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Familiar Insect Pests Haven’t Gone Away
Pest Damage Still A Concern
‘Good Bugs’ Forage For Cotton’s Bad Guys
Understanding Data Crucial In GPS
Web Poll: Cotton’s 2011 Logistical Challenges
Cotton's Agenda: Delivering Early And Often
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Understanding Data Crucial In GPS

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As the popularity of on-board GPS technology continues to increase among producers in northeast Louisiana, the same questions continue to arise.

What can I do with these colored maps, or I have multiple years of data and have no idea what to do with it. Is this investment in technology worth the cost?

Some of this confusion and frustration is due to the lack of training or education on how to interpret or manage the vast amount of data being collected.

It is our estimate that 60 percent of the equipment in northeast Louisiana has GPS technology onboard. Some may only be using it for guidance to maximize the efficiency of their equipment and reduce operator fatigue.

Others have yield monitors on harvesters collecting harvest weights along with moisture for yield maps. Many farmers have collected multiple years of data and can’t go to the next step of interpreting this data and developing management plans to become even more cost effective.

Maximizing Profitability

This is where we see our role as GIS Extension educators, working with producers to help them get the most from their equipment. Our main focus has been working with producers and their harvest data, identifying areas, then determining the cause for differences and developing a plan to maximize profitability. Some answers can be simple, others more complicated.

As GIS Extension agents for the LSU AgCenter, we work with producers who utilize the equipment to the maximum and with others who are just starting to learn. A good beginning project for producers is to verify whether their current nitrogen rates are producing the highest returns.

The producer applies two nitrogen rate strips, one with 30 pounds higher than their standard and another 30 pounds lower. At harvest, yield data is collected and analyzed, comparing the two different rates against the producer’s standard rate.

This demonstration accomplishes several objectives for the producer. They learn how to use their equipment to record an application, collect the yield data and then complete the analysis. Producers have long cooperated with Extension agents who have crop variety demonstrations, and this is another avenue to learn how to collect and use yield data.

They are able to see what the yield data records for each variety are compared to weigh wagon results. This teaches the importance of proper calibration and how variety results can differ with yield monitors.

Data Management

The biggest hurdle producers face today is the amount of data they are collecting. They have larger farms, multiple crops along with crop rotations, and producers have a lot of data to manage.

We are trying to persuade producers to think in terms of normalized yield rather than bushels and pounds. Using normalized yield, they are able to combine multiple years and multiple crops to see a field’s potential over time.

We have started a precision ag blog to help farmers effectively use the technology in their own operations.

The blog at www.lsuprecisionag.wordpress.com gives producers tips and examples for using precision ag. We chose the blog to distribute the information because the material can go out quickly in that format.

Dennis Burns and R.L. Frazier of the LSU AgCenter in St. Joseph, La., contributed to this article. Contact them at 318-766-3320.

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