Earlier this summer, we had a chance to chat with Colin Elgie, Agronomy Solutions Specialist at our Kent Bridge branch. Colin plays a big role here at Sylvite Agri-Services. If you’ve ever read one of our Sylvite Agronomy Solutions newsletters, you’ve read some of Colin’s work! Read below for an inside scoop on Colin’s day-to-day activities at Sylvite, and get his thoughts on how he thinks the rest of the 2020 season will pan out.
Introduce yourself! What branch do you work out of, and how long have you been working with us?
I’m Colin Elgie, and I currently work out of Sylvite’s Kent Bridge location. I started working in the Ag industry right after graduation from the University of Guelph in 2009 with Thompsons, first spending some time at the Pain Court branch, as well as with our Agronomy Department before settling in to a sales role at the Kent Bridge branch.
Since then I’ve been based out of Kent Bridge, although within my position as the Agronomy Solutions Specialist, I’ve been able to get out and about and visit other branches as well. I joined the Sylvite team with the rest of the Thompsons folks officially in December of 2019.
What are your main responsibilities as an Agronomy Solutions Specialist?
As Sylvite’s Agronomy Solutions Specialist, I get to assist our Ag Consultants and growers at different branches with basically everything agronomy-related. Working closely with Becky Laye and Grant Elgie, our main goal is to ensure that we’re able to bring a variety of new agronomy tools and services to our customers to help them continue to grow.
On a day-to-day basis, I provide growers with timely updates and information on what’s happening in their fields, and I’m always available to help customers in identifying insects, weeds and diseases within their fields. Interpreting soil sample results and analyzing yield data from customers is also a regular part of my day. My end goal is for customers to get a good return on investment from their inputs
You’ve done quite a bit of work with Veritas Farm Management and their four analytics programs. Who should be using these programs, and why?
Our partnership with Veritas has given us access to tools that help us make better recommendations for growers. Most of these tools involve the use of yield data, and provide great value. If growers are looking to collect their yield data, we sell FarmTRX yield monitors, which can be installed on any combine, new or old, for under $2000. That’s a fraction of the price of getting one new from the dealership.
Each tool from Veritas has a specific function and place, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. SOIL Analytics helps a grower identify the most limiting nutrients in the field, and allows us to prioritize fertility needs. SCRIPT Analytics validates field prescriptions to show the value and to improve a grower’s future crop. IMAGE Analytics measure a farmer’s current field conditions and then apply that information to prescriptions to increase profits. Finally, PROFIT Analytics show how many dollars per acre a grower is making or losing across every area of your field.
On the retail side of things, this year has been pretty unique. How would you summarize the 2020 growing season? What has stood out to you as a highlight?
With the pandemic shutting things down at the retail level as far as in-person meetings go, this spring certainly showed the advantage of having pre-determined crop plans in place. Those sales reps and growers who had crop plans made in advance had their fertilizer blends in the system ready to go for spring planting. This pandemic has really brought to light the importance of having a multi-year crop plan in place, covering things like rotation, soil sampling and data collection. The preparedness brought on by having these plans has really let the rest of the growing season fall into place.
In terms of the weather, we’ve seen it all this year. From cold and dry, to warm and wet, to hot and dry, the need to scout has been apparent. Checking for emerging nutrient deficiencies, diseases, insects and herbicide injury has been especially important due to the constantly changing weather conditions. This year has definitely highlighted the importance of asking for help from the experienced folks we have here at Sylvite.
How do you think this year’s harvest season will treat us?
My gut feeling says this will be one of the better harvests we have had in the past few years. For the most part, crops were planted in a timely manner, although some areas needed replants after the cold snap went through mid-spring. Other than that, with the big stretch of hot weather we received, crop growth has caught up and we are now ahead of the normal heat, unit-wise. Hopefully this growing season will stay on track and harvest will provide us with a better environment to get work done on time this fall!
As we get closer to fall and harvest season, what are some things that growers can do to give their crops one last push before harvest? Anything growers should be thinking about for fall?
At this point in the season, diseases are one of the biggest obstacles that could have a major impact on our fall harvest. In 2018 we saw first-hand how quickly an excellent-looking crop could degrade when you start finding quality issues like DON. Right now, some growers are looking to get away from their crops for a couple weeks, but we’ve got to keep an eye out of problems that will start to arise, like insects and disease, that can make harvest a nightmare.
It’s important for growers to get their crops off in a timely manner, but make sure you’re collecting that valuable yield data! Yield data is one of the most important take-backs you can get out of your cropping year, but if you don’t take the time to properly collect that data, you have to wait until the next year to take another crack at it. Good yield data gives growers an opening into a huge space for agronomic tools that can help you make on-farm improvements to fit your farm’s short and long term goals.
After working with growers for 11 years, what’s the best piece of advice you could give a farmer who’s just starting out?
Soil test. You could do everything right in the growing season and still not get a good crop if you don’t know where you’re at with your soil’s fertility. At the very least, soil testing will give you a starting point for what fertilizer you absolutely NEED to apply, and what you can adjust depending on your long term plans.
Also, ask for help. From your agronomist, ag retailer, fellow farmers, neighbors, whomever. Every year is different, every crop is different, and there are so many different crop input options, too. The more experience you can get to assist you, the easier it will be to make decisions.
When you’re not working hard in the office, what are you doing?
My brother Grant and I farm together with our dad and uncle, which keeps us busy enough through the year and out of trouble. I’m also a director of the Kent Soil and Crop Improvement Association and ALUS Chatham-Kent, both of which are organizations looking to make agronomic and environmental improvements in regards to crops and farmland. At home, my wife and 3 kids keep me on my toes. I now spend more time building Lego, watching Frozen and playing peekaboo than I would ever have imagined!