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Southern States Launches New Precision Ag Program

Southern States Cooperative, a Richmond, Va.-based farm supply and service cooperative, recently launched a new precision ag program for its farmers across the Southeast. The three-tier program features packages – Discover, Evaluation and Analysis – designed to provide farmers with beginner, intermediate and advanced-level precision ag opportunities.

“Communication among the farmer, salesperson and precision ag personnel ensures that everyone is on the same page as to program expectations and timing of any particular service,” says Dave Swain, Southern States’ manager of precision ag. “If the farmer has a crop consultant who performs functions such as scouting, Southern States can provide the farmer with data or information, such as imagery, that the farmer can then provide to his consultant. The farmers own the data, and Southern States will not share their data with any entity without their written permission.”

Three Programs Available
The entry-level option features precision ag basics and allows growers to “dip a toe” into the waters of farm technology. It’s a season-long program designed for those who want to learn how agronomy technology helps provide information to make better crop management decisions. A combination of soil and tissue samples shows what is happening in the field and enables Southern States to work with growers to improve performance.

During the growing season, an agronomist completes in-field observations to identify differences in soil type, compaction, water-holding capacity, etc., that may impact yield. In-season tissue samples are taken at points corresponding to the initial soil samples that give a better understanding of nutrients available to the crop, and if there are any deficiencies.

The Evaluation program is a longer-term, more refined approach that establishes a baseline for crop management programs and monitors and evaluates crop progress. In addition to the services offered in the Discovery package, the Evaluation program starts with benchmarking the field with 2.5 acre soil samples. The Evaluation level also adds more in-season satellite imagery.

Years two and three rely on production sampling that includes soil sampling, in-season tissue sampling and visual evaluation of three specific points within 50-acre zones. This spot-checks and evaluates nutrient levels to ensure fertility recommendations are meeting the desired goals.

The most comprehensive package – Analysis – combines the Discovery and Evaluation programs and adds compaction samples and more data. It also provides a postseason evaluation that includes performance outlined by seed variety, crop protection treatments and soil type. Southern States also processes as-applied data, which enables the customer to have a digitized recordkeeping of all applications of seed, nutrients and crop protection products.

All three packages begin with a preseason evaluation and planning by geo-referencing soil samples to determine the right nutrient plan for the field to maximize potential from the beginning. A Southern States agronomist completes on-site analysis to verify crop health, respond to current conditions and determine if other factors are limiting the potential yield of the crop. A postseason evaluation uses yield data and maps that show the final production results.

“The data provide insights on changes we can implement the following season to improve crop performance,” Swain says.

Recipient Of Numerous Awards
Southern States operates its precision ag services on more than 2 million acres and has won a number of precision ag awards, including the 2014 and 2015 ARA Precision Impact awards and The Fertilizer Institute’s 2016 4R Retail Advocate Award.

Southern States Cooperative provided information for this article. Please visit southernstates.com/precision.