Farm Progress

Spatial data field trials enhance corn product placements.

July 27, 2017

3 Min Read
BETTER DATA: Spatial data trials allow testing just like farmers farm — going across the entire field to see how different products react to different soil types, drainage areas and yield environments.

An advanced, new approach for conducting field trials is designed to help farmers optimize yield potential by more accurately placing different corn products based on varying field conditions.

A traditional market development plot is relatively small (perhaps 300 to 500 feet long) with multiple different corn hybrids planted. It has uniform soil and field conditions, so the yield comparisons between different products are fair and reliable. This trial format is well-suited to comparing different products against each other in a particular environment, so they are still conducted extensively.

However, technical agronomists for the Dekalb corn brand are relying on a more data-driven approach this season throughout Iowa and the Corn Belt, known as spatial data trials. The objective is to provide a more precise way to determine the placement of different corn products based on varying types of soil conditions and field environments to help farmers maximize performance on every acre.

Maximize performance of corn hybrids
Spatial data analysis also enables more effective use of multi-product planter technology and increases the reliability of prescriptive planting.

Jim McDermott, Dekalb/Asgrow agronomist at Spencer, says spatial data trials are much larger: typically a quarter- to half-mile long. Using a well-calibrated combine yield monitor, data is collected every two or three seconds as the combine travels through the field. GPS yield points, he explains, are geo-referenced to the particular environment that generated them. Unlike a single yield number with traditional trial plots, spatial data monitoring can result in several hundred yield results within the field.

“Spatial data trials allow testing just like farmers farm — going across the entire field and getting a chance to see how different products react to different soil types, different drainage areas and different yield environments,” he says. “They are key to helping more accurately place products in growers’ fields, especially in the early life cycle.”

Trial criteria
McDermott says farmer fields are selected carefully to participate in the spatial data trials based on the following criteria:

• A minimum of 1,000 feet of row length is required.
• Fields should have a minimum of two different intersecting soil types.
• Each soil type must have a minimum 300 feet of harvest distance.

Technical agronomists monitor these unique trials closely throughout the growing season, taking notes on emergence and early growth, disease differences throughout the year, ear fill characteristics and finally standability late season. These observations across many different environments provide agronomists with valuable information to help optimize product placement.

At harvest, the agronomists collect and analyze the data not just from a single local location, but rather from multiple spatial data trials across numerous, regional geographies. This information will be used to help farmers make planting decisions for next season, including those who have prescriptive planting software on their planters. 

Climate FieldView support
For 2017, the Climate FieldView field data monitoring tools are being used as part of the process to enable easier sharing of results with farmers and dealers participating in the trials. This system enables farmers to collect, store and view their field data in one easy-to-use digital platform that can be accessed from the field, office or home.

FieldView supports building a customized plan for each field to manage variability and help maximize yield potential with variable rate planting prescriptions and nitrogen monitoring tools.

“With the tools we have to analyze the thousands of data points for each Dekalb corn product, the chance for success in a farmer’s field is increased greatly,” McDermott says. Farmers participating in the trials also see a benefit. “Farmer cooperators experience the value in seeing how products, especially new products, do in their own soil types and yield environments,” he adds. “The real value comes when these thousands of data points are consolidated for meaningful, statistically valid data by soil type, drainage class, rotation and yield environment. This type of data helps all growers in matching Dekalb products to their specific field situations.”

Source: Monsanto

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