation Specialist, Jordan Moody. “They’re always setting up their own field plots and making sure that they know the ROI of a product before they implement it on their entire operation, which is exactly the kind of thinking we wanted for the RevX Fields program.”


As young farmers, the Ochsners thrive on testing the latest technology and innovations on their operation. Ochsner and his dad have been using BASF fungicides on their operation for the past 10 years, so when he heard about RevX Fields — a program allowing more than 1,200 farmers across the country to test BASF’s newest innovations, Veltyma and Revtyek fungicides, before they were commercially available — he wanted to test them out for himself.


“The first time we introduced a fungicide, our agronomist recommended we test it on one field,” said Levi. “When we were harvesting, we got to that field and were amazed by the results — it yielded 10 to 15 bushels better than our other fields. Ever since then, we figure fungicides into our annual budget, just like seed or fertilizer, because we know the ROI is there.”


Knowing fungicides have played a large part in the Ochsners’ agronomic plans for so long, they jumped at the chance to be part of the RevX Fields program so they could test the latest fungicide technology for themselves. As part of their involvement, the Ochsners’ fields were flown using drones by Aker Technologies, Inc., an independent crop diagnostics and analytics company. Aker provided normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery and other environmental indicators of the Ochsners’ fields both near application and approximately seven weeks following application.


“The NDVI imagery piece was really cool and helpful,” said L. Ochsner. “We could see more than just a fungicide application through those drone images. It gave us an idea of places where the crop health was thriving, and areas where we might want to adjust. Aker flew our fields twice and we could see row by row where Veltyma fungicide was applied. The blocks with these applications were so much healthier than the other blocks of land with competitive treatments.”


The Ochsners know not every grower is able to conduct test plots or participate in programs like RevX Fields to gather data to determine exactly what products are worth the investment. In addition to using the data they’ve gathered for their own benefit, the pair urges growers to use the local data available from more than 1,200 growers on to influence their input decisions.


“I think it's important to share the results of our fields with the growers that are near us and dealing with a similar situation as ours,” said Jena. “We have the same soil, and knowing that something worked on our operation with the same soil is huge. A hundred miles from here, the soil is nothing like what we have. You can't really compare something that they did on their farm to something that we're doing here. So I think it is really important to have the local data to share so that anyone in our area can learn from what we did and use it to their advantage.”


Gathering data and seeing the NDVI imagery throughout the season was all leading up to the big finale: harvest. As Ochsner’s dad was riding in the combine, he shared with Ochsner and Moody how blown away he was when he could literally see the difference of these new fungicides.


“What stuck with me most was riding in the combine with Levi's dad, Jeff,” said Moody. “His dad lets Levi run with a lot of the agronomic decisions throughout the season, and is pretty hands off at this point. However, he still runs the combine and as he approached the Veltyma fungicide treated field, he made a comment to Levi like, ‘What'd you do here? What was different here?’ He could tell this field was treated differently because of the amount of corn still standing and the overall health of the crop.”


The Ochsners try to test a variable on every corn field they have, whether it's different fungicides or a corn variety test plot. On the RevX Fields where they tested Veltyma fungicide, they saw that it out-yielded competitor fungicides.


“After harvest we found the second closest yield using competitor products was about four and a half bushels lower than the Veltyma fungicide,” said Levi. “So, in my mind, four and a half bushels times our average crop price is huge. From what I've seen, applying Veltyma fungicide provides a really good ROI and I'm excited to use it again next season.”


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