It used to be, the only way to determine what exactly is going on with your crop was to walk the fields and take notes. While there’s still no substitute for getting your boots dirty, some simple technologies can make the job of spotting and acting on in-field challenges a lot easier. Four seasoned, independent crop consultants—each chosen to lead educational sessions at Farm Journal’s AgTech Expo in December—share their best advice.
Use Free Apps or Just Your Phone
Watch for signs of poor nutrient uptake and soil compaction, among other things, and you don’t need elaborate precision equipment to do it. The technology on your smartphone will go a long way. Several free apps are available for download that enable you to identify issues, take a picture of them, determine their exact location for later and share with others such as your agronomist, consultant or retailer. You can do that through texting too, but it’s nice to have something with GPS that lets you drop a location pin so you can go back and find the exact spot. There are lots of free apps on the market today, including AgraScout, AgDNA, iSOYLscout, ScoutDoc and ScoutPro, to name a few. If you’re not comfortable with apps, just use your smartphone to take a picture of issues you see in your field, and many offer the ability to write directly on the image and share it later. - John Fulton, Associate Professor, Precision Agriculture, Machinery Automation, Nutrient Stewardship, Ohio State University
Test for Nutrient Deficiencies
June or July is a good time to identify nutrient deficiencies because at this point you still have time to fix a lot of them. Use apps while scouting to help narrow down what nutrient is deficient. For example, if you see yellow corn leaves, apps can help you get a better idea if it’s nitrogen or sulfur because both are yellow. Apps won’t tell you what to do, but they can help identify the problem. Pay attention to mobile nutrients such as nitrogen, sulfur, chloride, etc., because you can do something about them. You can also try test strips to see which nutrient is deficient by sidedressing two or more random locations across your field to see if there’s positive response to the nutrient you apply. When there’s positive response and the money’s right, apply that nutrient across the field. Test on both high and low ground and you’ll likely see a difference between the two.- Brian Arnall, Associate Professor, Soil & Food Crop Nutrition, Precision Nutrient Management, Oklahoma State University
Collect the Right Data
By now, most farmers have been told time and again they need to be collecting the “right data.” There are a lot of different types of data you can potentially collect, but here are a few good places to begin. Start with simple GPS/GIS field boundaries, and add in notes about variety information, plant populations and other details you might find useful. As new herbicide-tolerant crops become available, it gets even more important to treat data as not just an opportunity, but also an obligation to avoid potential herbicide misapplications. Also, make sure you’re recording every pass, whether you’re planting, spraying, fertilizing or harvesting. Some companies are even paying for data collection. For example, an ADM wheat compliance program is paying its participants $1.50 an acre. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s a start and is giving these farmers access to a market they might not otherwise get.- Steve Cubbage, Independent Crop Consultant, Record Harvest, Nevada, Mo.
Time Your Irrigation Right
My big concern this year, and we’re already seeing it, is people turning on their irrigation too soon, which could inhibit growth. Corn plants are lazy, and will pull water from wherever is easiest. If in the first week of dry weather you turn on the water, and you don’t make that corn search for moisture, it won’t develop the healthiest root system. Moisture sensors can help a lot. If you have sensors, make sure you’re getting the assistance you might need in deciphering the data they give you; it can be tough to translate all the information into actionable advice. If you don’t have sensors, walk your fields and use a soil probe to look at your moisture profile. Whatever kind of technology you use or don’t use, just turning off the switch and walking away for the summer is never the best option.- Cory Gilbert, Independent Crop Consultant, On Target Ag Solutions, Burlington, Colo.
Learn from John Fulton, Brian Arnall, Steve Cubbage, Cory Gilbert and others at a technology conference designed specifically for you. Register now and save your place!
Dec. 11–13, 2017
JW Marriott, Indianapolis