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  • Last modified 20 days ago (Oct. 3, 2019)

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Farming practices are evolving

Staff writer

Technology over the past decade has taken a leap forward, and farm-fertilizing practices are no exception.

Marion County farmer Alan Hett uses soil grid sampling and use field view satellite imaging to map farmland, which makes the process of adding fertilizer easier.

“It saves a lot of time,” he said. “We can look at that iPad while we’re doing something and see we need to go check a spot in the field.”

Land is mapped in two-acre sections, and data is updated every three years, Hett said.

“I thought some areas of the field didn’t need so much fertilizer and maybe it would be cheaper to do the grid sampling and apply the fertilizer just in the spots that need it,” he said. “It ended up costing about the same as putting the blanket of fertilizer on, but you’re much more uniform.”

While it made the job easier, there’s no substitute for physical labor, Hett said.

“We still have to get boots in the field,” he said.

Along with efficiency, sampling can lead to improved yields, said Andy Kelsey, an agronomist with Cooperative Grain and Supply.

“You’ll see corn really go up in some spots,” he said. “In other spots it won’t be that good, but your crop yield goes up because there’s less money where it didn’t need to be.”

Mapping can also be used with soil probing to gauge the ground’s water content, Kelsey said.

“Irrigation is a money-saving deal,” he said. “There are times you think you have to be running the irrigation, but you don’t.”

GPS and auto steer combines are advantageous for farmers and sprayers, Kelsey said.

“It’s probably a two-part thing, with number one being efficiency,” he said. “You overlap so much less. We have to spray these fields after people plant them, so with GPS, they get much straighter and more accurate.

“You still have to be watching things, but you’re not constantly trying to keep the rows straight.”

Last modified Oct. 3, 2019

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