More and more frequently these days, building a farm operation doesn’t necessarily mean picking up more acres. It means doing better with the acres you’ve got.

For Tyler Boeckmann and his family’s farm just outside of Waverly in northeastern Iowa, improving efficiency and yield is the primary path to profitability. “We’re working on being better before being bigger,” Tyler said. “We just want to be better with the acres we have.”

Tyler, 36, always knew he wanted to be a farmer. As the fifth generation on the farm, he grew up fully immersed in the life, shadowing his father and helping wherever he could.
“I very rarely went to daycare when I was little because I was with Dad all the time,” Tyler said. “While I was riding along, I got to get behind the wheel a bit younger than I probably should have. By the time I was a teenager, I would run stuff while I wasn’t in school.”

After graduating high school in 2003, Tyler went to Iowa State to study agronomy, eventually finishing a degree in Agricultural Studies in 2007. He’d always intended to return home to the farm but didn’t know if the size of the operation would be able to sustain two families. When he entered college, the Boeckmanns farmed about 1200 acres. By the time Tyler graduated, that number had swelled to 1800, so he returned home to work. Today, he farms about 2500 acres of corn and soybeans with his parents, Dan and Kathy.

Now instead of picking up more acres, the Boeckmanns are focusing on fertilizer efficiency. Previously, they front-loaded the season by broadcasting a lot of nutrients and running anhydrous over conventionally tilled ground. Then, about 10 years ago, precision farming technologies improved enough for them to have more granular control over fertility placement and rates.

“As time has progressed, the ag industry has focused on doing more things in the row, and we’re still building on that,” Tyler said. “Instead of going full broadcast, we’re putting more in the furrow and following up with a Y-drop. We’re doing more all throughout the summer now.”

As their yields continue to grow, fertilizer efficiency has become ever more important. So this fall, the Boeckmanns began converting their acres from conventional till to strip-till, using the implement to place their full fertility prescription right within the strip near where their crops will germinate the following spring.

“We’re always trying to build our fertility up, but when you’re pulling 300-bushel corn out there, it’s hard to keep broadcasting 400 pounds of potash,” Tyler said. “As we keep pushing our yields up, with strip-till we can put on what our yield goal is going to be, right where the plant needs it and can get at it.”

Another way to increase performance on each acre is by focusing on improved plant health. Central to this strategy is selecting seeds with a complete treatment package. Four years ago, Tyler’s farm started raising Hefty Brand Soybeans, and they eventually also adopted Hefty Brand Corn; both crops are treated with Hefty Complete Seed Treatment, which is made up of dozens of components including insecticide, fungicides, inoculant, and Naturals. Each ingredient of these treatments is beneficial in a variety of field conditions, giving his plants their best chance at being more productive.

Tyler Boeckmann in the combine cab with his son, Colt, and his father, Dan.

“With seed treatments, the plant decides an awful lot before it reaches a foot tall,” he said. “A healthy plant is a high-yielding plant. Since we’ve been going with the Hefty Complete, it’s definitely a superior seed treatment with the yield response from the beans. We have less disease and we’re taking care of them with more fungicides and insecticides. Now, we’re seeing that in the corn, too. With the biologicals they’re doing, we’re seeing more yield potential, and it’s unbelievable what those guys are doing. The treatments on there, we’ve just seen better, healthier beans and corn.”

After raising Hefty Brand Soybeans for a couple years, Tyler became a partner grower in their soybean seed production program. Hefty’s uses rigorous production standards to ensure the healthiest possible seed. Although this does add some additional management throughout the season, the Boeckmanns recognize that these practices unlock more yield potential, so they have adopted these grower standards more broadly across their entire operation.

“We’re making more passes throughout the year, but we’re seeing better yields and better seed quality,” Tyler said. “And we’re taking those tactics to the rest of the acres. It’s a lot of work to keep making passes on beans through August and to keep your fertility levels up, but as a whole farm average, we’ve seen our yields moving up steadily. It’s been great to see our whole farm average get as good as it is.”

After years of observing the contributions of Hefty Seed in creating successful crops on their acres, the Boeckmann operation has now switched 100 percent of their corn and soybean ground to Hefty Brand. But it’s not just about the better yields. It’s about trusted relationships with agronomists who bring more knowledge and research to the table, allowing Tyler to continually improve every acre on his farm.

“It’s hard for farmers to change something that’s working,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot of good corn out there, but the guys have been really great at Hefty’s. They continue to do more research on products that we need while improving everything for us.”