Determined Farmer Saves Farm with Help of the Maximum Farming System
When Chris Pettz harvested the last of his crops in the fall of 2005, he wasn’t sure what the future would hold.
“Five years after converting from flood irrigation to center pivot irrigation, I was seeing some yield loss. Our yields were actually declining with the new irrigation system, and herbicides and insecticides weren’t working anymore either. Everything was gradually declining,” Pettz said.
Pettz farms for non-profit landowner, Garden City Company, and the majority of his fields are located on a dry, salty lakebed. This created significant challenges for Pettz, which he has struggled with for many years.
“Then, our crops showed they lacked moisture, but they had plenty. They lacked nutrients too. We put a lot of fertilizer out, but nutrients weren’t getting to the plants. We always struggled and fell behind on yields. We couldn’t understand why,” said Pettz.
He watched his yields decline year-after-year, and with a family to support, Pettz was desperate for a solution. He chose to make an operational transformation that would enable him to continue his passion for farming.
“I got ahold of Mark Hill because I heard he started as a local dealer for Ag Spectrum products. I didn’t really know what it was, but I heard it was effective, so I called him. I was looking for something new or different to try because what we were doing wasn’t working,” said Pettz.
Hill invited Pettz to several informational meetings so he could learn more about the fundamental science and research that supports the Maximum Farming System as well as meet other like-minded growers who had overcome similar challenges.
“I went to several Ag Spectrum meetings early on which were great. But once we started the program, Garry Brumm, one of the Ag Spectrum owners, visited my farm,” said Pettz. “It was then that I realized that this was a company I wanted to do business with. They are good people. From my local associate all the way to the owners of the company, they all care about my success.”
With the passion and knowledge needed to take Chris’s farm to the next level, Hill, an Area Manager for Ag Spectrum, outlined the structure of the Maximum Farming System. With confidence in Hill’s firm leadership, Pettz made the decision to adopt the full System.
Higher Yields; Lower Inputs
“The first step we took was to better understand the challenges Chris was facing by performing soil tests by soil type and management zone,” said Hill. “Chris’s soil was crusty, salty, and had a toxic smell. It didn’t look healthy. Now, it’s loose and much more manageable with an earthier smell.”
With soil tests as a baseline, the team generated and implemented recommendations to bring the nutrient levels back to optimums and then focused on the plant’s needs. “For our fields, the System recommended a little less nitrogen and other inputs than what we had been previously applying,” said Pettz. “So we followed the recommendations of the Maximum Farming System and our yields started to improve. We thought ‘this is a win-win situation for us.’ It helped our confidence a little bit and it’s been really good for us.”
Pettz remedied his soil with the conditioner gypsum, which has improved drainage and prevents his soil from remaining waterlogged from its high sodium content. Now that his crops can easily access and utilize the nutrients, Chris has reduced his need for commercial fertilizer applications which in turn saves on his operating expenses.
Since implementing the Maximum Farming System, Chris’s soils have come to life. The new-found biological community provides the ideal environment for earthworms to thrive and naturally enrich the soil. “These are different soils than they used to be. For me, soil tilth is the biggest factor. The soils aren’t quite where I want them to be, but I’m a lot further ahead than where I was when Mark and I started. It takes time.”
“Although the use of gypsum and GroZyme seemed to have the greatest impact,” said Hill, “it has ultimately been Chris’s commitment to the entire system that enabled him to experience
drastic results. You can’t skip a step and expect the System to achieve dramatic results.”
In addition to creating a healthier soil environment, the Maximum Farming System has greatly improved yields for Pettz. In just the first year of implementation, Pettz saw rapid results. Yields that typically hovered around 150 bushel per acre jumped to nearly 200 bushels per acre.
“We farm some of the poorest soil that Garden City Company has and now it’s producing the highest yields over all of their fields. We feel really good about that,” said Pettz.
The Maximum Farming System recommendations have positioned Pettz to achieve not only higher yields, but exceptional quality, too. As part of the leasing agreement, the Garden City Company regularly tests the quality of grains harvested from their farms. Pettz’s wheat tests at a much higher quality than other farmers.
Positioned For Success
The Pettz farm, now in its third-generation, is located in southwest Kansas. The diversified farm that’s run by Chris and his four children, produces irrigated corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, dryland wheat and grain sorghum.
“Because of his size, Chris knows he has to do the absolute best that he can to maximize his yields on the number of acres he has,” said Hill. “Although Chris is farming the worst ground that Garden City Company owns, he has now consistently ranked in the top three growers every year for yields in this 27,000 acre company.”
The Garden City Company is in the process of transitioning managers as one man retires and a progressive, younger manager takes his place. “The Maximum Farming System has really helped the relationship I have with my landlord,” said Pettz. “The man who is retiring was a little reluctant for me to start the Maximum Farming System, but he gave me a chance because he knew I was struggling. Since then, he has had nothing but praise for it.”
Although Chris was once hesitant to take the first step of implementing the Maximum Farming System, he is now a believer. “Some farmers who are struggling now will be looking for a solution. They must realize that no single variable can make a significant difference. Rather, it takes a systematic approach focused on long-term goals and a commitment to every detail to achieve success,” advises Chris.
As Chris finishes planting this spring he knows he’s headed in the right direction. The changes he’s made and the commitment he has to the full System has brought him success and positions the next generation for a rewarding future in agriculture.