I spend some of my best work days with growers – encouraging them to use their data to drive better agronomic decisions. Of course, I’m frequently also inviting them to become customers.
Tight economics for most corn and soybean growers has made selling anything more challenging. As tempting as it might be, I never suggest that data-driven decisions will lead to spending less on inputs. In fact, I believe the promise of spending less has hurt “precision ag” adoption. Variable rate lime applications might be the lone exception. Rather than promote the input-savings message, for me, it’s all about investing more wisely within each field and across your operation. Everything we save in one part of field will likely be spent in another. Every seed saved in the worst part of the farm will be invested in the best part of the farm.
The first step in using your data to drive efficiency requires a change in thinking. It requires that we stop “pretending” it’s all your fields are the same. Technology allows us to measure the differences that exist. And variable rate technology allows us to treat each part of each field differently.
Is it working? Are precision ag tools really allowing us to be more efficient? Is the concept of producing more with less real?
Paul Fixen, Senior Vice President, International Plant Nutrition Institute, recently summarized some encouraging evidence that the answer to all is “YES”. Paul writes that in the U.S. in past 35 years, we have raised per acre corn yields by 70 bu/acre (70% increase). During the same time period, average per acre N rates have only increased 6 pounds per acre (5% increase). This is a success story that needs to be told over and over again!
Paul also cites precision ag’s role for increases in soil testing and notes that “Nutrient use has never been as measurement-guided as it is today”.
Premier Crop has many customers that focused on using all their layers of data to drive efficiency in all their corn and soybean production. Here’s an example of summary data from a grower’s first-year corn acres where the grower is split applying his N and focused on stretching every pound of N while maintaining high yields.
Applied Nutrients by Yield Range
Is your own story that powerful? Are you producing more crops with less inputs per bushel produced?