Farmers looking to boost margins might gain an edge at the 2009 University of Missouri Crop Management Conference.

The use of technology and data to refine farming will be a key focus of the conference, Dec. 2-3 at the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center in Columbia, Mo.

“I think everybody understands that farming today is quite a bit different than 15 years ago, and when you’re making changes it can be hard to decide which ideas are good and which ones are bad,” said Peter Scharf, MU Extension agronomist.

“There’s a process to go through to look at things to improve your operation.”

Clay Mitchell will give the keynote speech. The Buckingham, Iowa, farmer earned an engineering degree from Harvard, which he has put to use on the family farm he operates with his father and great-uncle.

His embrace of controlled-traffic farming and centimeter-level automation of seed, fertilizer and chemical application technologies tailored to his farm helps minimize waste and maximize gains.

Scharf believes Mitchell can give farmers a useful perspective on how to make decisions about using new technology.

“Clay thought of things that no one had ever done before to improve his operation,” Scharf said. “A person on the forefront takes more risks. There might be some stumbles when trying things no one else has, but a careful and thoughtful decision process allows them to get into something when it’s really profitable and is more of an advantage.”

Sessions cover topics like sensors to direct variable-rate lime applications, aerial photos to evaluate nitrogen loss and guide rescue applications, and using precision ag software to analyze data. Researchers will also address weed management strategies, biofuel crops and fescue toxicosis.

For more information and to register, call (573) 882-4349 or go to http://muconf.missouri.edu/cropmgt/.

Cost is $105 per day or $160 for both days.