What is in this article?:
- Farmer tracks profits using data by management zone per field
- Dealing with spatial variability
- First payback: drainage
- Put data to work for fertilizer application
- What about variable-rate plant population?
- About Jeremy Hopper
It takes “devotion to do precision ag” at Jeremy Hopper’s level, says Jason Hamlin, North Delta Crop Consulting, Dyersburg, Tenn. If a piece of precision equipment goes on the fritz mid-harvest, for example, or a prescription file is bad, “you have to be willing to stop and fix it. It’s one thing talking about this and another thing implementing it. A lot of people try it and quit.”
What’s next for this “numbers” guy? “The easy stuff, we’ve done now,” Hopper says. “Where we go from here is a question. The next steps — variable-rate population, hybrid changes within fields — these will take a lot more time and energy.”
Jeremy Hopper, Tiptonville, Tenn., uses precision data to make many agronomic and management decisions.
What about variable-rate plant population?
Variable-rate planting is one aspect of precision management that is “hard to get a handle on,” says Tiptonville, Tenn., farmer Jeremy Hopper, who relies on GIS data to make many agronomic and management decisions. The interaction between population, hybrid, weather, and soil productivity is complex, and he’s not sure if variable-rate seeding will pay on his farm. The exception is in the dry corners of pivot-irrigated fields, where he usually drops the plant population by about 20%. He’s experimented with adjusting corn seeding rates by 3,000 to 10,000 seeds per acre, based on productivity zones, but hasn’t drawn any conclusions yet.
The real potential of variable-rate seeding will come when planters have the capability to vary both hybrid and population on the go, says Jeremy Wilson, technology specialist for Crop IMS, Effingham, Ill.
Keep in mind that two steps are essential for evaluating the profitability of variable-rate seeding, says Jason Hamlin, North Delta Crop Consulting, Dyersburg, Tenn. One is check strips of high and low fixed-rate populations, alongside your prescription variable-rate strips. The other is “ground truthing” actual seeding and emergence rates, Hamlin says. “A lot of people miss that step.”