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Farm Bill and Precision Ag Program

County Agent News
Dan Folske
January 7, 2019 

Farm Bill and Precision Ag Program

Bryon Parman, NDSU Extension Ag Finance Specialist will be at the Lignite Community Center on January 17th  to discuss the impacts and changes of the new Farm Bill. Along with Bryon, the Burke County Ag Improvement Association will be sponsoring a Precision Ag Workshop that morning.

The program will start at 9:00 am with Courtney Meduna, Technical Agronomist for Dekalb/Bayer. Katie Woodbury, Location Manager for Dakota Agronomy Partners in Lignite will explain what Dakota Agronomy Partners can offer for variable rate fertilizer application.

She will be followed by a farmer panel explaining what they have tried and why they’ve done it, and the results they have had.

Capping off the morning will be NDSU Extension Ag Finance Specialist Bryon Parman with his look at the new Farm Bill.

What is Precision Ag?

            The term is used for a wide variety of crop management actions related to seeding rates, fertilizer applications, disease management, and weed control. However, in general it refers to managing large fields in a manner other than “one size fits all” or “one treatment fits the whole field”.  In its simplest form it breaks a large field into productivity zones and makes fertilizer and/or seeding rates appropriate for potential yield differences from one area of a field compared with another. These zones can be identified and laid out by looking at yield maps, soil types, topography, or just simple observation and notes taken a spraying time or harvest. Another option is grid soil sampling and then studying the results of the sampling when overlaid across the field.

            We know that certain areas of a field out yield other areas because of available water, soil types, and/or fertility. Precision Ag with variable rate fertility allows a producer to manage those areas of a field by putting fertilizer where it will do the most good. Variable seeding rates can also be used in a similar process by understanding where increased plant populations can maximize yield in one area but the same plant population can decrease the yield in another area if moisture and fertility cannot support the higher population.

            Various types of satellite imagery or composite imagery from drones can also be used to layout zones for crop management. This imagery can be used to indicate the needs for additional fertility by top dressing or lay out the zones for soil sampling. These types of imaging can be used to identify weed pressure and possibly adjust herbicide applications. Some research has been done with row crop equipment where both herbicide and fertilizer is controlled by cameras and sensors mounted directly on the application equipment.

            The overall effect of Precision Ag is to increase profitability through maximizing yields will avoiding excess inputs that are both costly and potentially harmful to our environment.

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