What is in this article?:
- Precision agriculture critical to sustaining crop yields
- Precision is the key
- One factor has improved yields
• It was while working for a custom applicator as a teenager in South Dakota that Crop Consultant Steven Valencsin began to develop some of the strategies he now uses to help well known growers like David Hula push their crops to new yield limits.
NORTH CAROLINA Crop Consultant Steven Valencsin.
Precision is the key
Precision is the key, Valencsin says. “David Hula is just one of many growers across the country who are relentless in their efforts to give every plant in a field exactly what it needs and exactly when it needs it to produce yields as close as possible to the biological capability of the crop.
“David and his brothers are always on top of everything that has to do with producing their crops,” Valencsin says. “As a result they often win state and national yield competitions and are recognized among the elite farmers in the country,” he adds
Valencsin says his first take on agriculture came from following his grandfather. The precision approach he now takes to growing crops, he says, is an extension of, if not a microcosm, of the way his grandfather grew crops in a small, but intensive system.
All too often, he says, growers have reached a flat line with grain yields. They all use Roundup Ready-Liberty Link technology, double stack corn, and Bt technology and they are investing large amounts of money in producing a crop.
At the same time most good growers today are inclined to look closely at fungicide use, for example, because they can see a reward in terms of a few bushels per acre yield. At today’s prices, a bushel or two extra can pay for a herbicide application.
Much the same philosophy is true in weed control. Good growers are willing to invest in multiple modes of action for better control and to delay or stop expansion of herbicide resistance on their farms.
“Top farmers now pay close attention to seeding rates and time of planting and crop/pesticide interactions. Despite doing all these positive things, most seem to have reached a plateau of yields, and we’re looking for ways to help them move beyond the era of plant protection into a new era of plant production,” Valencsin says.
“In a way, I’m going backwards by looking at the factors that most significantly impact yield and which a grower can manage with minimal cost,” he adds.
“The first factor is the soil. How much an individual plant in a field can yield is first of all a function of how much nutrition a plant can get from the soil.
“We look at soil as a limiting factor in yield and try to help a grower manage, within field variability, the amount of nutrients a plant needs for top production into the soil and into the plant at the precise time the plant needs these nutrients the most,” Valencsin says.