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Monday, February 16, 2015

Where are We Going with Precision Agriculture

Sorry, it has been a few days since I posted.  It is hard to have something to say every day.

Today, we had our annual meeting for our midwest consultants group.  We discussed the business aspects of what we do.  We also discussed what various big companies are doing with data management and decision making tools.  One of the things we covered was the flaws in what is being done.  I will not go into who is doing what well and not so well, but the discussion made me realize that we have a lot to learn. 

We started off with guidance and steering systems.  These systems worked better than most people imagined.  From there we went into yield mapping, variable rate fertilizer, and variable rate lime.  The precision fertilizer idea seems to be working out ok, but I have reservations about basing it on grid sampling.  I have written several times about that issue.  People also seem to want to use USDA soil survey maps for precision implementation, but I have reservations about that too. 

Then there is the idea of variable rate pesticides.  Only treat the corner of the field with the problem.  I worry that because if the problem is present in one part of the field it is likely in the whole field to some degree. 

What about variable rate nitrogen.  It seems logical, but just how do we implement that is up for grabs.  Do we use soil based modeling?  Do we use sensors?  Should it be yield based?  Can we forecast the weather well enough?  Can we collect weather data accurately enough?

Variable rate seeding seems like a no brainer, but our varieties respond to different conditions differently.  Weather comes into play as well.  Also, the various soils are good under different conditions.  If you can tell me the three month weather forecast accurately at planting time, I can do a really good planting prescription. 

Then comes the question of whether you should share your data and if you do, who should you share it with? 

We have come a long way, but we have a ling way to go.  Looking back on 10 years in the consulting business, I would not have guessed about where we are now.  I suspect in another 10 years, precision agriculture will look much different than it does now.  The consulting business is an exciting place to be.

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