Producers in the Southern Unit-ed States have been slower to adopt precision ag technology than their Midwestern counterparts. However, the same benefits provided by precision ag tools to those producers are here for the taking in Southern row-crop production.
Part of the problem can be in knowing where to start. Ed Barnes, Cotton Incorporated’s Director of Ag Research, suggests a simple way to start is with aerial images.
Simple Way To Start
“If you are somewhere where you can get an aerial image of your fields, then get one image at mid-season with about 50 percent canopy coverage,” he says.
“If you look at that image, and that field looks pretty uniform, then maybe you don’t need to mess with any of these things. What most people find is that things are far more variable than they thought.”
When looking out of the window of an airplane, Barnes says, more often than not, you can see a lot of variability in the soil.
Make It Variable
Jay Holder of Holder Ag Consulting in Ashburn, Ga., says the cost of fertilizer has certainly spurred interest in precision ag and, more specifically, variable rate application.
“In the last five years, I have seen more interest in sampling by zone and even from producers who have their own trucks for variable rate applications,” he says. “We are getting to where we can variable-rate nearly everything. I even know a producer who plans to use variable rate to plant his seed this year.”
Holder says he also knows some producers who are planning to buy boom control technology for variable spray applications.
“I don’t know the cost of the equipment, but if you run across enough acres, then it will eventually save you money,” he says.
Use What You’ve Got
AutoSteer technology has been readily adopted in his area for planting and digging peanuts. However, Holder says, if that’s all they are doing, then the producer is missing out.
“We are learning that AutoSteer will do a lot more than just help you dig peanuts,” he says. “You can keep records on it for whatever you are doing in the field.”
Amy Winstead, Regional Extension Agent for Precision Agriculture from the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in Madison, Ala., says producers in her area are quickly adopting the systems.
“The guidance systems, even the ones on the low end of the spectrum or the entry-level guidance systems, are being used by producers for many applications on their farms,” she says.
“In cotton, they can use it to put out defoliants. In pastures, it reduces overlapping. Even producers who thought it wasn’t for them are using it.”
Yield Map Says It All
Barnes says yield monitors are a missed opportunity, and he is surprised that more producers aren’t taking advantage of this technology. Although it requires putting the yield monitor on the combine and downloading data, the yield map is really where the rubber meets the road.
“That’s the only way to see at the end of the year if what you did has worked,” he says. “How else can you really verify what is working or is not working on your farm?
“With just a yield map, you can start to see areas of the field where you are losing money at the end of every year.”
That is valuable information.
Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Can These Precision Ag Tools Do?
• Aerial Image – See the variability of the soil or crop.
• Yield Map – Learn where inputs worked and didn’t work; know areas that consistently make money or lose money; identify parts of the field to stop planting.
• AutoSteer Technology – Use to reduce overlapping of defoliants or other sprays.