This yearlong endeavor looks at how four farmers are evaluating technology and agronomic information that can boost the productivity of their operations.
Ben Pederson was determined to cut no muscle when the 2015 crop year started—and he didn’t. When diseases threatened his fields this year, a strong defensive program kept them out. Pederson knows, because check strips and views from the road this fall showed what would have happened.
"Early death was a problem, as some fields left untreated went from green to brown in 10 to 14 days," Pederson reports. "In a lot of cases, it appeared that plants died before the black layer could develop."
Weed pressure was strong, as well. While a comprehensive herbicide program helped, ongoing rains translated into consistent flushes of soil–banked seeds. "We had waterhemp come through soybeans late after the Flexstar application, as well as some scattered ragweed," says Pederson. "We’ll have to get more aggressive in corn next year. Some things will need to change."
One area where Pederson has no questions is with his adoption of 360 Y–Drops and 360 Undercover spray nozzles from 360 Yield Center. Now in his second year with the Y–Drops, he put them to use with a late–season application of liquid nitrogen. When it came time to do a fungicide pass, he added the 360 Undercover spray nozzles. Combined with his new John Deere 4830 high–clearance sprayer, they gave him the timing and delivery his crops needed. That included Headline Amp at tassel, and Priaxor and Fastac for a fungicide/insecticide combination in soybeans at R3.
"I’m a huge believer in late–season sidedressing and placement at the base of the plant. I felt the drops did extremely well delivering nitrogen when it was needed and where it was needed," says Pederson.
He notes that getting through tall corn, even with high–clearance equipment, is a challenge. He expects it may have caused some damage and loss, perhaps as much as 1 bushel per acre. However, he’s confident that was more than offset by the benefits. "A little damage is a moot point when you look at the gain from getting that volume of water in the crop canopy versus over the top," says Pederson. "Next year I may be making some modifications to reduce potential damage to the two rows on either side of the wheels."
Fungicide application with the drops and the multi–directional 360 Undercover nozzles was right on target. The nozzles pushed the mist inside the canopy to the ear, where it was needed with corn, and throughout the foliage in the soybeans.
"We got fantastic coverage," says Pederson. "Improved plant health was evident. We did have one field where we had both ground and aerial applications and may be able to extrapolate some comparison there."
Pederson is a dealer for 360 Yield Center products. While creating an additional income stream is certainly a benefit, he recognizes other positive attributes for using them. His customers tend to be progressive growers pushing their own envelopes and are sources for information and ideas Pederson can try on his own operation. Working with innovative leaders in companies like 360 Yield Center and having advance access to new technologies being developed are other big benefits. Both provide one more way of gathering data to make better decisions, a goal in everything Pederson does.
One data analysis he will focus on this winter is dual–hybrid seeding. Field scouting has suggested inconclusive results. "I’m expecting a wash on it," says Pederson. "I hope to be surprised, but I don’t think we have it nailed as to what hybrid is needed where."
Pederson hopes to get some information on planting dual hybrids in one field, as well as other benchmarking, through his membership in Farmers Business Network (FBN). He is confident the independent data–sharing system will give him a better information base for 2016 as he compares his hybrids with more than 700 in the FBN system this year spread over millions of acres, as well as his inputs and practices.
"Seeing different hybrids on soil types versus population over a wide area will give us a huge piece of the puzzle," says Pederson. "I think FBN will cut through the bias individuals carry. We are putting all our data in, including yield data after harvest, and we’ll see if our results are as good as they could be. I’m pretty optimistic right now."