Simple Tools For Precision Farming

In January, I had the opportunity to listen to Les Henry, a retired soil professor from the University of Saskatchewan, talk about his thoughts on precision farming. In this article, I take some of his comments and some of my thoughts and try and put it into perspective for our area. Most of what we read about precision farming is about the tools that we can use to adjust our equipment or about procedures that will give us more detail about our farms. From what I am seeing out there, we are not using the information that we now have about our farms. This is the area that we need to look at first if we are going to do a better job of producing more bushels on our farm. Understanding the basics of soils of the area is the place to start. Knowing where that basic information is will help get the process going in the right direction. We had our soil survey information updated in the 1990’s. The reports are available from the University of Saskatchewan. Things like stones and hardpan can be identified from these reports. There are topography maps of the area that are available on the internet. These maps show where there are differences in elevation that will create eroded knolls. Looking for high water tables will help define potential saline areas. There are municipal assessment maps available that will indicate problem soils on a quarter of land. All these tools are available to help landowners define what the soils are like on their property. All these tools can help determine productivity of specific areas of a farm. Once this information is collected, there should be some productivity lines that can be drawn on the fields of your farm. For anyone that has farmed the land for a number of years, these lines are probably already known. Another tool that may help determine where these lines are in your fields is yield monitor maps from the new combines. These maps show where the yield differences occur at harvest time and lines of field variability can be drawn from them. The green seeker technology looks at the color differences in the crop to determine yield potential. It can be used to change application rates of an in crop fertilizer application. The EM 38 is a tool that can be run over a field and determine soil texture and salinity. All these tools can be used to draw maps for a variable rate fertilizer system. With any precision farming package that we might want to use on our farm, starting with the tools that we have is best. Existing soil tests, background information for experience and the use of simple and available information will allow a producer to pick off the highest return items when it comes to utilizing precision farming techniques on your farm. If you are interested in taking this discussion further, it is time to talk to your agronomist about how you can grow more bushels.