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The Cover Crop A Quarterly Magazine for Servi-Tech's Owner Cooperatives summer 2017 Edition

Your source for technology & 'boots on the ground' expertise

Summer challenges study this article, and to reach out to myself or the Servi-Tech sales team to schedule a time for similar dialogue with your key staff and ours. In this issue of The Cover Crop, you can read how Servi-Tech Agronomist Michael Murphy in Iowa is utilizing CropView aerial imagery as a tool for both Servi-Tech and our retail partners to build a deeper and more reliable relationship with growers throughout the crop year. If you have not learned about CropView, it is not too late – most areas will still see 6-8 images before this year’s offer comes

By Greg Ruehle President & CEO I chose to dedicate this column to highlight the content of The Cover Crop – Servi-Tech’s primary communications vehicle with our shareholders. I would also encourage you to seek out and read each informative article in this issue, rather than simply relying on my interpretations. A feature article at the center of this issue outlines how Servi-Tech is working with three cooperative shareholders to grow business collectively in their market area. What is really neat about this article is the uniqueness of each program – because each coop was at the table designing a program that best fit their needs and maximized their access to Servi-Tech expertise. I would encourage you to

Services. This issue includes an in-depth look at new products being launched this summer to more accurately measure soil moisture at multiple locations in a field, as well as a sidebar article on the new website that integrates soil moisture, scouting reports and aerial imagery in one field-centric location. Growers have asked for this type of integration for years, and I am proud that Servi-Tech has taken a leadership role in bringing these products to the forefront. With the season for plant tissue

Boots on the ground agronomy, support by industry-leading laboratories and cutting-edge technologies – your ownership stake in Servi-Tech continues to gain value, if it is utilized. - Greg Ruehle President and CEO to an end. At $4/acre there is still tremendous value to your coop and your patrons. Sign a sub-distributor agreement today and earn revenue for every acre signed up by your staff! Another article in this issue offers first-hand insights regarding how the IT department at Servi-Tech has helped make working with Servi-Tech Laboratories a more seamless process. From submitting orders and samples, to receiving and storing data and reports, learn how your relationship with ST Laboratories can increase your efficiency and effectiveness. I have written frequently in this publication about STEPS – Servi-Tech Expanded Premium

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testing just around the corner for our customers, an instructive article outlining eight common plant sampling mistakes is part of this issue. Adequate sample amounts, from the right parts of the plant, and with enough information to make an informed recommendation on fertility needs, are critical in making tissue testing a beneficial in-season program for growers and retailers. Boots on the ground agronomy, support by industry-leading laboratories and cutting-edge technologies – your ownership stake in Servi-Tech continues to gain value, if it is utilized. Let’s set up a time to visit face-to-face or by phone.

Servi-Tech, Inc. Servi-Tech was formed in 1975 by three farmer-owned cooperatives that saw a need to provide technical services for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. Servi-Tech is organized as a federated cooperative owned by 60 farmer-cooperatives across six states. In the 42 years since our founding, we have expanded into Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, Texas and South Dakota. Servi-Tech began with 100,000 acres under contract in 1976. Today, we provide consulting on almost 1 million acres on behalf of both individual growers as well as cooperatives and retailers of all sizes.

Above: Dodge City Lab employees Claudio Castro and Galen Schawe are pictured above with the dirt taken from many, many soil samples. Did you know? Taking a good representative sample is an essential element of soil nutrient management. The soil samples that arrive at the lab must be prepared properly for analysis. That requires them to be air dried, then ground to pass a 10mesh screen. We save about half- to three-fourths of a cup of the ground sample for lab analysis, then discard the rest of the soil. This excess soil has accumulated over the last 4-5 years in a pile of about 7,000 to 8,000 cubic feet. That is enough to fill a 1,000 square foot house to the ceiling! A local contractor will be removing this pile for use as fill, since it is primarily topsoil. This topsoil is from several states. On the cover: Agronomist Kelene McCollum scouts a corn field in southwest Kansas in May. Kelene checks the progress of root formation and the amount of moisture in the root zone. When she scouts corn, she also looks at growth stage and overall plant health. Photo by Kaci Davignon

Since our founding, Servi-Tech has been dedicated to providing growers and cooperatives with the solutions they need to make more productive decisions in the field. Combined with the new technology developed through Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services, LLC (STEPS), our precision ag experts, and the world-class laboratories in Dodge City, Kansas, Hastings, Nebraska, and Amarillo, Texas, Servi-Tech provides the ultimate in agronomic knowledge for cooperatives and growers alike. To learn more about how Servi-Tech can help you serve your growers, visit us online at for the full list of services, or call us at 1-800-557-7509.


Jeff McDaniel

Steve Soden

President and CEO Chief Financial Officer 1-800-557-7509 ext. 1215 1-800-557-7509 ext. 1201

Chief Crop Service Officer (308) 340-5997

Jeff Hiers

Jeff Kugler

Chief Operating Officer 1-800-557-7509 ext. 1214

Randy Royle

Chief Laboratory Officer 1-800-557-7509 ext. 1110

CEO of STEPS, LLC 1-800-557-7509 ext. 1199

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To Submit Content: Monica Springer

Communications Specialist 620-801-4147

Kaci Davignon

Communications Specialist 620-801-4134

Website Updates

What we can do for you

Editor’s note: Servi-Tech’s IT Department can handle whatever you throw at them. From customizing lab reports to adding special features online for individual customers, the IT Department is ready to help you and your business. We asked two customers for more details about what IT does for them. Please contact Jeff Hiers, Servi-Tech’s Chief Operating Officer, at or at 1-800-557-7509 if you want to learn more.

Richard Cave

mills. I have assisted in creating and managing the food/feed safety programs which includes sampling and testing through Servi-Tech Labs.

Can you give us an overview of your company and your role there? CHS Inc. is a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States. Diversified in energy, grains and foods, we’re committed to helping our customers, farmer-owners and other stakeholders grow their businesses through our domestic and global operations. CHS operates wholly owned and joint venture feed mills, including an organic certified feed facility in Harrisburg, Ore., a premix plant in Shenandoah, Iowa, and a liquid feed plant in Marshall, Minn., providing livestock producers with quality feeds under the Payback® and Equis® brands. I have worked for CHS for 35 years with the feed nutrition group. Currently, I am quality assurance/ regulatory manager for 11 CHS feed

How does your company utilize the Servi-Tech Laboratories website? The website is used for printing, viewing and emailing lab results, statistical reports, samples ran, editing sample descriptions and ordering supplies.


What features do you like about it? The website is an excellent tool for CHS, as lab results can be viewed and printed anywhere. I have access any time as I travel, so this eliminates waiting to get to a specific location to view. The statistical reports are a great value and they have added a quick way to print specific information. Tell us a little bit about working with the Servi-Tech IT team. What features did they add for you? I have worked with Winston Broce

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and Servi-Tech IT from the very beginning. They set up my account to view all locations, and each location to view only their account with specific people setup at each location with access to results. I needed an easy way for the plant personnel to mark the needed analysis on the sample bags so they would be the same every time for each product type. The lab worked with me to set up codes for each feed and ingredient type, and the lab analysis to be completed for each code. The ‘samples run’ option was added, which I use on a monthly basis. It is a great tool to review locations’ submissions per month. The ‘feed specifications’ tab is used to set target minimum and maximum values, to determine when results are outside target values. After feed specification values were entered, Servi-Tech IT created a report that captures the feed results outside normal range and attached the document to the email of completed results.

Dr. Larry Unruh

2005, I started sending our customers there. How does your company utilize the Servi-Tech Laboratories website? When they send samples to Servi-Tech Labs, I look at their test results and I am able to prescribe a customized fertilizer recommendation versus a computer generated recommendation. Our customers are farm and ranch

circumstances. I am also able to log in to the ServiTech website, see all of my customers’ American Plant Food Corp. accounts, and I can write and send them custom recommendations Can you give us an overview of your through the Servi-Tech Labs website. company and your role there? That’s a feature that Winston Broce American Plant Food Corp. was worked with me on. I call Winston all founded in 1964. We operate 11 dry the time! blending locations in Texas. We market Our customers can also log into the thousands of tons of ammonium Servi-Tech Labs website and look at sulfate annually in the U.S., Canada, their test results. Central Sometimes, they and South Because the Servi-Tech IT team was able to customize call me before I America. their website for me, I am able to log in and make custom have a chance to We are also look at the results, recommendations for my customers based on their unique a wholesaler and I’ll make the of Urea, DAP circumstances. - Dr. Unruh recommendation to and potash American Plant Food them on the phone out of our two as I’m driving down new 40,000 feed and fertilizer stores in Texas. the road. That’s a huge plus. ton warehouses built 50 yards from the Really, they’re mom and pop built Roxann Moore from Servi-Tech has Houston ship channel in the Greens businesses. also helped me out greatly over the Port Industrial Park-Watco Facilities. Our customers like that a PhD years. We have access to a deep water dock actually looks at the results of that can unload a 50,000 ton vessel. Why do you work with Servi-Tech? every soil sample, knows where the Over the years, APF has been the Quality control is huge. Servi-Tech samples came from, and then makes leader in promoting the use of sulfur has always done well in quality control in the sulfate form as an essential plant recommendations. samples, and it’s one of the reasons I When I first moved to College nutrient. APF has developed markets choose to send my samples to them. Station, Texas to work at Texas A&M, for ammonium sulfate to be used as I told Fred Vocasek (Servi-Tech’s on Nov. 1, it was 100 degrees and I had a fertilizer, an herbicide adjuvant, senior lab agronomist at its Dodge to cut my grass. municipal water treatment, fire City Lab) I would have dealers send in I went to the lab the next Monday, inhibitor in insulation and animal feed duplicate samples — they’d send seven and we had hundreds of soil supplement, among other industrial samples, and the first and seventh samples from cotton and sorghum applications. samples would be the same — and I fields wanting a “fall plow down” I’m a technical director, a soil would pay for the seventh. recommendation. We also had soil chemist, and the fertilizer guy. Our Servi-Tech Labs passed that test. samples from the Rio Grande Valley corporate office is located in Galena If we got those two duplicate samples for 160 acres of aloe vera, something Park, Texas, near Houston on the ship back from another lab, and the pH on that Kansas doesn’t have. channel. the first one was 5.4 and the pH on Our needs in Texas can differ so How did your business get started much from other states that Servi-Tech the duplicate test was 6.2, they lost a customer. working with Servi-Tech? works with. Because the Servi-Tech That’s a big difference (and big One of the Servi-Tech salesmen kept IT team was able to customize their dollars) in lime application costs. trying to get our business. Texans like website for me, I am able to log in and keeping their samples in Texas. When make custom recommendations for Servi-Tech’s Amarillo Lab opened in my customers based on their unique

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Employee Awards

Orvin Bontrager earns Leadership Award Orvin Bontrager, a long-time Servi-Tech crop consultant, received Servi-Tech’s Leadership Award during a ceremony in Kearney, Nebraska earlier this year. Orvin’s career at Servi-Tech started in August 1977 at Sterling, Kansas. He has a B.S. from Kansas State University and a M.S. from Texas A&M. Bontrager was given the award at Servi-Tech’s Professional Development Conference. Servi-Tech agronomists nominate their fellow agronomists for the award. “It’s a real honor,” Bontrager said. “I’m humbled that others within the company voted for me to receive this award.” The winner has to meet the following criteria: • Makes an extraordinary contribution to the welfare and development of Servi-Tech • Provides outstanding leadership for Servi-Tech • Trains, mentors and develops interns and new employees • Makes those around them more productive • Demonstrates teamwork qualities, which benefit the company • Sets an outstanding example for other employees to follow. He has held other positions within the company, including Great Bend, KS, division

manager and education director for Servi-Tech crop service personnel. In the fall of 1983, he moved to the Aurora, Nebraska area. Bontrager consults on about 15,000 acres in Hamilton County, Nebraska; mostly irrigated field corn, white corn, popcorn, seed corn, and soybeans. During the summer, he’s checking fields to monitor soil moisture, irrigation scheduling, insect, weed, and disease management, soil fertility, and other tasks involving the production of the crop. Fall and winter months are spent soil sampling, working on crop plans and precision applications, making chemical and fertility recommendations, and keeping up-to-date on technology by attending extension, chemical and company meetings. Bontrager has served on the board and as president of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) and has been a member for 22 years. He’s also a Certified Professional Agronomist, Certified Crop Advisor, and a member of the American Society of Agronomy. Rick Runyan, Servi-Tech’s central Nebraska manager, said Bontrager is active both within the company and within his community. “Orvin is a superior crop

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consultant, mentor, and person that few people can emulate,” Runyan said.

About Orvin Bontrager

Years at Servi-Tech: 39 Hometown: Aurora, Nebraska Consults on: Irrigated field corn, white corn, popcorn, seed corn, and soybeans.

Clark Poppert Earns 400,000 acre award Clark Poppert of Geneva, Nebraska, earned a prestigous award for consulting on more than 400,000 acres in his career. The award was given at Servi-Tech’s annual Professional Development Conference in Kearney, Nebraska. There have been seven other agronomists in Servi-Tech’s 42year history who have earned the award. “There are two reasons I have stayed with Servi-Tech for 28 years,” Poppert said. “My growers have become family, as have some of my colleagues. And production agriculture presents new challenges each year, and challenges are what drives me.” Poppert started his career at Servi-Tech in the spring of 1989, and he’s always worked out of Geneva. He spent 15 years as a division manager before moving into his current role as a technical support agronomist. He consults on corn, seed corn, soybeans and alfalfa in southern Filmore and northern Thayer counties. He is a member of the Nebraska Independent Crop Association and the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. Poppert has served two terms as NAICC’s national director of education and has also served as

the NAICC national certification board chairman. “Clark is the agronomic authority in Geneva,” said Ryan Hassebrook, Servi-Tech’s eastern Nebraska manager. “When growers are looking for someone to improve their profitability and efficiency, Clark’s name comes up.” Hassebrook added: “I salute Clark for his dedication to his customers and our company.” In his personal life, he is the council president at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and is the new president of the Tri Point Parish. He is a former agronomy adviser to student FFA teams who competed at the Nebraska State Yield Competition. In 2014, they won first place; in 2015, the team placed third in the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge. Poppert has also received other awards throughout his tenure at Servi-Tech. In 1998, he was named Employee of the Year and in 2006 he was named NAICC’s National Agronomist of the Year.

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About Clark Poppert Years at Servi-Tech: 28 Hometown: Geneva, Nebraska Consults on: Corn, seed corn, soybeans and alfalfa in southern Filmore and northern Thayer counties.

Aerial Imagery

New Offering: Servi-Tech’s CropView Program Best Option for Aerial Imagery using a drone, and saves the time and labor of even attempting to compete using a drone. The price per acre of this service is such that just about every customer I take it to is surprised and interested.

By Michael Murphy Senior Agronomist CropView is high quality aerial imagery. The service is available in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota. It includes three images with every flight, including natural color, NDVI (plant vigor), and thermal. You can use a single image or a comparison of images to determine if there are issues in a particular field. Each image type has the unique ability to find stress in a field before being visible with the naked eye on the ground. If a potential area of stress is detected in an image, you can use the application on a smartphone or tablet to ground truth the area of concern. This service can cover 1,000 percent more acres per day than can be covered

What we think:

This kind of offering can set us apart from competitors. It can be a tool that allows us to scout/monitor fields with a level of precision that customers are expecting from their equipment and inputs. CropView can be a new offering that can get you on farms and into offices that have been out of reach. It helps us create new relationships with those people because it doesn’t feel like we are selling them something, but we are introducing them to a tool where they see potential. We are also offering a simple tool to help detect crop stress earlier, mitigating the potential for yield loss.

program details

8 a.m. Takeoff

4 p.m. Landing

5 p.m. Upload & processing

• Frequency: 12 flights in season taken every 10-14 days • Quality: 7-inch resolution • Imagery types: Natural color, thermal, and NDVI image with every flight • Delivery: Images will be viewable within the same website as soil moisture sensors The Cover Crop June 2017


Getting started with CropView doesn’t require an investment in new equipment, intensive training, or yearly fees or subscriptions to maintain access. The pricing structure is a simple per acre model. We see it as a tool to precisely apply crop scouting to a field, the same way we would other inputs, such as feed or fertilizer.

recommendations to our customers. We have to stay attentive to the imagery and what it shows for each customer so it does not become a flashy gimmick that came and went. CropView is simple and easy to access by design, giving the customer the ability to quickly view and react to information in the imagery. What you bring to the equation is the knowledge and experience to help your customer understand the images. We can build CropView into an essential tool for crop scouting.

What we’re doing:

We are bringing it to farmers, retailers, and advisors in crop production. The more acres we get enrolled in CropView, the more we can learn from it, and use that knowledge to make better, quicker, and more accurate

Types of Imagery

natural color


Thermal infrared

natural Color: This is how the field looks to the human eye. The image is enhanced

for better sharpness and contrast than a normal photograph.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI): Crop vigor is determined using both visible and near-infrared light. Blue is healthy. Red is stressed.

Thermal infrared: Healthy plants are cooler because there is more transpiration.

Stressed plants are warmer because there is less transpiration.

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boots & technology By Greg Ruehle Servi-Tech President & CEO

I am proud of this unique offer, and am anxious for our owners and customers to learn more about it as well.

Boots If you know much about me, you know I am a “boots The term “boots” in this article refers to the bootsguy” for several practical and less than practical reasons. on-the-ground agronomic services that have been the The heel of a boot helps support my less-than-healthy cornerstone of Serviback. Also, boots Tech’s business offering kind of fit the Growers are becoming more sophisticated in their demands – environment they expect a trusted advisor backed by cutting-edge technology since 1975. Throughout the years, this book of when you live and solid economic information. - Greg Ruehle business has grown to in Dodge City President & CEO over 1 million acres and southwest contracted and scouted Kansas. But this article is not about my penchant for boots, rather annually. Senior agronomists carry individual books that exceed 15,000 acres, plus offering soil sampling, seeding about how Servi-Tech can offer the best of both worlds to and fertility recommendations, soil moisture monitoring, our owner-cooperatives and their patrons. Those worlds include boots-on-the-ground agronomic expertise, coupled and host of additional services. To say that these services have evolved over the 40+ year history of Servi-Tech’s with cutting-edge technology that fills the gap between history would be a gross understatement. visits to the field.

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Technology Like crop consulting, technology services continue to evolve. From precision placement of seed and fertilizer, to aerial imagery, soil moisture management and comprehensive tools to measure a growers return on investment within management zones in a field, the rate of change is staggering and continues to grow. Through our dedicated LLC, Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services (STEPS), a team of experts is constantly evaluating the range of options, and fine-tuning the offering to ST agronomists and to our shareholders as well.

Servi-Tech can work directly with growers, or through partnerships with retail. While Servi-Tech is not involved in seed, fertilizer or chemical product sales, most coops are not making weekly field visits. Clearly, our services complement each other, rather than compete or overlap.

Why Servi-Tech? Business as usual is no longer enough – mergers and acquisitions among large and small entities are changing the landscape for each of us, let alone the impact of lower grower profitability on purchasing decisions. Growers are becoming more sophisticated in their demands – they expect a trusted advisor backed by cutting-edge technology and solid economic information. The time is perfect to revise the offer and renew our partnership! Servi-Tech can work directly with growers, or through partnerships with retail (remember article about working with owner-coops). While Servi-Tech is not involved in seed, fertilizer or chemical product sales, most coops

are not making weekly field visits. Clearly, our services complement each other, rather than compete or overlap. I certainly recognize there are other offers available, including other scouting, lab services or technology products and services. But I challenge you to find another offer that combines all three necessary components in a seamless offer, without competing in sales. And by the way, your ownership stake in Servi-Tech pays patronage to your coop based on business done by your coop and your patrons. This last point is important, and also what sets Servi-Tech apart from other ag service providers. Sixty three farmer-owned cooperatives across Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas hold the ownership interests in ServiTech. Our success is tied to your participation.

Why not? The argument I hear frequently about why coops choose not to work with Servi-Tech revolves around the perceived notion that Servi-Tech does not specifically recommend your products. Over this spring, we have had several very successful discussions with coops that have included thorough discussions about what products they offer and why, so our agronomists can recommend solutions with confidence and from a more informed position. If you would like to schedule a similar meeting, contact Chief Crop Service Officer Steve Soden or your sales person.

Servi-Tech Sales Staff Steve Arens

William Kerschen

Steven Burback

Dane Knudsen

Charles Carter

Jessica Kolo

Lincoln, Neb. (402) 326-7082

Offerle, Kan. (620) 255-4275

Juniata, Neb. (402) 705-1820

Lincoln, Neb. (402) 613-0194

Colfax, Iowa (515) 250-2533

Petersburg, Texas (806) 670-2325

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The new STEPS gateway and integration device is pictured in a Nebraska field in 2016.

new kid on the block Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services releases new gateway and integration device By Ryan Meister Director of Technology Development Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services has seen many Profilers installed over the past several weeks. TheProfiler helps producers manage their irrigation systems by providing frequent soil moisture readings from the field straight to the desktop computer or mobile device. Soil moisture conditions can change rapidly and are impacted by a number of factors, so having current and accurate information is vital during the growing season. Growers have relied on the information coming from TheProfiler for several years with data reliably being delivered from a location that best represents the field’s majority soil type. This season, STEPS will be deploying

hardware capable of monitoring several locations in a field. Monitoring one location in a field is certainly better than none, but to capture the high level of soil variability seen in many fields, TheProfiler+ can be utilized. Soil variability makes irrigation management more difficult, being able to know the soil moisture levels in several locations within a field will give growers the ability to fine tune their irrigation applications. Watermark sensors continue to provide quality data. We will be installing watermark sensors at four depths in multiple locations in the field. Soil texture samples will be taken and delivered to our lab to verify the water holding capacity of the soil at each site. A small box, which will deliver the soil moisture data, is installed at each location. The watermark sensors, along

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with a soil temperature sensor, will be connected to the box. Once the sensors are connected to the box, the box will be powered by two “AA” batteries. These batteries will power the box for the entire season without the need for a solar panel. Since there is no solar panel, all the equipment can be installed much closer to the ground. The lower installation will make it easier for field operations like spraying to happen with less threat of contact with the boom. The multiple locations of watermark sensors will then communicate wirelessly to a gateway. The gateway will be mounted on the pivot near the pivot point in most cases. A solar panel will be used to power the gateway eliminating the need for 120 V outlet. All of the data from the devices installed throughout the field will pass through this gateway and be sent to the cloud, then displayed on the portal and “TheProfiler” app which can be found on iOS and Android mobile devices. The gateway will serve an additional purpose. Not only will it deliver all the soil moisture data, but will provide information about the pivot as well. When the gateway is mounted on the pivot, the pivot’s status, location and distance traveled over the past 24 hours will be reported. The pivot’s location will be shown on the map with the locations of the soil moisture probes throughout the field. In addition to the soil moisture and pivot information, fields enrolled in CropView can view in-season imagery all in one place. CropView is airplane acquired imagery with 7-inch resolution. A natural color, NDVI, and thermal image is delivered with each flight. Pairing imagery with soil moisture data gives the user more information about the crop health around TheProfiler. Misapplication of irrigation water can also be detected with this type of hi-resolution imagery. The portal is a centralized location to see information about plant heath and irrigation management. The goal of the portal is to deliver timely information to growers to help make the best decisions for a given field. TheProfiler+ goes one step further down the road of irrigation efficiency. Monitoring soil moisture in additional locations will give growers more confidence in the irrigation decisions they make.

TheProfiler+ is pictured earlier this year in a field in Nebraska.

Austin Bontrager with STEPS installs TheProfiler+ in Nebraska last month.

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Left: 25 corn leaves came into our lab for a plant tissue sample. Right: After the corn leaves are dried and ground up, the lab runs tests on a sample that fits in the palm of your hand. Submitting enough sample is crucial to getting accurate lab results.

8 MOST COMMON PLANT SAMPLING MISTAKES By Fred Vocasek Senior lab agronomist


Not enough sample: Samples that are too small can keep labs from completing all of the tests or can eliminate the ability to rerun a sample or add additional tests. Solution: We only use about a teaspoon of dried and ground sample for final analysis, but that requires a fairly large amount of wet sample. A good guideline for leaf tissue is to submit at least a “softball-sized” sample. That is enough packed sample to fit in the space formed when finger-tips and thumb-tips are touching. If sampling long-stem grains or grasses, submit a tight bundle of stems that is a bit larger than the circle formed by your thumb and fore-finger.


No growth stage information: The number resulting from the lab analysis is meaningless unless it is put into some type of range (“deficient,” “sufficient,” etc.). Those ranges usually change during the plant’s life cycle, so growth stage is essential to match the right interpretation with the right lab result. Solution: Include a description of the growth stage with sample information. Terms like “tillering,” “full bloom,” “6-leaf,” ”R2,” etc. are very important


Wrong plant part: Interpretations are developed for specific plant parts, which may change between growth stages. The wrong plant part means a wrong

interpretation. Solution: Sampling the entire plant is usually needed in the establishment and very early growth stages of most plants or in the later growth stages of grass-type plants. If leaves are the proper plant part, there is no need to send the whole plant. The “most recently emerged, but mature leaf ” is a common plant part to sample before flowering or pollination. For broadleaf plants, this is the first leaf from the top of the plant that is fully developed and full-sized. For corn and sorghum, it is the first leaf from the top of the whorl with a fully-visible collar. At pollination and after, the proper plant part is often the leaf closest to the seed structures, i.e., ear leaf or flag leaf.


Including the roots: The nutrient-laden soil that remains attached to the roots will contaminate the rest of the plant tissue, giving us a meaningless result. Solution: Whole plant samples should be cut off about a half-inch to an inch above ground level. Roots are not proper plant parts for nutrient analysis. If disease is suspected, submit a separate sample to the Extension Plant Pathology or the Plant Diagnostic Clinic of the local state university. Check with them for proper handling and shipping procedures.

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You can access proper plant sampling guidelines at the website, under the “Resources” tab, and the “Articles” dropdown option.


A series of our downloadable Crop File technical guides have detailed information about the proper growth stages and plant parts for many different crops and plants.

Shipped in plastic bag: Plastic bags trap moisture. We might ultimately receive a silage sample rather than a plant sample. Solution: Using paper bags to collect plant samples helps to start the drying process while en route to the lab. Drying halts plant growth and metabolism that can destabilize tissue nutrient levels.

Sample not representative: Collecting a single plant from a single spot tells us nothing about the field condition. Solution: Plant tissue sampling, like any other sampling, is useful only if the sample represents the field condition. Check the Crop File “Sampling Plants for Analysis: General Guidelines” for recommended procedures.

possible situations. Solution: The best technique is to compare pairs of samples: one from the “bad” area, one from the “good” area; a pair of plant samples coupled with a pair of soil samples. If the soil levels are adequate, but plants are deficient, throwing more fertilizer at the problem may not be a solution. Compaction, weather changes, hybrid or variety differences, and other factors need to be evaluated to identify the source of the problem.


Damaged, dead or dirty samples: If the plants are too far gone, tissue analysis tells you nothing. Solution: Look at the field and separate it into three areas: the “good,” the “bad,” and the “ugly” (Clint Eastwood fans will catch the reference). Don’t sample the “ugly” area that includes the very worst looking plants. Sample the “bad” area that includes the margin or transition between the “ugly” and the “good” areas. Compare “bad” and “good” plant samples. Taking soil samples from all three areas is very useful. Don’t forget to check the root system growth in all three areas. Roots are the connection between soil fertility and plant nutrition.


Collecting a single “bad” sample: Diagnosing a field problem requires more than just one plant sample. There are many variables that affect plant nutrient levels, so one set of interpretation ranges can’t cover all

Welcome! Servi-Tech Hires Kansas Manager Ben Tipton believes that standing behind a service is important. As the new southwest Kansas territory manager at Servi-Tech, he said it’s also important to him to drive to be the best in the industry. Ben, who lives in Mulvane, Kansas, started his new position in late April. He said he was immediately interested in the job at Servi-Tech for a few reasons. He’s had colleagues who have worked for Servi-Tech over the years, and that Servi-Tech is known for being a leader in the ag industry. “Servi-Tech has always been one of those companies that stood out in the ag industry,” he said. What Servi-Tech offers to its customers, including crop consulting and new technology through STEPS, also made him interested in the job. “I’m looking forward to helping people find a need for a service that they at one time did not know they needed,” Tipton said. “I’m pleased and excited to introduce Ben Tipton as the new Southwest Territory Manager,” said Steve Soden, chief

crop services officer. “I’m excited to see the energy and professionalism that he will add to the territory, and the experience that will benefit the territory and Servi-Tech.” Ben comes to ServiTech from Wickman Chemical, a retail crop protection supplier, located in Oxford, Kansas. As the lead sales Ben Tipton representative, he built customer relations, was responsible for solving current cropping needs and trained staff members in chemical recommendations. He and his wife, Kara, have one son, Colten.

The Cover Crop June 2017


Meet a

Board member at Southeast Community College’s ag program in Beatrice, Nebraska for 11 years. Making a transition back into private industry I worked in sales and business development at Farmers Cooperative in Dorchester, Nebraska for four years and have now been working at Farmway Coop for 4 ½ years, currently leading and supporting growth of our agronomy business in a 10 county area. I am involved in our local Lutheran church here in Beloit in a variety of ways, enjoy gardening, landscaping, carpentry, beekeeping and keeping up with my folks on the farm just north of Belleville, Kansas. I really enjoy helping young people develop their careers in agriculture and help extensively with our Farmway Coop agronomy internship program, among other responsibilities.

Jeff Jensby Agronomy manager, Farmway Cooperative For each edition of The Cover Crop, we feature one of the members of the Servi-Tech board of directors. This edition we sat down with Jeff Jensby to talk Servi-Tech, cooperatives and the future of agriculture. How long have you been on the Servi-Tech board of directors? I became an associate board member two years ago and was appointed to be a regular board member mid-year 2016 to fill a vacated position. I was elected to the board officially at our most recent annual meeting this year in Salina. Tell us a little about yourself. My wife, Lorraine, and I have a daughter, Julianne, working in Washington, D.C., and a son, Ross, working in Kansas City, Missouri. I began my ag career as a Cargill Hybrid Seed territory sales manager in Kansas for one year and then in southeast Nebraska for 12 years. I then taught agronomy and ag business

What excites you most about Servi-Tech and the upcoming future? What excites me most about Servi-Tech and the future is the technology transfer from other industries into agriculture and the role Servi-Tech can play in that exciting endeavor. Good management on the farm will continue to be rewarded and Servi-Tech’s team of people can play a key role in helping producers add more to their bottom line with the sound, agronomicbased decision making resources that Servi-Tech provides. How has Servi-Tech benefited your cooperative? Servi-Tech has benefited Farmway Coop by helping add “boots in the field” that expand our team. Consultants help us service our owners better and expand the whole network of agronomic information exchange to make Farmway’s entire agronomy value proposition to the grower top notch. We look forward to growing our relationship with Servi-Tech into the future!

Consultants help us service our owners better and expand the whole network of agronomic information exchange to make Farmway’s entire agronomy value proposition to the grower top notch.

The Cover Crop June 2017


Member Coops Team Up with Servi-Tech By Kaci Davignon Communications Specialist With the agriculture economy struggling to rise above challenges, cooperatives have become creative in how they do business. Perryton Equity Exchange and Progressive Ag Coop have teamed up with Servi-Tech to build creative partnerships that promote both organizations to grow and prosper. “Being a member-owned coop, it is imperative that we help our owner members grow,” says Chief Crop Service Officer Steve Soden. “The partnerships we have built with these owners not only helps the coops, but us, as well. That was why Servi-Tech was created. We are here to help meet the needs of members and their constituents.”

One such coop, Perryton Equity Exchange, found a need within their customer base in the cotton industry. Since customers within the area do not have the generational experience in raising cotton, the group reached out to Servi-Tech to provide assistance. The partnership includes a full service, irrigated offer to their members. Within this partnership, Servi-Tech provides the boots on the ground experience, while the coop provides the product and supplies needed to help out the grower. “It’s a win-win situation for both parties,” says Greg Ruehle, CEO of Servi-Tech. He continued: “This partnership helps all parties involved. What a great way to support our member cooperatives, and still hold true to

Perryton Equity has partnered with Servi-Tech to provide agronomic knowledge in the cotton industry in the Texas Panhandle. our roots -people making the planet more productive. The farmer has always been our number one priority. This agreement helps our organization provide a much needed service to an area. We couldn’t be more excited to expand and offer our years of experience and knowledge to folks who can benefit from it.” The second cooperative that has partnered with Servi-Tech is Progressive Coop based in Danville, Kansas. Progressive Ag offers both full season and a limited check program. Servi-Tech’s Kansas Territory Manager, Ben Tipton, said: “We are excited about this partnership and are trying to help them grow as a coop.

The Cover Crop June 2017


This is a great thing for both parties, allowing Servi-Tech to grow as an agronomic institution, as well.” Steve Soden added: “All in all, our organization is ecstatic about giving back to our member coops. This is a great opportunity to grow within the ag industry, doing what we do best.”

News from Around Servi-Tech Southwest Kansas

A lot has been happening in the territory. We have been receiving a lot of moisture over the last several weeks throughout our footprint, making it a lot more difficult to get crops in the ground. There has been some talk about prevent plant in the Greensburg to Larned area. Corn, cotton and soybeans are being planted in in the southern areas of the territory currently with some milo in the west. Dryland corn acres are up on average this year due to sugarcane aphid pressure forcing some peoples hand to find a different alternative to sorghum. Profiles in southwest Kansas are full and have a lot of farmers thinking of pushing the envelope to look at double crop or continuous crop a few acres. Central Kansas is rocking and rolling with wheat harvest currently, with yields all over the board. Hearing averages of 30-70 bushel in the country with low protein in some of it. Double-cropping is going to be a big push between rains in some areas. Beans will be the ‘go-to’ for these acres and with a few double crop corn acres scattered around. We have been pushing of aerial imagery out in the territory and are really liking what we are seeing with the resolution and clarity of these images. We will be working on collecting soil and tissue samples on a lot of acres. Grid sampling will see a big push in the coming months to get us

ready for wheat this fall.

Eastern Colorado

As I sit here writing this update on June 6 there are still a substantial number of irrigated and dryland acres in northwest Kansas that are not planted. The area that had the heavy snow has continued to stay wet. In the area between Goodland and Colby, Kansas, heavy moisture has stymied most attempts to plant. One report showed 12” of moisture in the last month. There are surrounding areas with the same issue, but it is more concentrated there. Growers have decided to take the prevent plant option with crop insurance on some of these acres. Anything with cover has been about impossible to get equipment in and what has been planted has been “mudded in!” Full moisture profiles with great burndown weed control and excellent soil cover are just staying too wet. Stands that got planted have generally been good. There has been some corn frozen, but it seemed to recover okay. Of course, there has been some hail damage. The wheat crop is another strange situation. We have found stripe rust in almost all fields across the territory but in some situations two fields 4-5 miles from each other have very dissimilar infestation levels. Not necessarily related to variety, either. It seems like it may go back to when the spore shower occurred and what the leaf moisture was at that time. That means some untreated fields that hadn’t seen an increase for three weeks, all of a sudden lost substantial leaf area in the last 10 days. Wheat prices have not encouraged growers to treat every acre, but there will definitely be some fields

The Cover Crop June 2017


that stripe rust effects final yield. Lots of virus activity, and usually it is wheat streak mosaic virus. Just another interesting start to a crop production season!

Central Nebraska

Solid interest still abounds with composite, zone, and grid sampling. Our staff continues to process soil sample work orders for our customers at an increased pace now that the frost is out. It is noteworthy to say that a good share of the grid orders coming in are on new ground or on fields that were last sampled 5+ years ago. We generally recommend grid sampling on a 4 or 5-year frequency and many fields are at or beyond that time span. It is just as important now as ever to stay current with the fertility levels and trends. As of late, we have been promoting aerial imagery and have partnered with TerrAvion who will be doing the flying. The offer consists of a 12 flight program with three different images included. Those images are native, thermal, and NDVI. Image resolution is at 7-inch, which far exceeds satellite imagery resulting in a much cleaner and clearer picture. Imagery turnaround time is expected to be 24-48 hours, allowing us to put boots on the ground for timely inspection of suspected trouble areas and the potential to provide timely solutions. We think this will have a great fit for those fields that we service with remote soil moisture sensing and/or provide limited service field inspections. The earlier than normal warm weather pattern has allowed winter annual weeds to break dormancy and that is a signal for us to start scouting no-till fields for weed pressure.

Farther south into Kansas, herbicide applications have started. We encourage our field staff to stop in at our local owner locations to discuss product recommendations in an effort to support our partnerships moving forward.

Our goal is to develop joint offers for growers that will improve their profitability and be a win for both Servi-Tech and our owners. We look forward to seeing those of you in eastern Nebraska soon.

Eastern Nebraska

Iowa crops are now off and doing well for the most part after a rough start just like everyone else had: cold wet weather during planting, then clouds and more cold for several weeks, then the sun came out and summer started! Our Iowa crew are cleaning up last minute grid sampling from our retailers and are in the thick of things for scouting. We did encounter an outbreak of armyworms in fields that had cover crops in them this spring. They moved from the cover crop into the corn and soybeans and were feeding, so those were sprayed where needed, saving the crop. You just never know what’s going to get thrown your way. Fortunately for our customers, we were there to catch them. Now is a good time to start the fall grid sampling discussions with our group, so we can plan accordingly for help in the field. Let us know if we can be of assistance and have a good summer!

One thing that has been predictable this spring: it’s been typically unpredictable. Each growing year continues to bring new challenges for our customers in eastern Nebraska. After a week of great planting conditions in early April followed by a cold wet snap, we still saw a decent crop emerge. Though a little uneven, the corn crop is really turning the corner, hitting the nitrogen and starting to grow quickly. Soybean fields had a few setbacks with PPO injuries and crusting that reduced stands, but they are also starting to look good. Post sprays are hitting fields quickly and we are actively helping our growers control weed outbreaks and manage those hard to kill weeds. We have been eagerly awaiting images from the first few rounds of CropView flights. So far, the thermal imagery has been helpful with planting and replant decisions. We are hoping to see even more opportunities to address in-field challenges as the crop canopies with CropView. Profilers and the new TheProfiler Plus installs are also in full swing. We are excited to have the multi-site soil moisture offering expand our services for our customers. In the coming months, Dane Knudsen, our eastern Nebraska sales representative, and I will be pushing hard to build and grow our relationships with our retail partners.


Dodge City Laboratory

What is the North American Proficiency Testing (NAPT) program? It is easy to overlook the value of external check sample programs and assume that everyone knows what they are and why we participate. The NAPT program is an activity of the Soil Science Society of America. It is quarterly exchange that includes 20

The Cover Crop June 2017


soil, 12 plant, and 12 water samples per year. Participating laboratories analyze the samples and report the values to the program. This is not a certification program as such, but the data may be used by some states to certify laboratories for soil testing. There are over 150 laboratories participating in the program. Program results are compiled and reported back to the participants. Median and median average deviation (MAD) are used to set warning limits and control limits for each test. This is an excellent way for our laboratories to compare results with each other and across the industry. If we see results for a particular test consistently falling out of the warning or control limit ranges, then we know to investigate and look for reasons why this is happening. Although the NAPT program itself is not a certification program, there is another option called the Performance Assessment Program (PAP) which uses data from the NAPT program and measures laboratory performance against the median and MAD ranges for soil pH, buffer pH, electrical conductivity, nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, and organic matter. This is a voluntary program. Results are compiled annually and laboratories meeting the PAP criteria are listed as passing laboratories. If you have questions regarding laboratory performance in the NAPT program at any of our locations, please contact one of the laboratory managers. The lab locations and phone numbers are listed on the next page.

The Cover Crop A Quarterly Magazine for Servi-Tech’s Owner Cooperatives

Dodge City Hastings 1816 E. Wyatt Earp Blvd. 1602 Park West Drive Dodge City, KS 67801 Hastings, NE 68902 620-227-7509 402-463-3522

Amarillo 6921 South Bell Amarillo, TX 79109 806-677-0329

All rights reserved. The information and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the board of directors, executive management team, or other staff of Servi-Tech, Inc.

The Cover Crop  

A quarterly magazine for Servi-Tech's owner cooperatives & lab customers - Summer 2017 edition

The Cover Crop  

A quarterly magazine for Servi-Tech's owner cooperatives & lab customers - Summer 2017 edition