Crop Talk – Intro to Precision Ag


Example of Profit/Loss Map


Hello all!

Today we are talking about precision ag and how it can potentially benefit you. I want to start off by explaining what is precision ag and what isn’t.

Things such as row shut-offs, precision seed plates, automatic section control, and auto-steer are not precision ag, but they fit into the same realm. There is no disputing that innovations such as these have increased profitability on the farm as a whole by saving seed and chemical or preventing yield-robbing overlaps. If you haven’t invested in these areas yet, I would strongly recommend planning to do that in the future.

Now that we have decided what is not precision ag, let’s talk about what is. There are many examples of precision ag and it can be broken down into multiple categories:

Variable Rate Fertilizer – This is probably the most well-known category. The concept is relatively simple to understand – every farmer knows the spots in their fields that seem to have limited yield potential. It seems like no matter what you do, the yield has a ceiling and never reaches our yield goal of 200 bu. As an example, let’s say those poor acres yield 120 bu.

On the other side of that coin, there are acres in the field that always seem to produce higher than the yield goal, implying there may be high potential there. Let’s say it yields 220 bu.

If the poor acres never yield over 120 bu, does it really make sense to fertilize those acres for 200 bu? What about the higher yielding acres? Would they benefit from more fertilizer?

This is where a variable rate fertilizer prescription comes in. The prescription is designed to reallocate that fertilizer from the poor acres to the high potential acres. I want to emphasize this point – very rarely does a variable rate program result in decreased fertilizer usage. The goal is to be more efficient with the fertilizer and increase profit by managing at acre-level instead of field-level.

Variable Rate Seeding – This is a similar concept to variable rate fertilizer. Prescriptions can be built so that the planter will adjust planting population on the go based on pre-determined management zones in the field.

Using the previous example, would a corn field require 32,000 plants/acre to yield 120 bu? Probably not. If you wanted to push the yield higher than 220 bu on the good acres, would you leave your population at 32,000 plants/acre? Maybe, but we already added more fertilizer. Why not take 2,000-3,000 seeds from the poor acres and move it to the high potential acres?

By reallocating the seed and fertilizer, we have invested more in the highly productive acres without increasing input costs and no additional effort.

Variable Rate Irrigation – This is a relatively new category compared to the rest of precision ag. Every field has it’s own challenges. Most have more than one soil type, which presents a challenge, particularly when irrigating.

What part of the field do you check when determining to start the pivot? The driest soil or the wettest soil? Does your field have any large hills that water tends to run off? What if I told you over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering? If you have ever had plants die due to water accumulation, you know this is true. Maybe you have large hill sides that don’t yield very well. It just might be due to run-off.

Using variable rate irrigation, we can negate issues such as these by applying water where it is needed. There are two distinct ways to vary water: sectors and zones.


Illustration of Sectors vs. Zones

Sectors are relatively simple. A prescription is designed to speed up and slow down the pivot based on the most prevalent soil type in each sector. Sectors are made made up of degrees. A full circle would be 360 degress, with each sector being a minimum of 1 degree.

Zones get more complex. As you can see in the picture on the right, the field is broken into zones based on soil type. Each nozzle has a solenoid that varies the amount of water applied per individual nozzle. This provides a more precise application across the field.

Zone management is more accurate, but also more costly to implement. Sector management can easily be retrofitted to older systems and is a cheaper alternative.

As you can see, there are many different ways precision ag can be implemented on your farm. The key is finding the pieces that will increase your profitability.

If you have any questions regarding what was discussed in today’s article, contact your local agronomist at Farmer’s Coop.

Make it a great week!





Crop Talk – Quick Picks

Articles of note this week:

Twitter users can follow me @FCE_MilesB.

Make it a great week!

Crop Talk – How much N can be applied with wheat seed?

Hello all!

I had a question today about how much seed can safely be applied with wheat seed. I showed him this chart and he recommended I share it with everyone, so here we are.


I will give a quick explanation on how to read the chart.

  1. On the left side, find your drill type.
  2. Just to the right of drill type, find your seed spread, which would be the width of the planted area.
  3. At the top, select the row spacing your drill is designed to operate.
  4. Find where the row and column cross, and that will show you a range of lbs of N that can be applied.

Here are a couple examples.

  • Hoe drill with a 3 inch seed spread with 7.5 inch planter spacing would allow you to apply 44-58 lbs of N per acre with the seed.
  • Air seeder drill with a 6 inch seed spread with 10 inch planter spacing would allow you to apply 51-55 lbs of N per acre with the seed.

I would recommend staying on the lower side of those recommendations, just to make sure there aren’t any germination or root pruning issues.

That’s all I have for today. As usual, if you have any questions, contact your local Farmer’s Coop agronomist.

Make it a great week!

Crop Talk – Wheat Fertility


Hello all!

I am hearing a lot of talk around the country about wheat and where money could be saved this fall. A lot of attention is centered on phosphorous. Many people are asking if phosphorous would be a good place to save money.

To answer simply – no. I do not dispute that you could probably get away with no phosphorous for a year or so, but what will eventually happen is your soil levels will drop drastically and it will adversely affect yield.

Our soils are typically between 10-25 ppm on phosphorous. Now consider this – if your ppm drops even 1 point, it takes 18lbs of actual P to raise it back up. At current prices, that would cost somewhere around $9.00 per acre ON TOP OF what your wheat crop would need. The long-term cost isn’t worth the short-term return.

Well what about delaying the application until the spring if prices go up? This becomes an agronomic issue more than economic. Phosphorus is an immobile nutrient, meaning the root has to grow into it and make contact to take it up. The opposite would be nitrogen. Nitrogen moves through the soil in water. When the plant takes in water, nitrogen comes in with it.

So agronomically, a topdress application of phosphorus would be of no benefit to the current crop, because the roots would be below to phosphorous applied on the surface of the soil.

Farmer’s Coop has been proudly selling MicroEssentials SZ for 3 years. For those of you that don’t know about it, MESZ is a homogeneous blend of 12-40-0-10s-1zn. The sulfur is from two sources – ammonium sulfate for immediate availability and elemental sulfur for season-long availability. The zinc is evenly spread across the field to maximize the availability to every plant.

The video below illustrates the importance of evenly distributed fertilizer:

We also strive to provide our growers will clean, high quality fertilizer. A plugged up drill costs time and money.

If you have questions about anything discussed above, please call your local Farmer’s Coop agronomist.

Make it a great week!

Crop Talk – Grow Smart Update

Hail has knocked out the Mirage Flats Grow Smart plot. 

Prior to the storm last week, this plot was looking very good. We were prepping to apply Headline AMP and Max-IN Copper to try to bump our yields and improve the standability going into harvest. 

The plot in Hemingford is still looking very good if anyone is interested in taking a look. You are more than welcome to do a walk through with me or any agronomists at Farmer’s Coop. 

Make it a great week!

Crop Talk – Protecting yield with fungicides


Hello all!

So far this year, the corn and dry bean crops are looking great, so today I wanted to talk about protecting yield with fungicides.

We are currently in a high yield environment, very similar to 2012. We are receiving lots of heat units and the crops have responded accordingly. I believe this would be a great year to look at a fungicide at tassel in corn and the beginning of flowering in dry beans. Both applications have a great track record of improving yields at harvest.

The fungicide I recommend on corn is Headline AMP. There are many trials that show very consistent yield results, along with improved standability, on corn treated around tassel time. The key point here is to treat prior to pollination or immediately after pollination. Spraying while the plants are actively pollinating can result in poor pollination, leading to yield loss.

In dry beans, I recommend using Priaxor at the beginning of flowering. Dry beans are particularly weak against diseases and the application of a fungicide is very beneficial, eliminating stress and increasing overall plant health which will lead to increased yields. Consider pairing a foliar product, such as Max-IN Copper, for better results.

Speak with your local Farmer’s Coop agronomist for more info.

Make it a great week!


Crop Talk – Protein in wheat

It is pretty well-known that the protein in the dryland wheat this summer hasn’t been that great. We have had numerous discussions amongst ourselves about it and I thought it might be a good topic this week to discuss.


I think the low protein comes down to about 3  factors:

  1. Fertility – Nitrogen and sulfur are the most important factors in protein content. It really isn’t enough to just apply nitrogen to achieve a certain yield goal. We should be factoring in our desired protein content. But if the plant can’t utilize the nitrogen, what is the point? That is where sulfur comes in. Without adequate sulfur, plants can’t use nitrogen efficiently. Every application of nitrogen should contain some sulfur.
  2. Stripe Rust – This summer we had the worst outbreak of stripe rust that we have seen in a very long time. While we typically associate rust with yield loss, I don’t think we can ignore it as a possible factor. Any stress put on the plant will adversely affect performance, so why should protein content be any different? It is no coincidence that the irrigated wheat is testing higher for protein. The majority were sprayed with a fungicide at the first sign of rust.
  3. Freeze damage – It is hard for me to point at this one as a definite factor. The primary reason is there were many fields that never had any signs of damage, yet the protein content has been consistently poor on the dryland acres. However, like stripe rust, it can’t be ignored as a potential factor.

Instead of focusing on just one, I would say it was likely a combination of two or three of the above factors.

If you would like to discuss plans for next year, be sure to contact your local agronomist at Farmer’s Coop.

Make it a great week!

Upcoming Event: Answer Plot Session II

Quick reminder: On Friday, July 22nd, the 2nd session of WinField’s Answer Plot will be held 3 miles south of Gering, starting at 9 AM.

They will be covering a wide range of topics including wheat seed treatments, tissue sampling, and corn hybrids, including Dekalb and Croplan. If you have never attended before, there is a wealth of information to be gained. Also of note, the Gering plot is the largest corn research plot EVER planted in the NE, WY, KS, CO, & MS area.

Below is a brief overview of the Answer Plot goal:

If you are interested in attending, contact your local Farmer’s Coop agronomist for more details. If distance is an issue, I’m sure you could hitch a ride with one of us.


Crop Talk – Weed control following wheat

Hello all!

Wheat harvest has officially begun and that means it is time to start thinking about fallow spray again. There are lots of weeds under the canopy that will start to rapidly grow as soon the wheat is harvested. A good rule of thumb will be to wait about a week or so following harvest before spraying. Doing so will allow the weeds to regrow if they are clipped off by the combine.

Here are some popular picks:
2,4-D LV6 – I think we are all familiar with 2,4-D at this point. It is still a go-to option on fallow acres because of price point. It will get the job done under most circumstances, but don’t count on it against kochia, that’s where my next pick fits…

Distinct – I like to think of Distinct as dicamba on steroids. It has an additional active ingredient (diflufenzopyr) that drastically increases the knockdown power of the dicamba. For those of you familiar with Status, you know how effectively it works on kochia, lambsquarter, etc. Distinct is Status without the safener.

Atrazine – I like to add atrazine on dryland acres that will be fallow for the upcoming year or irrigated acres that will be corn. The goal is to extend the weed control to potentially eliminate an extra post application later in the year. Also – I can’t stress this enough – resistant issues are a lot less likely to creep up with pre-emerge herbicides.

All of the above options should be tank-mixed with RoundUp.

As usual, if you have any questions about these chemicals, or other available options, call your local Farmer’s Coop agronomist!

Make it a great week!