Site Specific Applications of Seed/Fertilizer/Chemicals
Although technology now exists to make site specific inputs of seed, fertilizers and chemicals feasible and profitable, field-wide or farm-wide applications are still the norm throughout the South and the rest of the United States. Research has shown that applying these inputs according to soil type and productivity will reduce costs, increase profitability and reduce environmental hazards.
1.) Divide and map field areas by soil type.
2.) Obtain soil and plant samples in each mapping unit, and fertilize, plant and apply pesticides as indicated by test results in each mapping unit.
3.) Utilize global positioning systems technology and mapping to maintain site-specific cost, return and environmental records. Monitor water runoff on test areas.
4.) Compare economic, agronomic and environmental data from fields receiving site-specific management to adjoining fields using current practices.
This project is evaluating the use of site specific inputs on land that is being converted to a no-till operation. A 132-acre portion of a 2,000-acre family farm is being devoted to five crops (corn, grain sorghum, wheat, cotton and soybeans) for the duration of the two-year project. The results will be compared to an adjoining field that is being conventionally farmed to produce the same five crops. If the results indicate that no-till, site specific techniques are more feasible and profitable than conventional methods, the entire farm will be converted to the prescription farm process and technology.
In the no-till site specific field the following practices are being used:
1.) Map soils using the AgMapp computer program to show soil types in each crop area.
2.) Sample soils in each crop area.
3.) Fertilize, plant and apply chemicals according to crop and soil type needs.
4.) Gather yields by soil type at harvest.
In both fields the following is taking place:
1.) Monitor crop progress with infra-red photography
2.) Use global positioning systems (GPS) technology, computers and AgMapp system to ensure accuracy of all operations.
3.) Monitor water runoff for environmental impact.
4) Record cost and return data.
The first year of the project (1995) the maps were made under the direction of a soil consultant. On the maps the producer can see the soil types on each acre, plus keep a record of his seeding rates, all treatments and harvest data.
In 1995 plantings of corn and soybeans were ruined by excessive rainfall. The cotton was ruined by herbicide drift from a neighboring farm. The grain sorghum was affected by excessive heat and drought, making the summer season a major loss.
The grower had problems with both weather and technology in 1996. While he was able to harvest milo and cotton, he was unable to utilize the GPS technology. The major problem was that was that his equipment, the equipment used by his neighbors who help him, and the equipment of a contractor, could not be easily or inexpensively fitted with the GPS equipment. Compounding this problem was the fact that during the life of the project, evolving GPS technology made it difficult to obtain specifications prior to delivery and interfered with the delivery of the GPS equipment.
Consequently, this grower was not able to utilize GPS technology on his farm. He strongly believes that the technology has potential despite the weather problems and prohibitive equipment cost that prevented his use of it.
Even though the project wasn’t completed the grower did learn a great deal about GPS technology. He has been relating his experiences to other growers, emphasizing the factors they need to consider in order to utilize the technology.