These Four Investments Can Empower Your Conservation Goals
Updated: May 13
Harvest is over, field work is done. What’s next?
If you’re thinking about the investments that might make a difference in your 2021 financial statement AND your 2022 yield and conservation goals, look no further than these four precision ag technologies.
1. GPS systems: Many farmers have them, but many don’t. If you happen to be one of the have-nots, maybe 2021 is the year to finally invest in this “gateway technology” from which so many other conservation and yield powering opportunities grow.
According to Megan Dwyer, Agronomy Specialist and Co-Owner of Ag Authority, Inc, the first right step for someone just considering joining the ag tech revolution is GPS mapping technology. “From soil sampling to yield mapping, GPS opens up the door to making your data work for you.”
2. Minimize equipment overlap with shutoffs: A good GPS system and map of your field will help farmers minimize seed costs and fuel costs when also using row shutoffs. This technology shuts off the planter rows before overlapping another row that is already planted. You’ll love the look of no more overlaps in the end rows and every row lines up perfectly along your waterways or other curved property lines.
“Yield loss from double planted or overlap areas can easily reach 25-50 percent. Reducing or eliminating those overlap areas not only saves on seed, but helps preserve yield,” Dwyer said.
3. Variable rate seeding technology: This option requires not only the equipment costs, but also someone to help the farmer create a variable rate recommendation, which is a service Dwyer provides. However, the investment can offer big returns if seed costs are minimized while productivity is maximized.
“The key is to understand your soil type and soil fertility and optimize the number of seeds that your soil can handle. You don’t over plant, you don’t under plant. You grow exactly what the soil can support and while you’re doing that, you aren’t wasting seed or seed costs AND you aren’t putting a drain on your soil or natural resources,” said Dwyer.
4. Variable rate fertilizer technology: Pair variable rate seeding with variable rate feeding and you’ve got a match made … for the farm. Feed only the plants you have without over fertilizing, and you’ve not only decreased your fertilizer investment without decreasing your yield, but you’ve also improved the soil and water quality on your farm.
“Seed is the foundation to achieving a crop’s yield potential. Variable rate technology can ensure you are placing the right population for that soil’s capacity. If you also pair that with variable rate fertilizer you are maximizing your input investment and increasing efficiency,” Dwyer said.
She added, “Strangely enough, with variable rate soybeans, you decrease the number of seeds in highly productive areas so you also have a seed savings while not having a yield reduction, increasing your ROI.”
The best investment is made after carefully considering your goals and making the minimum investment to reach them. This year, the main goal might be to minimize fertilizer costs and applications. In that case, especially if you already have GPS systems available, consider variable rate fertilizer applications. If you are an early adopter, maybe even consider the newer technology that allows a fertilizer application right at the seed and not in between the seeds. The more precise your applications, the better for your conservation goals AND your bottom line.
“If you think about the old food pyramid, soil sampling would be the base layer that everything else builds from. It’s imperative to know your soil’s report card. Soil pH is probably the most impactful number to know. Nutrients are more available, herbicides perform more effectively, and crops grow better at certain pH levels. Knowing your soil’s current state helps make smarter decisions on how much fertilizer and where it needs to go,” she said.
Overall, Dwyer would recommend talking with a precision ag or conservation specialist in your area to determine the right investment for your farm. Every region is different, and every farmer is different.
According to Dwyer, farmers that have been on the leading edge of precision might be ready to invest in the most upcoming technologies. Remote sensing technology and targeted application of nutrients and crop protection products in-season is only going to continue to grow. She also predicts water management, even in geographies typically not considered to have a water problem, will also continue to evolve and present opportunities to improve efficiencies and generate returns.
All these opportunities to increase on-farm profits with an eye towards better conservation and environmental impacts. What a win!
Dwyer’s company, Ag Authority, Inc, provides variable rate agronomy recommendations (fertilizer, seeding), soil sampling, data collection and analysis. Ag Authority is also a Precision Planting, 360 Yield Center, Yetter Equipment, and SureFire Ag dealer.