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Plan ahead and order inputs timeously

August 2015

We all know the phrase time management. It would be great if we could manage time to suit our needs and deadlines. But, it always runs out, just when we need it the most. Unfortunately time can’t be managed. Each second will tick away into eternity…No one can stop the clock.

However, we can manage ourselves to best utilise the time available to us.

In agriculture the only thing we have to wait for, is the weather. Just like time, it can’t be managed. Unfortunately some of us take a well-deserved break after the harvest and wait for the rain, or new season to awaken us into action. By then, it is often too late to realistically evaluate input needs, compare prices and place orders for timeous delivery.

Remember. The most important activity in farming is planting. You reap what you sow. If you start badly you are sure to fail – a whole year of opportunity down the drain. So, be well prepared.

Many of you, reading this article have experienced problems with access to inputs, close to planting time. Suppliers are trying to catch up on backlogs and you have to wait your turn. Truck drivers are on strike. Power failures or labour disputes at warehouses or fertiliser depots. The worst being – no stock.

So we compromise and take what is available. Or we are forced to wait for the inputs – we end up planting too late, or at the wrong time. A recipe for disaster!

Let us look at what we can do with regard to the main input components for crop farming.

Consider the following actions immediately after the harvest

Fertiliser and soil nutrition

  • Soil evaluation – soil samples or estimates based on previous yield. Most soil analysis companies give a recommendation, based on the current yield as well as future crop expectations.
  • Fertiliser representatives are also trained to interpret soil analysis results. Discuss your next crop with them, (recommendations, volumes, price and discounts).
  • There are always discounts available for early orders and early delivery.
  • Lime is best applied long before planting time.
  • Calibrate your planters/spreaders as soon as you receive your inputs.


  • Evaluate your crop. Check the performance of the hybrids against the national statistics and the promises that were made. Discuss this with the seed company representatives.
  • Decide on the crop you intend planting the following season.
  • Consider crop rotation which is essential for crop farming – especially with limited tillage or no-till operations. One important benefit of crop rotation is the containment, or hopefully, destruction of specific disease spores that affect specific crop types – year on year.
  • Consider the size and shape of the seed that best suits your planter and soil. The most popular sizes are sold out very quickly. When you are planting with a seed unsuited to your planter or soil type, you are asking for trouble.
  • Most seed companies offer discounts on a sliding scale, month to month – the longer the wait the lower the discount.
  • Calibrate your planters as soon as you receive the seed.


  • Ask your chemical representative to evaluate and examine the weeds that are evident after the harvest before tillage – it is difficult to see exactly what is happening once the soil has been tilled. The choice of your next crop might also be determined by the extent of a specific weed problem. For example, it would be more difficult to control an olieboom infestation whilst planting broad leaf crops.
  • Calibrate your sprayers in time. You don’t have to wait for the products. Make sure you get it right. Most chemical representatives are keen to assist. Their reputation is on the line. Use their expertise. If your representative is unable or unwilling to help you – find one that can. Be fair and ask for assistance timeously – they are extremely busy during planting time.
  • Chemical companies use different brand names to market their products. Become familiar with the chemical composition (ingredients) of these products and use this when comparing prices and recommended programs. At the end of the day, the easiest way to make a decision is to compare cost per hectare for each recommended program.


  • Diesel is another major input but prices are not controlled by fuel companies and discounts are more related to volume than timing. If you rely on bulk deliveries, make sure you have sufficient diesel for at least two weeks of planting – long before the time.

In all cases, ensure that you see at least one other company for comparison. Loyalty is an important factor, but it is prudent to keep up to date with products and services available from other suppliers.

Don’t believe that the “second mouse gets to eat the cheese” – in agriculture it is “the early bird that gets the worm”. Don’t be caught in the rush. Things always go wrong when we wait until the last minute!

Get all the above done early and then relax and wait for the rain. Good luck with the next season.

Article submitted by Raymond Boardman, Farmer, Consultant and Mentor from Ventersdorp, North West Province.
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Publication: August 2015

Section: Pula/Imvula