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Here’s how prescription agriculture can boost yields

Tom J Bechman planter monitor screen
DATA COLLECTOR: Note the information displayed in the middle of the planter monitor screen on organic matter, soil moisture and more. It’s sent to the cab from Smart Firmers on the planter.
This is just one example of how you could make better management decisions based on data collected on your farm.

Technology that allows you to collect more data in the field than ever before and use that data to make crop management decisions is here. You can buy it today, and more is coming, says John Fulton, an Ohio State University Extension specialist.

He recently told Indiana certified crop advisers through a virtual session that prescriptive agriculture is the wave of the future. Collect and store data, then use it to make prescription maps to program equipment to make succinct changes in input rate or even input choice on the same pass across the field — that is prescription agriculture at its core.

Fulton also noted that OSU Extension is testing a number of these new technologies with implications for crop management in on-field trials across Ohio. Many involve county Extension educators working with farmers, with support from OSU specialists and faculty where needed. It’s called eFields: Connecting science to fields. In 2020 alone, 218 on-farm research sites in 39 counties in Ohio were carried out.

2 examples

The 2020 eFields Research Report illustrates how growers can use technology available today to collect data and develop field prescriptions, which result in potentially more profitable management decisions.

Check out the eFields program for yourself at digitalag.osu.edu. Once on the site, click on “efield on-farm research” in the top menu bar. You can download a free copy of the full 2020 report. Here are two examples:

Soil planting data. In Clinton County in southwest Ohio in 2020, an on-farm trial compared three seeding rates, 26,000, 30,000 and 36,000, to a variable rate prescription determined by data on organic matter collected on the field with SmartFirmers from Precision Planting. It was a replicated trial with four replications, as noted in the eFields report.

The field was divided into two zones of above 2.5% organic matter and below 2.5% OM.  The variable rate treatment varied seeding rate depending on OM, while the seeding rate across the field for the set seeding rates remained constant.

The variable seeding rate based on a prescription prepared from the Smart Firmer data produced the highest yield. It was significantly higher than the 26,000 and 36,000 seeding rates. Although it wasn’t significantly higher than 30,000 at 0.1 least significant difference, the actual yield was 8 bushels per acre higher.

The conclusion was that organic matter was a useful tool to delineate input zones for corn seeding rate in 2020, the report concludes.

Wing downforce for corn. Planters can be equipped today with hydraulic cylinders to transfer weight to the wings from the center bar on central-fill planters, Fulton notes. A study at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in Madison County, Ohio, compared transferring from 0 to 600 pounds of weight to the wings on a corn planter. A statistical difference was found between 0 and 500 pounds of downforce on the wings, 300 and 600 and 500 and 600 pounds of downforce. Based on this one study, 500 pounds of downforce on the wings would be recommended.

A similar study at the same site with soybeans showed no statistical difference in soybean yields between treatments, the reports note. Based on field conditions in 2020, 900 pounds of downforce on the wings appeared to be the recommended setting to keep the planter level. All settings produced good soybean stands.

TAGS: Crops
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