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.
One factor has improved yields
“This one factor, better management of soil and plant interaction, has allowed most of the growers I work with to significantly improve their yields,” he adds.
“Without spending a lot of money, most of the growers I work with have seen a 20-40 bushel per acre increase in corn yield over a two-year period, for example.
“This is my livelihood, but more so than that, I get a kick out of trying to figure out exactly what a field of corn, for example, needs to bump up yields 15-20 percent.
“In 2011, my first full year in this business, I did a survey of all the growers I worked with and after all costs were factored into the equation, they averaged a savings of $23 an acre on their lime and fertilizer costs alone,” Valencsin says.
Though the majority of his work is in the Carolinas and Virginia, Valencsin also returned to his precision roots in South Dakota to work with a limited number of farmers there.
“I work with a young grower in South Dakota, who farms about a thousand acres of irrigated grain crops. He shoots for 200 bushels per acre and has averaged 180-190 bushels per acre for the past several years.
“We did some extensive soil sampling, created a variable application map and generally did a better job of managing soil pH and fertility. He finished up with nearly 240 bushels of corn per acre — the best he’s ever done, and did it in one of the hottest, driest years on record,” Valencsin says.
For this particular grower, he made a $12 per acre investment and got more than a $300 per acre return. While it seems like an economic no-brainer, the North Carolina consultant says it’s still hard for growers to make a commitment to spend that kind of money up front, before the crop ever goes into the ground.
“Too many farmers have invested in precision agriculture and somewhere along the line the process broke down and they lost money. Whether the breakdown was bad soil analysis, bad samples, bad timing or management — all reasons for precision technology to not work,” he says.
Getting everything right on the application and timing side of the whole precision process led Valencsin to add a custom application component to his business.
He bought a John Deer 4930 self-propelled sprayer with a dry box that can be removed and replaced by booms.
In the Southeast he can use the sprayer year around. He hauls the big rig on a semi-truck and will take it to South Dakota and Nebraska next spring.
In the Southeast, he contends, he averages about 600 acres a day and double that in some areas of eastern North Carolina. In the Midwest, on a good day he can cover 1,600-1,700 acres with the big rig.
High yields, Valencsin says, are a function of good management.
“Growers like David Hula in Virginia and Kip Cullers in Missouri, stay on top of their crops and they try to never let plants get into a ‘want’ or ‘need’ situation.
“They always give plants what they need, when they need it, for growers like them, the sky is really the limit, he says.