Harvest Insights and Working with Remote Soil Probes

We got harvest wrapped up on the 28th of October, which is very early for us. Usually we finish harvest around the 7th to 10th of November, but we didn’t have any rain delays this year. Normally we’re waiting on dry air and fighting rains, but this year it was impossible to harvest corn fast enough. We were harvesting irrigated corn at 13% moisture, and we certainly lost yields because we were harvesting corn that is too dry.

But overall harvest went well. Some fields came in above expectations, and a couple came up a little short. It was a little disappointing, but overall I’m happy with how things went.

We had a very “generous” spring in terms of rain. It was too much of a good thing, and we experienced pretty significant nitrogen leaking, which caused big swings and differences on the yield stands. To address it, we added more nitrogen to nearly every field in different ways, just determining what would get the best results.

Gauging Success

A lot of what my AYS Jeremy and I worked on this year was repeating what we’ve done before. We continued our work with variable seeding and variable nitrogen rates, fine-tuning where we want to be with those. I also worked with AgVenture’s agronomist on additional seed treatments and regulator products. We haven’t yet run the analysis on those, but we’ll see results in the next few months.

This year we also did a blanket application of fungicide. For the most part, I don’t regret that. I only had two dryland fields that really came up disappointing, but I also harvested some corn that had no fungicide application, and it was an absolute train wreck. It suffered a 50 or 60-bushel loss from what we expected because of stalk quality. Certain varieties are more susceptible to stalk rot, and without laying on the additional fungicide, it really showed through.

The Cropping Plan

For the most part, I know the crop rotation for next year, but we’re a long way from getting the actual crop plan set. That’ll be in the next month or so, but we’re also still waiting on research on the fungicide and seed treatment we did last year. Once we get that done, we’ll have a better idea of where we want to go moving forward.

As for choosing varieties, each year we try to fit one or two new ones in the mix. I have one or two this year that I will pull out, but we’ll also expand on the ones that did really well. From what I can see based on overall yields, it seems like we had good response with the longer-season seed varieties. But just a week being done with harvest, it’s hard to tell.

Remote Soil Probes

Looking to next season, we want to really expand our use of remote soil probes. For the past two years, we’ve been using probes to gauge moisture and nitrogen levels in the soil. We can come in to the office in the morning and look at the data to help schedule irrigation.

Right now, we’re using three high-dollar probes that are very specific. What we want is to use a larger number of smaller, more affordable probes to get more information across our fields versus a great amount of detail on a small area.

We also want to bring in more of the remote pivot controlling to automate our irrigation with data from the probes. The system we use is absolutely fabulous — it’s able to keep the grain in condition and let us harvest at 15% moisture across the board, rather than corn on top being 17% and corn on bottom being 13%. It’s just a matter of being willing to spend the money up front to get the technology.

The overall end goal is to automate all of our water and nitrogen applications, using one network, one system and one computer program. From what the sensors tell us, that determines what starts and stops the pivot — and when to speed up or slow down the pivot as needed. I still haven’t gone full into the variable rate irrigation like I thought I would be at this time, but getting that system in place will help.