Visiting with several strip-tillers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan recently, they were willing to showcase off the early emergence of their corn. “Green and growing” was the diagnosis for most of the strip-tilled fields we walked, with a healthy amount of decomposing cornstalk or soybean residue in between the rows.
But those first few inches growth are only the beginning of the journey toward a high-yielding field. Between now and harvest, innumerable variables can either stall or skyrocket bushels per acre.
In recent years, agricultural companies have developed layered programs that monitor and manage in-field variables, such as fertilizer uptake, or nutrient deficiencies have emerged, giving farmers an opportunity to analyze data and decide what can be done to salvage an ailing crop.
Farmer feedback on the bottom-line value of these prescriptive-farming platforms is varied, and as more data is compiled, it will be interesting to see what, if any trends emerge to support the return-on-investment.
Harvard, Ill., strip-tiller Kyle Book is one farmer who is optimistic that the productivity gains will ultimately outweigh the potential management challenges of keeping tabs on in-crop health. Book is enrolled in Illinois-based Yield 360 Center’s, 360 Commander program, which provides soil, crop and weather data analysis.
He strip-tills about 2,400 acres of corn, and signed-up a few fields into the monitoring program this year as a trial, with the hopes of being able to diagnose any deal with any fertility problems that may arise. In mid-June, nitrate samples were going to be pulled from the enrolled fields to establish a baseline reading to track throughout the growing season.
“I’m not going to have data back to write a prescription for nitrogen sidedress, but if we get a rainfall event after sidedress, that’s when we’re hoping it pays off,” Book says. “We tend to get large rainfall events and if the data points to some denitrification taking place, we’d like to be able to get in the field and make a rescue application at V10 or even at tassel, if needed.”
We’ll make sure catch up post-harvest with Book and other strip-tillers experimenting with in-crop management tools to see if they can quantify the payback on these programs.
In the meantime, what types of prescriptive-farming methods are you utilizing in your strip-till operation? Share your story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.