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Data a key tool for farm profitability

The more information, the better management opportunities

Ron Smith, Editor

February 14, 2019

2 Min Read
R.L. Frazier, Madison Parish, La., Extension agent, chats with Kylie Miller, Extension agent in Concordia Parish, following Frazier’s presentation at the Ag Technology and Management Conference in Marksville, La.

One of the most important tools available to a farmer doesn’t come from an equipment dealer but from field history, routine testing, and numerous on-farm trials.

Data available from multiple sources allow producers to manage equipment and natural resources efficiently.

“The more information we have, the more efficient we can farm,” says R.L. Frazier, LSU AgCenter, Madison Parish Extension agent.

Frazier, speaking at the recent Louisiana Agricultural Technology and Management Conference in Marksville, La., said ongoing research and on-farm demonstrations show farmers the value of collecting and using data.

“We need to look for economical advantages,” Frazier says. “The highest yield does not always equate to the most profitable yield. We have to get over looking for the highest yield.”

Frazier showed results from several research projects to prove the point. Seeding rate studies in corn looked at plant populations above and below the recommended 34,000 plants per acre. “We pushed that seeding rate up by a certain percentage and we also decreased the rate by that same amount.

“We did not increase yield with the higher rate,” he says. One caveat, he mentions, is that the trial did not increase fertilizer rate with the higher populations. “That could have made a difference.

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“The most efficient rate was the standard recommendation,” he adds.

Soil test

Soil test and analysis, Frazier says, are critical to make variable rate fertilization feasible. “The more information we collect, the more we know about how much fertilizer and what analysis we need,” Frazier says.

“We need to consider soil types and pH, for instance. Then we can fine-tune spatial results so that it’s repeatable.”

He says producers should consider the four Rs of compatibility: Right location, Right amount, Right time and Right product.

“Timing is always a critical factor,” he adds.

“I’ve been following several podcasts and a frequent message is soil health. We have to get the basics right in the soil. If that’s not right, variable rate applications are just a waste of time.”

In some cases, recommendations are calling for annual soil tests, especially on highly variable soils. In some cases, they recommend decreasing grid size. “That’s a lot of samples and farmers have to balance it all against profitability.”

Frazier says farmers have a lot of data available through GPS, yield monitors and sensors. The next step is using that information to improve efficiency and profitability.

He also asks for farmer-cooperators to expand research into data collection and management. “We could use some volunteers for corn and rice,” he says.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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