LONDON — Farmers face technology coming more quickly than ever before, according to agriculture professor and industry expert. This can be frustrating when choosing which equipment to use to increase profit margins and fertilization efficiency.
“Do you have the capacity to apply the nutrients where they need to be applied?” asked Dr. Scott Shearer, Professor and Chair at the Ohio State Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. He says farmers should consider their existing complement of equipment and what tools can be added to be more effective for nutrient management and increase profit margins at the end of the season.
Dr. Shearer spoke on Equipment and Tech Panel at the Precision University Nutrient Management Conference Jan. 11 at Beck’s Hybrids in London. Topics included key pieces of technology and equipment to advance nutrient and fertilization management. Also on the panel was farmer Nate Douridas, Molly Caren Agriculture Center (Madison County) and farmer Lee Radcliff, Radcliff Farms (Pickaway County).
Douridas has been utilizing aerial imagery for about five years, comprehensively for two seasons, he says.
“I think as we build a database, we learn to read imagery, take that to the field,” said Douridas. “There can be a lot there, especially as we look at late season opportunity.” He also began to use manned aircraft flights, which deliver 10 to 13 images per growing season.
But they can also learn a lot from their zero nitrogen sufficiency check strips, “and a lot can be learned from those strips in different fields and different zones across the cornfields.”
For Radcliff, understand what integrated agriculture has put together has been beneficial. He emphasized that his farm has a lot of variables and is “kind of a mixed bag.”
“The first step of where we’re going is the standard. And if we don’t have that, we have nothing,” said Radcliff. “If we can’t get a good, uniformed standard and good uniform emergence in what we’re coming through with the variability we’re working with, we’re already in a hole.”
Radcliff says they’ve been integrating as much technology as they can afford. He will focus on the technology that will help them react before it’s too late. “We can be quick to apply a product when it’s a saving grace,” said Radcliff.
Dr. Shearer touched on remote sensing, although he says that it may not be for everyone. “How do we sense when there are nutrient deficiencies,” he said, “and do those early enough so that we can go out there and apply nutrients to help prevent any yield loss?”
He says the better a farmer can delay the nitrogen application the more opportunity there will be to adjust the crop, such as the split application two or three times per years, aspects they are starting to study at Ohio State, trying to get answers for producers.
“I don’t know that I am necessarily a big advocate of late season application,” Dr. Shearer said. “But I think we’re going to have to figure out how to use it and how to be effective with it.
“Withholding that last application could be where the profit is, too. Let’s not forget that.”
Shearer says the other aspect to look at is placement of planting, such as 2 by 2 and tools for regulating salt accumulation.
“For some people it’s going to be 2 by 2 placement,” said Shearer. “For some you’re going to look at maybe applying nitrogen behind the row units.”
In the future, Douridas says he will watch and evaluate the dual placement 2 by 2 to determine if there is a fit for him. He has also purchased a turbo till to minimize the potential phosphorous loss out in the field.
“Part of our phosphorous is put on with the corn planter in the 2 by 2,” said Douridas. “But we have that salt concern, so right now all of our pot ash is broadcast in the fall.” He recently transitioned from a mounted tank on the planter to a large capacity pool tank, which “gives us the flexibility of more acres and more volume.”
But he says they can also learn a lot from their zero nitrogen sufficiency check strips, “and a lot can be learned from those strips in different fields and different zones across the cornfields.”
For more information on these topics, visit the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering website: www.fabe.osu.edu.