Southern States Steps Up Yield Improvement Efforts
Monday, June 4th, 2012
Feeding a growing population on the same amount of arable land is a challenge that keeps many agribusiness companies, including Southern States Cooperative, up at night. To support an estimated global population of 9 billion in 30 years would require improving yields from around 130 bushels per acre today to 300 bushels per acre or more.
"We've recently launched two fertilizer enhancement products and a micronutrient package and we expanding our precision agriculture offerings. That's a fairly typical level of product development for us although we have stepped up activities around yield improvement," said Steve Patterson, vice president of Marketing and Communications for Southern States Cooperative.
Owned by more than 300,000 farmers, Southern States Cooperative purchases, manufactures or processes feed, seed, fertilizers, farm supplies and fuel for large and small farmers as well as homeowners and gardeners. Headquartered in Richmond, the cooperative has approximately 1,200 retail locations in 23 states.
Helping grower profitability
According to Patterson, Southern States is "here to help growers increase their profitability. If our growers are successful, then we know we will be successful too."
"We've developed a good understanding of factors that impact grower performance like soil science, diseases and insects. And we put a lot of effort into training our people so that when we go to growers with new solutions they have a reason to listen to us."
Among the recent product launches that are designed to improve yield and profitability are:
- AVAIL, which is a polymer coating for phosphorous fertilizer that absorbs aluminum, iron and other elements in the soil to help keep the phosphorus more available to the crop, not tied up in the soil.
- NutriSphere-N®, which is a nitrogen manager for use on granular and liquid fertilizer to prevent the loss of nitrogen.
- Wolf Trax DDP® micronutrients, which are uniquely formulated to coat and adhere to dry N, P or K fertilizer, ensuring even distribution throughout the blend, and more consistent and even application across the field.
"We've seen good adoption rates of our new products, which shows growers recognize they are a good value proposition," Patterson said.
Overcoming regulatory challenges
Many of the biggest challenges to grower profitability and yield improvement originate in Washington, D.C., according to Patterson. Government relations are part of the marketing organization he leads.
"Many of our growers are within the watershed of Chesapeake Bay, for example. With the EPA looking to ban fertilizer application in that area prior to March 1, it's difficult for them to use best practices in growing small grains," Patterson said.
Southern States is part of the Agriculture Retailers Association and the National Cooperative Business Association. Both organizations represent the company's interests in Washington, D.C. and promote public policies that protect and support the interests of Southern States' farmer-members.
Overcoming a warm winter
Patterson believes Southern States' strong financial position is another draw for growers. The cooperative has been in business since 1923 and has a strong balance sheet and operating statement, according to Patterson. As a privately held cooperative, Southern States' financial results are not publicly available.
"We had a tough winter this year as the warm weather cut into propane sales. But we are having a huge spring and I think it will end up being a respectable year for us," he said.
More information on Southern States Cooperative is available at www.southernstates.com.