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Serving: MN
John Deere applicator in field Courtesy of WinField United
COMBINE BASICS, TECHNOLOGY: Technology can help you fine-tune routine crop management practices. Refine soil sampling, for example, to define zones needing extra nutrients.

5 ways to leverage early-season technology

Eye on Crops: Start with solid soil sampling data and build from there.

Using ag technology tools early in the season can help you understand the opportunities your farm holds and alert you to problems.

Tech tools can identify fields that have the most return-on-investment and yield potential, so you can allocate resources appropriately. Employ tech now to create a holistic farm plan to use as a guide throughout the 2019 Minnesota growing season.

Here are some of the areas where using tech tools early on can help you start the growing season off right:

1. Soil sampling. Soil sampling is often done in the fall. However, if there is spring sampling to do, use tech tools to define zones in your field. In-season imagery will help you target the zones you particularly want to focus on. Taking soil samples in different parts of the field ensures you know your nutrient levels, so you can correct any deficiencies early. Aggregating multiple years of data provides a more complete picture of your fields to help you determine which have the most potential.

2. Seed placement. Many tools combine plot data and in-season imagery, along with a farmer’s management style and soil types, to help determine which seed should go on which acre. Make sure you’re reviewing the data behind the seed you’ve purchased, and work with your crop adviser or agronomist to place that seed where it will perform best. Having a plan for which seed should be planted in which field will ensure you’re placing your investment where it has the greatest chance for success.

3. Nutrient management. Weather-based crop modeling tools give you an idea of what the future might hold and how that forecast could affect your nutrient applications. For example, would a wet spring mean applying a nitrogen stabilizer early in the season along with your nitrogen? Would a dry spring necessitate a later application?

Your soil samples will indicate if soil nutrition is adequate for the crop. If a soil test number reads low or very low, that means you have a high or very high probability that added fertilizer will result in a yield increase. Ask your agronomist to help you determine the best nutrient management decisions for your operation. Later in the season, take tissue samples to check that nitrogen-to-potassium and nitrogen-to-sulfur ratios are properly balanced, and to pinpoint any additional nutrient needs in your plants.

4. Scouting. In Minnesota, early in-season imagery taken from mid- to late-May can indicate where you have emerging weed issues. Identifying areas of biomass that indicate weed pressure means you can start managing it immediately, instead of waiting until weeds are limiting yield or at a growth stage where they’re harder to eliminate. As more herbicide-resistant and noxious weeds migrate to Minnesota, doing an early first-round herbicide application can bring benefits later in the season.

5. Data capture and retention. As you move through the season, be sure to accurately capture and keep a record of planting dates and seeding rates. Store this data where it’s easily accessible. Make sure you are correctly inputting data when moving between fields, or switching products or hybrids. Promptly update information within the monitor and recalibrate as necessary. You’ll appreciate having complete, accurate data to review at the end of the season, so you can correctly assess how things went and build a solid plan for next year.

It’s never too early to use technology to assist in your planning and decision-making. Work with your adviser to make the most of the tools available.

Ullrich is digital technology manager at WinField United. Contact her at


TAGS: Soil Health
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