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“Precision Agriculture”, “Variable Rate”, “Data Collection”, “Drones” – these are some of the key terms that are being used a lot in our industry right now. The trend towards Precision Agriculture is growing at an unbelievable rate; unfortunately it may leave you wondering where to start on your own farm. Precision Agriculture is a general term to describe more intensive crop management aimed at making every acre of your farm more profitable. Consider this: as you combine your home farm, you know every part of the field like the back of your hand- you know the areas of the field that always yield well, and the areas that always disappoint you. It would make sense to allocate more resources (seed, fertilizer) to the areas that always yield well and have great potential, and cut back on those resources in the poor areas. The end goal is that you make every acre of the field more profitable by using variable rate technology to allocate your resources accordingly.
The first step towards Precision Agriculture and variable rate seed/fertilizer is data collection. Some of the best data that you can collect on your farm is yield data. If you have a couple years of yield data the next step would be to identify ‘management zones’. These zones are the areas of the field that either historically yield well or yield poorly. We isolate these zones and soil sample them to figure out how to allocate fertilizer and seed. If you don’t have yield data, there are other ways to determine management zones. One way would be to grid-soil sample your farm to reveal any variability in fertility, texture or organic matter, but there are many other ways to determine management zones too!
There is a lot of interest in drones in agriculture. Drones can be an important tool during the growing season to assess soil health and aid in scouting fields. Drones equipped with specialty NDVI lenses measure the ‘greenness’ of the crop and help lead to early detection of diseases and insects like aphids or spidermites. You could also use this type of information from the drone to help you to determine how much additional nitrogen you would like to put on your corn crop.
There are so many different technologies available today, it can be hard to figure out which is worth trying on your farm. Precision Agriculture is growing and evolving quickly, come learn about this exciting technology alongside us and see how it can make a positive impact on your farm.
This Crop Corner has been written by Melody Robinson, Field Agronomist at Clark Agri Service. Melody can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 289-775-1188