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Dr. Angela Guidry of SGS Brookings attended several trade shows and conferences relating to precision agriculture and crop services over the summer. Below she summarizes some of her highlights.

InfoAg 2009, Springfield, IL InfoAg is held every other year, opposite the International Conference on Precision Agriculture, and provides a great environment to catch up on the latest and greatest information related to Precision Agriculture. This conference offers ample opportunity to hear speakers from across the country on topics ranging from new software and hardware to on-farm trials to how to build your precision ag team.

Everyone loves a Top 10 List, and this year Dr. Steven Phillips, Director for Southeastern USA of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) summarized the 10 reasons why understanding variability is important:

10. A large variety of guide technology software is available. Using this will ensure seed and fertilizer are placed to maximize potential
9.  Our models to predict weather and crop growth are becoming better. With satellite imagery poor areas of the field are easily detected
8.  Managing fields by management zones (based on field nutrient values, crop history, soil type, etc.) gives you the upper hand.
7.  You can make a difference by providing input into your local and state nutrient management planning legislation.
6.  Maximize crop yields by placing crop inputs (seed and fertilizer) where they are needed
5.  Maximize your profit by fertilizing and seeding to the field’s maximum potential
4.  Place fertilizer where it is needed and don’t put it where it is not needed. By doing this you are saving money and protecting the environment
3.  This year is NOT last year. Yield will vary from year to year in a field, and figuring out what is causing that variability will improve your Return On Investment
2.  No two fields are the same, so why treat them the same with fertilizer applications? Create specific fertilizer applications for each field by using grid soil sampling
1.  When you understand your field variability, you are able to make the right management decision.

Dr. Paul E. Fixen of the IPNI always gives a great talk, and this year he updated us on U.S. nutrient budgets and trends between 1987 and 2007. Factors affecting nutrient use over the last 10 years include:

  • Bio-energy use of crops resulting in different species being planted and plant parts being harvested
  • A change in manure composition due to feeding distillers grains
  • Climate effects on crop yield, cropping patterns, and soil processes
  • Fertilizer costs
  • Crop prices, and
  • Government policy

As you begin to build your Precision Ag Team, keep the following in mind.

  • Identify local players. Find out what hardware they have and who their precision partners are.
  • Determine your precision priorities and philosophy. Put down your goals on a sheet of paper, for two years, five years, and 10 years. Build your team around this plan.
  • Figure out how many people you need to meet your objectives. A good team has a vision of where they are headed and is always looking to learn more about how technology can be used to meet goals and objectives. Good team members are willing to be cross-trained, understand the vision of the team, work toward visions daily and delegate projects to members with expertise.

SGS has been a leader in soil sampling, testing, and fertilizer recommendations for precision ag for more than 15 years.  Contact your local SGS representative to find out how to use SGS as part of your Precision Ag Team.

American Society of Agronomy North Central Branch Meeting, Wisconsin Dell, WI This summer I made my first trip to an ASA North Central branch meeting. This meeting was an excellent opportunity to learn about current research from graduate students in the region. Industry experts were also on hand to provide information to graduate students about making the transition from grad school to the workforce.  

I will highlight my three favorite talks of the meeting this year. As always, feel free to contact me (Email) if you have any questions.

Dr. Blevins of the University of Missouri reminds us that Potassium is involved in every step of protein synthesis. In a typical alfalfa crop, 42 tons of potassium is taken up with crop removal. Boron is also important in cell well development and he reminds us that not all cell walls are the same!
What about Manganese? Manganese (Mn) is very important for the enzyme that creates CO2 for fixation in leaves of C4 plants. Mn also feed nodules in soybean root systems.

Dr. Scott Murrell of the IPNI gave an update on Nitrogen (N) use under various cropping systems. Under a soybean/corn rotation, if you apply 100lb N per acre to the corn crop, you can expect about a 150bu per acre yield. Under a corn/corn rotation, apply 130 lb N per acre will yield roughly 130bu per acre. For soybean/corn/corn rotations, N use and expected yield falls somewhere between the soybean/corn and corn/corn rotation. After a soybean crop, you can expect a greater organic N pool than inorganic N. Dr. Murrell also showed data that supported the thought that corn shows less response to added N when the field has had a high historical rate of N application (160-250lb N per acre) and corn shows more response to added N when the field has had a low historical rate of N application (0lb N per acre). Iowa State University has put together an N Rate Calculator to shed light on how much N to apply. This calculator is not based on a soil test, but instead the calculator uses previous crop information. This tool will provide you with information on the Maximum Return on N application based on N and corn prices.

Dr. John Shanahan also shared information with us about Nitrogen (N) use. Do you notice low N use efficiency on your field?  If so, it is likely due to a large pre-plant N application prior to crop uptake or a uniform application to spatially variable landscapes. SGS can help you improve your N use efficiency by conducting site specific soil sampling and creating variable N fertilizer application files.  

For more information on any of these events or for information on how SGS can help you increase your return on investment, please contact:

Dr. Angela Guidry
t: (800) 692-7611
Website: www.cropservices.sgs.com

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognised as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.