Getting the most from every acre

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Farm Forum

Information about new techniques and technology is constantly streaming to farmers from agronomists, dealers, farm publications and neighbors. The biggest concern for farmers is how would those ideas work in a real situation, and more importantly, will it work in their fields?

About 180 farmers gathered near Bath last week for the Summer Precision Summit 2015 to take a look at plots where samples showed, instead of varieties of seeds, different ways to apply farming techniques to provide better yields. With the current economic situation, the producers want to study the results to make sure ideas would pay their way.

Critical issues included: How will foliar in-season applications work? What difference does downforce make in planting corn and beans and at what speed? What about split applications of nitrogen in corn and beans? What about soybean population and how do treated vs. untreated soybeans compare?

Farmers walked the fields to see results with ears of corn laid out so they could count rows and they could see how the cobs have filled out. Soybean pods were counted and roots were examined.

Brent Wiesenburger, Wheat Growers precision ag manager, urged producers to, “Challenge yourself on what yields should be or could be.” He said if there are zones in fields that should make 200 bushels per acre, then harvest 1/1,000 of an acre and see where the yield is at, find out the limiting factors, and see if it’s a row issue or a weed issue. Wiesenburger said to start with checking out the simplest things.

He emphasized the work being done with multi-hybrid planters is important to the future of the industry. He believes the use of this precision technology it will push farmers through the yield barrier on fields in the next 10 years.

“There is a tremendous opportunity in seeding using a multi-hybrid machine,” Troy McKown of Precision Planting explained. “By managing those tough zones and playing the differences in the field off each other, there is a potential for more bushels.”

McKown said that on the north side of the road near the plots there is a field with a high alkaline level and ugly salt ground. That would call for a hybrid that plays defense pretty well.

He contrasted that with well-drained, good ground on the section where the plots were featured. If both those sections were in one field, then normally the north field would lose when the choice was made to plant a race-horse variety to take advantage of the soils in the good field, he said. By using the multi-hybrid system, a defensive hybrid could be planted and instead of getting 20 or 30 bushels per acre, the defensive hybrid could potentially yield 80 or 90 bushels an acre.

“You have to play to those differences,” he emphasized.

McKown said their company had 17 planters up and running in fields this year. Wiesenburger said Wheat Growers used a multi-hybrid planter on 1,400 acres of corn and 1,600 acres of soybeans this year, and there will be many more acres next year.

McKown cautioned the farmers to pay close attention to the data being generated and to read closely any privacy documents they are asked to sign.

“Big data will be a huge part of ag in the future,” McKown said. “It’s tough, in season, to take the extra 15 minutes to input good data. But you need to take the time to make sure the field name is right, the data is compiled correctly and record the treatments and application methods. By making sure you have good data, that will ensure you can make use of it in the future.”

“Each monster machine has the ability to do more,” Dustin Christofferson of Wheat Growers said. “A lot of farmers don’t take advantage of the yield data, and they need help taking that off the monitors and putting it into a program. You guys are progressive. Because of that, Brent likes to keep us focused on what is coming down the pipeline that can be used to improve your operations.”

Joe Airheart, Wheat Growers precision ag specialist, said the 360 Y-drop system has been immensely popular with growers. However, he said that planter maintenance is vital to getting good seed placement in the first place.

“We can’t emphasize enough that farmers still need to check behind the tractor with a shovel,” Airheart said. “The seed needs to make contact with the soil. You can plant the best hybrid, but if the planter malfunctions and you don’t catch it, you won’t get the yield.”

Fundamentals count

Basic agronomy means getting the right yields from that acre or from that zone, Brad Ruden, director of agronomy tech services said. “We need every bushel we can get, on every acre. But we manage that complex biological system one plant at a time.”

“The number one issue is doing a good job with planting,” Ruden said. “If that seed doesn’t get out of the ground, nothing else we do will make a difference.”

“I want my corn to be happy in order for me to be happy,” he said. “If the plant runs out of nitrogen, it’s not happy. That’s lost potential that I can’t get back.”

That’s where the additional side dressing and foliar feedings can make a difference. It comes down to managing the stresses, Wiesenburger said. He said the plots can show whether or not a farmer go without a seed treatment or a fertilizer application, and if so, what the cost is in potential yield.

Y-drop for spraying

Josh Messer, of 360 Yield Center, explained how the 360 Y-drop Advanced Fertilizer Placement Application System for sprayers is designed to give increased control over when and where nitrogen applications are made for crops. Meant for full-season applications, the device can be installed on most sprayers, including self-propelled, pull behind and high clearance sprayers. Messer said additional applications of nitrogen are needed because 75 percent of nitrogen is utilized after the V10 stage in corn.

Messer said that the nitrogen keeps the plant green longer in the season, which impacts the yield. Getting adequate coverage through the canopy helps to optimize the nutrients getting to the plant. The Y-drop nozzles are able to spray sideways, vertically, and straight back to provide adequate coverage with the applications to push the potential of the plant.

Messer noted that the Y-drop can help with white mold. He said that the Carrington, N.D., research center is using the Y-drop system to do research on white mold.

“Agriculture never ceases to amaze me,” Ruden said. “We have to be efficient, and we have to be profitable. We have to maximize potential by not leaving anything on the table.”

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