One-size-fits-all fertilizer applications are quickly becoming relics of the past as they move over to make way for the site-specific applications inherent to precision agriculture. New technology has not only improved the accuracy and efficiency of applications, but also the accessibility to large amounts of data for both retailers and growers.
“Accurate application of any product depends upon accurate machine calibration, whether you are applying solid or liquid products,” says Ryan Lemke, director of precision ag at Heartland Co-op. “A majority of application problems can be resolved through proper calibration.”
“Visual inspections are also important to make sure equipment is functioning properly,” he continues. “Additionally, scale tickets help target problems. If weights and volumes in the field aren’t measuring up, we can recalibrate or troubleshoot our machine to make sure it is operating correctly.”
For growers who prefer making their own applications, Lemke recommends seeking out someone reliable who can offer guidance and calibration advice.
Data recording is a critical part of the application process because it provides detailed information that growers and retailers can use to measure return on investment and to assess placement. Many retailers have put in place or are currently engaged in purchasing or developing electronic systems that automatically transfer data to and from the field in a secure and controlled manner. These systems improve communications, allow for last minute changes, assist with inventory and asset management and enable remote customer support.
Lemke says growers’ biggest challenge may be in sifting through the massive amounts of data they collect. “Most of our growers are far more interested in results and answers rather than data mining,” Lemke says. “This is where retailers come in. They can provide systems that improve profit per acre and help growers manage data that will be useful for decision making.”
“We work in an industry of commodities,” says Lemke. “In my opinion, data is the newest and most valuable of agricultural commodities because anyone can collect it, but to effectively use it to provide answers will create differentiation.”
- Have I calibrated with a pan test?
- Is my spread appropriate for the type of product I am applying?
- Are my spinner blades worn or bent?
- Is there lime or fertilizer build up on my spinner blades?
- Is the delivery point to my spinners correct?
- Have I done a bucket test for calibration?
- Do I need to replace my nozzles?
- Are my hoses and pipes crimped, cracked or blocked?
- Have I checked my pump for wear and tear?
- Are my knives in good condition?
- Do my knives penetrate the soil and distribute the product evenly?
- Are my hoses and pipes free of leaks and obstructions?
*Courtesy of Tom Hecht, Operations Supervisor, The Andersons, Inc.
The fertility program is at the heart of a comprehensive cropping plan, and at the center of influence in the relationship between ag retailers and grower-customers.
To highlight the important aspects of fertilizer management programs, CropLife® magazine and sponsor PotashCorp are pleased to present the Seven Keys to Delivering Effective Fertility Programs.