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2015 Was a Year Filled with Learning

“Learn what is true in order to do what is right.” – Thomas Huxley, 18th Century English Scientist

Agronomists and producers have always known crop production practices impact success. For example, compaction diminishes yield, but exactly how many bushels does it steal? Higher plant population can produce greater yields, but at what point does the soil’s production capacity become a limiting factor? Which areas of a field benefit from high population and which areas will never produce more than an adequate yield? Where can I plant a high yield hybrid and where should I rely on a proven work horse?

Arial Crop Analysis

Today, with the use of precision farming tools, the agronomy team at Southern States® is working with producers to identify and quantify the effects of practices such as these. By asking questions, then combining various tools to collect data, we get a true understanding of each field. From there, we can offer the right answers to help move yields to the next level as well as solve in-season issues before they limit yields.

In 2015, production challenges were wide ranging and surprises were uncovered even within fields considered to be consistent and extremely well managed.

Within one field, soils classified as the same exhibit variability

Even a “dream” field can have variations that limit crop yields. One such field, classified through traditional soil maps and conventional soil sampling as 90 percent or more the same soil type, in fact, was not. Visual examination identified a rockier soil structure from one side of the field to the other. Geo-referenced soil samples were collected on a systematic 2.5-acre area rather than through random sampling. We discovered soil pH varied across the field from 6.3 to as low as 5.8. Because low pH restricts plant uptake of nutrients, yields would have been limited. Prescription application of lime in the correct amounts needed to move soil pH into the favorable 6.0 to 7.0 range was a simple solution to the problem, and costs were contained by managing over application of fertilizer.

A look down deep identifies compaction hidden by plentiful rain

The use of cover crops is an effective way to enhance soil structure, preserve soil moisture and manage soil erosion. However, simple use of a compaction meter on one well-managed field uncovered a problem hidden by timely, plentiful rain received this year. Cover crops did their job to eliminate compaction in the top 6 inches of soil, but the next 6 to 12 inches showed some compaction. At 18 inches, soil structure became so tight, root growth would have been stopped. Without timely rains in 2015, yields would have been limited. In conjunction with cover crops, tillage will be needed to break through the hard pan and get the soil structure back where it needs to be for optimal production in the future.

Imagery delivers in-season view across an entire field and early warning signs

Aerial and satellite imagery identify potential problem areas that need scouted, so issues can be identified. The imagery is a “road map” that leads the crop scout directly to the area so the problem can be identified, whether it be soil compaction, irrigation problems, drainage issues, pest damage, application skips or nutrient deficiency.

Imagery also can validate your decisions about pesticide applications, nozzle packages or variable-applied products such as growth regulators or plant populations.

Learn more on your farm

Precision tools offer more ways to learn about your farm in the quest to optimize production. Let’s visit about what you can learn about your fields using precision farming tools plus expert guidance from our Precision Farming professionals.

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