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Fieldscripts preparing for launch in ‘I’ states, Minnesota in 2014

It’s all in the data. When Monsanto began work on its Integrated Farming System or IFS, researchers knew they would need a lot of field data to help farmers improve their yields with variable rate seeding. They just didn’t know how much or what kinds of data.

“One of the learnings we had from farmers this year was that we need to have more, higher quality data in order to write these Fieldscripts,” says Dave Rhylander, Fieldscripts Launch Lead with Monsanto, who was interviewed at this year’s Monsanto NPE Summit in Charleston, S.C.

“We had two different tests with farmers in 2013 – one where we didn’t get all the quality data and one where we got all the quality data we needed. And we saw very little yield response when we didn’t have enough data. Where we had the data that we needed to write the scripts we actually saw yield improvements between five and 10 bushels.”

Monsanto tested the Fieldscripts program with 150 farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota in 2013. Those four states contain the bulk of the nation’s corn acreage, and they also have the extensive dealer networks needed to help the program function.

Farmers are asked to supply two years of yield data and some soils information. Monsanto specialists take the data, match it to information they have on their genetics and write a Fieldscript. The latter is sent to the seed dealer who reviews it with the farmer. The farmer then decides which hybrid he wants to variable rate seed.

When the farmer makes his selection, he uploads it into an iPad and then uses the FieldView Plus app to move that over into the 20/20 planting monitor.

“The feedback we’ve had on the system test this year is that farmers have said it’s very simple, very easy, and it’s a lot easier than things they’ve tried in the past when they tried to plant variable rate seed populations across fields,” said Rhylander.

He said Monsanto plans to launch Fieldscripts in 2014 in the states of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and Minnesota. “Our plans are to expand it outside that geography once we have more genetics that we’ve tested, and we know how to write a Fieldscripts on them.”

Farmers need to be preparing now if they think they might want to try Fieldscripts in 2015 or 2016. Part of what Monsanto learned in 2013 is that growers need two years of yield data, and they need it to be from a year with near-normal yields.

If I’m a farmer, and I want to plant a Fieldscripts prescription in 2015, I need to start capturing data today,” Rhylander noted. “If I don’t collect data until 2014, then I’ll have to save 2014 and 2015’s data before I can plant with a Fieldscript in 2016.

“We’re asking farmers to save data from this year’s crop on some type of USB stick or other device because once you export that data to a third party for analysis we can’t use that data for Fieldscripts. The date also needs to cover at least 85 percent of the field.”

Monsanto researchers have also learned that farmers can save a year of corn yield data and a year of soybean data and turn it over to Monsanto for use in writing a Fieldscript for corn.

Drought conditions can also have a negative impact on data. “This year we tried to write a Fieldscript with data from areas where they had significant drought in 2012, and we learned we cannot use data where you have big deviations from historical yield,” he said. “So we need another year besides that one drought year.”

Another finding was that producers need to set realistic yield goals when they provide data for a Fieldscript. Rather than “shooting for the moon” farmers need to target a yield about 10 percent higher than the maximum they’ve ever had in a particular field.

What’s next? Rhylander says Monsanto has already been testing software for soybeans. Fieldscripts for soybeans could be available in 2016 followed by software for multi-hybrids.

“If we had a planter that could plant multiple hybrids as you go across the field, we would have the capability of writing a Fieldscript for that,” he said. “Let’s say if I had a relatively sandy area in a field, a farmer would be able to plant something like a DroughtGard hybrid there and then switch to a different hybrid as you move out of that area.”

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