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Become a Farm CSI

March 12, 2013
By: Ben Potter, Social Media and Innovation Editor google + 
ken ferrie profit college

Precision ag technology can help you solve mysteries in your fields

When crime scene investigators (CSIs) arrive on the scene, they look for clues that will help them solve the mystery and catch the culprit. In the same way, farmers can play detective and become crop scene investigators by using precision ag technology to analyze data and identify in-field problems and solutions.

But before you can analyze useful data, you must collect it, says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal field agronomist, speaking to a group of about 100 farmers attending the 2013 Farm Journal Profit College this week in Fishers, Ind.

"We can micromanage fields today like never before," he says. "If you do a good enough job, the field will tell you what it needs. You just have to listen to it."

Ferrie says there is a variety of valuable information that farmers should collect, including:

• Accurate soil testing

• Soil types and topography

• Yield maps

• Ground-based sensors

• Aerial photos and remote sensing

• Your own knowledge

After data are collected, farmers can use their sleuthing and ground-truthing skills to the test. For example, using thermal imaging from aerial photography can unveil hot spots in the field.

Precision ag provides the "what" — the farmer/detective then must diagnose the "why." Is a field anomaly caused by applying too much or too little irrigation water? Is it due to soil type? Is it a drainage issue? Does the field have a unique history that is causing a change?

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