Using Precision Data to Raise Yields
Every year, we track data on our fields and soil types, looking at factors like population, fertilizer and nitrogen applications. In the winter when we do our planning, we look at the results from the previous season and compile them with data from past years. I sit down with the AgVenture team and look at the issues we know affected us.
Once we look at the big picture, we do some fine-tuning with soil sampling. We match soil samples to the problem areas we saw on the yield map and start looking for correlations that we can take action on. When we know what issues we have, we can handpick varieties that are suited to deal with those issues. For example, we might change a hybrid based on how it handles pH issues, heavier soils, lighter soils, irrigated or dryland, and pivot or gravity forms of irrigation. We also look at our management practices and consider things like late-season nitrogen applications. If we decide we want to put on late-season nitrogen, we’ll use a hybrid that takes advantage of that practice.
Something we’re looking at that can improve the way we use our data is on-the-go infrared scanning and variable rate nitrogen applications. That’s really exciting to me, and it’s something we’re looking forward to incorporating when the economy improves. But with corn at these prices, we have to make sure we can justify the technological expenditures to do it. Maybe next season.
Determining Population with Data
In the meantime, we’re continuing to push production levels higher every year with our practical understanding from learning and discovery blocks. We’re still fine-tuning our bell curve on population by analyzing at what point we start seeing a drop-off in yields.
My AgVenture Yield Specialist, Jeremy, sees more than I do because he and his team work with many other operations. He’s finding that Producer A may see yield drawbacks at a 33,000 population on irrigated corn, but Producer B may not see those drawbacks until he gets to a 35,000 or 36,000 population.
Jeremy’s also looking at how many nitrogen or fungicide applications the producer is putting on. That’s where we start having fun. Jeremy is able to quantify all the data and decide how we can push things. We also look at where irrigation comes in. With higher populations, should we delay irrigation so the stalks don’t get too tall and spindly? Should we keep the plant a bit shorter on purpose and pour on extra water later? Those are all things we’ll hash out during the winter.
AgVenture could say, “You want precision data? Go talk to some other group,” or, “You want a soil sample? Go talk to someone else.” But Jeremy and the AgVenture Pinnacle team want to be hands-on and help with everything from start to finish. They want to be involved, so it’s pretty exciting. They keep me on my toes, and they don’t allow me to fall asleep and do the same thing over and over. It creates a pretty nice partnership.