Precision Technology can either increase yields or reduce input cost or both, but in the end it must generate a profit to be sustainable.
For precision ag solutions to become widely adapted by growers we have to ask ourselves 3 questions. Are they economically attainable? Are they repeatable year in and year out? And, can we sustain them over a period of numerous growing seasons. If so, then the final question we should ask is, do they promote good stewardship?
There is a lot of buzz around using “Variable Rate Technologies” VRT to increase precision. An those tools can certainly help, but we have to make sure they have a sound basic foundation or we can up with a VRM, Variable Rate Mess.
The traditional approach for precision variable rate zone development has been to base it on one or more of these data layers. The problem with most of these is they are certainly attainable, they quite often aren’t repeatable because they are derived from a shifting foundation base, that changes based on environment, hybrids, crop type, etc.
Here is an example of why using just yield maps to create management zones can be a problem. In this field you can see that that the east end of the field had the highest yields. Using our VRT algorithms this would be an area where we would try to maximize our productivity by increasing our inputs. However, the our yield maps very from year to year as we change crops. Here you can see the highest yielding part of the field in corn is the lower yielding part of the field when we change to soybeans. So, which map do we use or should we combine both and average everything out? This is not a good basis for repeatable solutions year after year.
So, if we don’t change crops and stay in a corn on corn rotation, are yield maps a good repeatable and sustainable foundation to build precision solutions. I would say no and here's a prime example of why. This field averaged 183 bu in 2009 with a flat rate of inputs, but we had an area where we the yields were significantly less. In 2010 the problem area improved and was better than the field average and in 2011 it was one of the highest yielding parts of the field. No inputs were VR on this field, the only change was the hybrid. How much would it have cost you if you had used your 2009 yield map to develop a prescription to reduce your inputs to match the yield potential in that low yielding zone?All inputs flat rated here. Field averages are in red. There is not that much difference in the field averages. However look inside the outlined box. This is a problem. That area went from being the worst area in the field to the best. Would we have seen that if we hade used the 2009 Yield Map to generate a Rx. This would have meant that we would decrease the production inputs in that area. Had we done that we may have never seen that area become the high production area.
So, I think it’s obvious that the one data layer that has consistent repeatable variability year after year is the soil. With that in mind, maybe the solution would be to base all your prescription maps on the NRSC soil changes. Here’s why we don’t recommend that option either. This is a government soil map of a field that was produced by a team of surveyors in 1991. You can clearly see the changes in the soils in the field and we might consider basing our prescriptions on those zones. However, we took that same field in 1993 and remapped with a different team of surveyors and got this map. Then in 1997 another team came up with this one. Are these maps accurate enough to build your precision ag program on? Probably not.
The foundation for all of solutions are based on obtainable, sustainable and repeatable EC, “Electrical Conductivity” maps that are combined with RTK elevation and topography maps. These will never change unless you move soil into, out of, or around the field.
The consistency of EC Data is always going to remain the same. There will be changes in the numbers as the soils become drier or wetter, but as you can see here, when we repeated the EC mapping in each of the years, the zones remained the same.
Soil EC Raw Data Collection develops a virtual picture of the what’s below the soil by measuring the electrical conductivity at 12” and 36”. A typical map produced with and EM sled with have 14 to 16,000 data points. Compare that that a typical grid fertility map of 30 to 50 data points. Much more detailed and accurate portrail of what’s below the soil.
Of course topography is also a keep factor in maximizing production. This is a center pivot in Custer county Nebraska. Do you think having the same water and other input prescriptions should be the same on both of these fields? We identify those topogray variables with our RTK data and adjust the water accordingly.
This is an example of using an EC sled to collect data on a field.
Veris EC Data collection. Coulters must make contact to the soil. Either of these system will work to collect accurate data provided the operator is skilled in using the equipment. The Veris machine requires a little more set up and equipment because it’s basically a small disk that requires the blades to be in good contact with the soil. And of course you need something with some Hp to pull it. If you have already had fields mapped, we maybe able to use that data too.
Deep sub soil EC Maps. Look at the flow of soil consistency across the fence lines. Then notice how the USDA soils maps do not always line up.
Soil and topography are fixed variable data layers. They never change. This has to be the foundation for any repeatable and sustainable agronomic prescription for any field. We can analyze the changing variables, (i.e. yield), against the fixed variables (soil and topography) to build a true precision ag solution. Soil and Topography are fixed data layers. They will never change. This slide is animated to show the fixed data layers of EC, LSC, and Aspect. These are needed to build true precision ag solutions. Then changing variables such as yield can be analyzed against these fixed variables. These fixed variables form a foundational base that all changing variables can be analyzed against every year
Once we’ve identified the fixed variables, we can analyze how those characteristics affect yield. Here you see a very positive correlation to yield and increasing EC, but a negative correlation to increases in landscape change.
Most yield variations come from the fixed field variations of topography and or soil water holding capacity. So, just writing a prescription that variable rates fertility may not provide the solution you are looking for.Analyzing yield data against fixed variables. Remember the yield map against the grid data? This is evidence that nutrients are not always the problem with yield variation. Most yield variation will come from fixed variations in soil and topography.
As I mentioned our precision ag focus starts with water. Strategic application of water, will maximize the root growth and nutrient uptake.
We must account for all the sources of water increases and decreases during the cropping season. Then, using sound agronomic we apply just the right amount of water, at the right time, and in the right location to maximize irrigation efficiency.
Here is an example of why timing and application amount is so important. Up until nearly tassel, all of the water uptake is in the top foot of the profile. So, we want to make sure we measure that zone apply water accordingly. As the crop grows into kernel fill, it gradually starts pulling water from the deeper layers. It is critically important that we don’t stress the crop during reproduction. Every day of stress during that time can take off 10% of our yield.
We provide a moisture gage for our growers. Think about this way; all of us have a gage in our vehicle that we use to schedule fill ups. If we take that gage away or refill strategy changes. Instead of strategically managing our fuel down to the last part of the tank we just keep it full. Growers use that same philosophy when it comes to managing water. If they don’t have a gage to tell them when to refill, they just keep the tank (or profile) full. This leads to over irrigation
This a picture of what the system looks like once we get it installed, up and running. We want to get all the probes installed in a corn crop between 2 and 6 leaf. At about the 8 leaf stage the roots canopy below ground and we run the risk of trimming roots producing readings that don’t represent the rest of the field. If we install it before 2 leaf we risk having to reinstall if one of the plants dampens off.
This is the “water gage” we install in our fields. The top arrow indicates the full point. Anything above this means the tank if over full and water is being wasted. The bottom arrow shows the refill point. Think of this as your “low fuel light”. You aren’t our of gas yet but you need to start thinking about refilling. The stepping action in the center is a daily water change, or kind of like a your MPG of your vehicle. You see a flatting out of the line at night because the crop only uses water during photosynthesis.
Each field has as these three water graphs displayed. The top one show the daily change in moisture in the three foot profile. The middle graph shows what is happing with water at each of the sensor levels, and bottom graph is the interpolated sum graph. This gives you a picture of the total water in the soil profile. On our TriScan sensors we also are able to display VIC of each sensor. This gives us a picture of what is happening to the fertilizer movement in the profile.
All of our moisture probe data is delivered to our growers through our website. We read water in the profile at 4, 8, 12, 20, and 36 inches every half hour. So we are collecting and delivering 240 data points on every field every day. How does this compare to a weekly scouting visit.
We did three years of studies where we asked growers to give us two side by side pivots with the same inputs and timing. We had the grower manage the legacy pivot with his usual method of irrigation and we managed the other with the probe. We tracked costs and yields on both circles. We decreased water application by about 3” in most of the situations and in every case increased yields.
Our energy costs (the only cost we measure) showed a significant savings. We also increased yields because we didn’t over water. Because of that the net return to the grower was nearly $50/acre with $6.00/bushel corn
When you really look at a pivot, does it stand to reason that every acre in that 135 acre circle should get exactly the same amount of water? Or would our efficiency be increased if there were a way to evaluate the water holding capacity and slope of each section of the field and adjust water accordingly? This is where VRI comes in. We take into account all of these things then develop a prescription that adjusts the water application each 2-6 degrees based on those factors. This is all done remotely and is completely hands off for the growers.
Human nature will be to use the driest part of the field to make decisions on watering. If we water the entire field based on that concept, we will over water the heavier parts of the field unless we have a way to apply more or less water based on the soil characteristics and topography of the field. This unintentional over watering costs us money in yield loss and fertilizer leaching.This slide simply indicates that it is a natural human nature to water to the lighter soil in the field. We do not want any area of the field to become under watered when we have a center pivot available. However as the pivot comes through the light soil area and into the heavy soil, we will overwater every time. This is known as unintentional overwatering.
The first thing we do is analyze a pivot to determine the extent of variability in the field. We then you our software to determine the how much of that variability we can reduce with speed controlled VRI. Generally there is a close correlation to variability reduction and yield increase. So, a 4% decrease in variability will usually bring about a 4% increase in yield. Speed control however doesn’t address the variably with the sector. As you can see here we have quite a bit of variability in that 6 degree slice but we can’t account for that without nozzle control. However, we are still watering to the average soil in the slice vs the average or even lightest soil in the field so it’s still closer.This slide simply helps us to identify water holding capacity variability. We know that different soils hold different amounts of water. However, how much difference is there in any given field? We really won't know until we break the pivot down into sectors. We use sectors because pivots can only water in a circle therefore analyzing it any other way would not make much sense. Speed control irrigation does have its limitations however. As you may notice on the west side of this field there is changing variability under the pivot in several sectors. However when you take the sector slices out of the picture the variability is still there. Therefore, using software we will more accurately water that area then we would under flat rate irrigation.
This is what a VRI prescription might look like. The blue areas will receive more water and red areas less. The green areas will be near the base rate.
The placement of the probe is critical to accurately representing the field. If you get it in the average soil with the base rate you will over or under water the rest of the field. Or software calculates the median elevation and the average soil texture then eliminates the non suitable areas of the field. After identifying the best 3 locations, We work with the grower to establish which of the 3 locations are best suited for the probe installation based on his knowledge of the field.
Generally we will have one probe per mgt zone, but we can identify the heaviest and lightest soil parts of the field with GPS coordinates and use those to ground truth our probe is necessary.
This is our 3rd year using our 30/30 trial to help quantify how much affect VRI has on yields. We alternate every 30 degrees with a flat rate and a spatially applied water prescription. We can then measure the yield to determine the VRI affects.
30/30 trial by Hastings, NE. VRI isn’t necessarily about saving water although some water savings is possible. Most of the time it’s about redistributing the water. The water we save on the heavy soils is added to the lighter soil. In this field there wasn’t a lot of variably and the flat rate sections. Were not drastically different than the VRI sections for most of the field.Thisspecific trial does not assume much water or energy savings as the average VRI rate for the whole field averages to the same as the flat rate. However, we are optimizing the application and improving efficiency by improved placement of water. Putting more water where it is needed and less water where it isn’t.
In this trial, we added some probes to the system. Here we placed probes in the lightest soil under VRI and under a flat rate and did , the same thing on the heavier soil in both the VRI sections and flat rate part of the field.Same field as above and also why I used this field as the yield results example. In this trial, we also implemented comparison moisture probes. 2 probes in the heaviest soil type (1 in VRI, and 1 in Flat rate), and 2 probes in the lightest soil type. The objective was to show quantifiable results in soil moisture change from VRI.
All though we didn’t drastically change the water on the VRI sections, there was still a considerable difference in water penetration with VRI vsNonVRI. The heavier soil had so much water applied that we pushed water way past the roots to 32” with the flat rate but matched the root zone to water penetration on July 16th but only pushing water down to 16”. VRI saved pumping costs and decreased fertility leaching in the heavier soils.This shows the individual probe sensor results from the heaviest soil type on 1 date or 1 irrigation event. It clearly shows an improvement on an reduced application rate for the heavier soil. The reduced application did not penetrate as deep into the soil profile. We are in the process of summarizing energy savings, but it can be assumed that energy savings will correlate in the same fashion.
In the lighter soils the exact opposite happened. Here we again optimized the water penetration to the root zone by pushing water just 16” deep on light soil with VRI. On the flat rate part of the field water never penetrated more than 4”This shows the individual probe sensor results from the lightest soil type on 1 date or 1 irrigation event. It clearly shows an improvement on an increased application rate for the lighter soil. The increased application penetrated deeper into the soil profile where more of the active crop roots were presently pulling water from. Although this is one application for presentation purposes, similar results were found for the other applications throughout the season. Also had similar results on other fields.
Here you see the actual yields of the VRI and NonVRI sections of the field on each of the 5 EC zones we compared them on. As expected the most benefit was from the lighter and heavier parts of the field vs the middle values.Yield results show overall VRI verse Flat rate for entire field as well as results by individual EC zone. I used this field as an example because it is a good but average overall field improvement (6 bushel increase). The important this to understand when looking at VRI results is that overall improvement is important, but not necessarily where we see our most significant improvements. Meaning, our middle (average and majority) EC/LSC zones should not expect much improvement as they will be receiving similar water rates as the flat rate applications (base rate determinate). We make our largest changes in the lightest soil types (more water) and heavier soil types (less water). It is these areas that should receive the greatest benefit and improvement. The overall field results often average out these zones because of the majority zones in the middle.
By placing the right amount, at the right time and in the right place, we can decrease the yield variability considerably. The irrigated part of the VRI field averaged over 300 bushel. The field to the right of the pivot is a SSDI system. You can see that there were some yield decreases under the drip system. One of the things we like to recommend is that we use our software to help identify the drip zones to more effectively match irrigations to soil texture with SSDI systems too.
Here we looked at what happened to the yields as we put more water on the VRI sections of the field. As you can see more water does not always mean more yield. In this example we were able to reduce the variably of the under lying water holding capacities and maintain optimum yields through all zones.
This slide simply indicates a variable rate wiper pivot scenario. As a pivot walks towards the pivot stop it accelerates in speed. As it walks away from the pivot stop it is slowed down to apply 100% of its needed water, and then simply speeds up as it gets back towards the center of the field. This is designed to allow the pivot to water to the water holding capacity in all areas of the field.
Here is another example of the potential performance enhancement of VRI. On this field the yields were always reduced on the east side do to overwatering on the lower heavier soiled part of the field. After VRI we were able to increase the over field yields and specifically the yields increased by nearly 30 bushel in the area outlines.
In addition we saved 20% on water and the pivot never got stuck all year.
Combining the efficiencies and yield enhancements of VRI to seeding population scripts further increases our growers net return. Here we had nearly a 50 bu variance before VRI, but when we matched the water to the seeding script we reduces the net
The purpose of the next 6 slides is to show how hybrids will react differently to different amounts of water applications, and we can implement trials to analyze hybrid results to determine optimal water rates by hybrid. These trials are more focused on working with the seed companies. However, growers can expect seed companies to provide hybrid water recommendations in the future from the results of trials such as these. It is important for growers to understand that precision water management is a “systems” approach, and hybrid selection and application rate for each hybrid is an important component of that “system”.
This slide represents the results of the Aqua View 3030 hybrid trial results.
Side by side is a another hybrids with the exact opposite results. We are continuing our studies on evaluation yield response to water as it relates to genetics. Look for Aqua View tested tags on your seed purchases in the future and expect water recommendations along with other agronomic management guide lines.
Not all hybrids respond the same to increase water applications. Here is a hybrid that actually decreased its yield as we increased the amount of water we applied with each irrigation.
This slide really indicates what the foundation of our business is. The precision data specialist otherwise known as a PDS. As you can see the Crop Metrics and Virtual Agronomist form what appears to be a roof type design. The data specialist underneath is the foundation. Crop Metrics and Virtual Agronomist are excellent technology, but we need excellent individuals to implement the system. These individuals will build precision ag programs that have a solid fixed foundation so that data can be analyzed for years to come thus allowing growers the opportunity to drive decisions using the data generated from their fields.
Crop metrics opportunity_ pa and probe presentation - v2
U.S. Probe Manager
What is Precision Agriculture?
Webster's Dictionary Definition:
Quality of being precise, definite, exact, very
accurate, distinguished from every other.
Webster's Dictionary Definition:
Quality of being precise, definite, exact, very
accurate, distinguished from every other.
What should growers be able to
accomplish with Precision Technology?
Increase Yield and/or Reduce Input Costs
Are Precision Ag Solutions Attainable?
Are Precision Ag Solutions Repeatable?
Are Precision Ag Solutions Sustainable?
Do they promote good stewardship?
Traditional Approach for Zone
–Satellite Images (Multiple Year)
–Yield Maps (Multiple Year)
–Grid Samples (Point to Point Variation)
–USDA Maps (50+ year old technology)
What’s the problem with these
options for zone development?
A Shifting Foundational Base
CropMetrics Precision Ag
Approach to Soil Moisture
How do we control irrigation to maximize
root growth and increase profits?
• Routinely measure soil water status to account
– Mechanical Irrigation applications
– Crop water use
• Apply water at the right time, right amount, in
the right locations of the field based on:
– Soil water storage availability
– Active root zone of crop
– Water needs of the crop
Plant soil water uptake, root development, and uptake distribution
R4 R5 R6
Where is the water coming from?
% of total water use by depth
• Two pivots side by side
• Same hybrids, same fertility same populations
• Probes in both fields
– we watered managed pivot based on probe
– grower watered legacy pivot according to historical
• Tracked water application, energy costs, and yields
Agronomics Applied VRI
•Extent of Variability in WHC
•Hybrid / Genetics Selection
•Root Zone Water Management
Soil Water Holding Capacity Variability Under a Center Pivot.
Identify Soil Structure Variability
Identify Water Holding Capacity Variability
9.3 Acre Yield Average
9.3 Acre Yield Average
28 Bu/Acre Yield Improvement
28 Bu x 9.3 Acres
260.4 Bu. Improvement
260.4 Bu. x $ 7.00
There was also
a 20% Water
Precision Starter Program – Before…
2 Year Average = 47
47 bu x $7.00 = $329/ac
12 acres = $3948 Total
2010 Zone 1 = 51 Bushel
2011 Zone 1 = 43 Bushel
Precision Starter Program – After!!
Implemented VR Seeding and VRI in 2012
2012 Zone 1 =11 Bushel
36 Bushel Improvement Over Previous 2 Year Average!
36 bu x $7.00 = $252/ac Improvement
12 acres = $3024 Total Field Improvement
VRI Variety Trial
8 Hybrid Strips x 2 Optimally
Positioned by EM Soil Type
Alternating VRI Speed Control with
Flat Rate Irrigation every 30 Degrees
7A631 7V657 7V697 8A818 8T597 8T812 8V169 8V777 Average
Flat Rate Irrigation VRI Speed Control
VRI Variety Trial
Macek Place Pivot – B&B Partners – Pleasanton, NE
more w/ VRI
Same Pivot. Same Rainfall. Same Hybrid. Same Yield Monitor. Same Irrigation Schedule. Different Irrigation Rate.
Provides All the Tools To Build
a Precision Water Management System
Onset of Water
Soil Water holding
Irrigation Full and Refill
Saturation & Field
Capacity (Upper Drained
effective Root Zone
Water table Fluctuations
Soil Profile Infiltration
Hybrid response profiles
The CropMetrics Advantage -
Precision Data Specialists!
Precision Water Management - A Systems
Approach That Provides All The
Tools You Need To Manage Water
And Increase Your Profitability
– A ATTAINABLE Precision Ag Solution!
– A REPEATABLE Precision Ag Solution!!
– A SUSTAINABLE Precision Ag Solution!!!
More Than Just Variable Rate Technology
It’s a True Precision Ag Program
Precision Data Specialist
Information Support Specialist
Precision Data Specialist
The CropMetrics Dealership
Precision Data Specialist
Grower Needs Satisfied
Building Opportunity for both SALES
and DATA SERVICE SUPPORT
PDS Service Network – Building Profit
and Adding Value to Your Business
Precision Water Solutions
PSP Mapping Program: $10.00 / ac
VRI Lifetime License: $1500 / pivot
End Tower Telemetry: $1500/ pivot
Complete Water Solution Package
VRI Services: $ 575.00
Soil Moisture Probe: $2650/ probe
Full Service Probe: $1,400.00