Agronomy

Fall is the Ideal Time for Soil Testing

Farmers on both sides of the Red River are early adopters of new technology and sustainable management practices. As we move from farming the field to farming the acre (and even farming the square foot) it takes a dedicated team to collect all of that data, turn it into something useful and then communicate that information to the people who operate the fertilizing, planting and spraying equipment on your farm.

The agronomy team at Valley United is made up of soil and plant experts, as well as precision and technology experts who can help you collect and analyze the data from your farm. From grid soil sampling and variable rate fertilizer application to tissue sampling and technology platforms such as Climate and the R7 Tool, we can help you stay on top of today’s rapidly changing technology.

Precision Farming

Someday, in the not-too-distant future, precision farming will simply be called farming. The power of technology gives farmers who embrace it an almost unfair advantage over those who don’t—especially in years like we’ve seen recently with razor-thin margins. If you’re over-applying crop nutrients, for example, you’re wasting money and threatening our water resources.

Precision farming usually incorporates some or all of the following components:

  • Geo referenced soil sampling
  • Field-by-field prescriptions
  • Precision planters
  • Variable rate applications
  • Auto steer (often referred to as RTK, or “real time kinematic”) 
  • Tissue sampling
  • Harvest data processing
  • Field-by-field record keeping

Valley United customers who have selected a commercial precision farming platform often choose either Climate Corp.’s Fieldview, or Winfield’s R7 Tool. 

Climate FieldView Plus 

Climate Fieldview’s goal is to put all your data in one place. Through the Cab App, you can collect weather, planting, spraying, harvest, and fertilizer as-applied data all in one place then break the data down into useable information in the Fieldview App. We can also upload all your grid sampling data to give you additional insights into your fields. 
 

Climate FieldView Pro

With all that data you’ve collected over the years, now you have a tool at your disposal to compile your yield and soil data into variable rate planting and anhydrous maps. 

Climate also has research-backed calculations tracking your nitrogen in your soil so you don’t over apply or under apply your fertilizer. 

Field Monitoring Tool 

FMT Satellites collect data 4-7 times a week and compares your field's NDVI mass to other fields planted within the same maturity and planting window. Then it provides a report of fields trending up or down and gives us an early warning to nutrient deficiencies, diseases, or insect pressure. 
 

Profit Mapper 

The R7® Tool Profitability Map connects input costs and yield potential map data to determine ROI at an acre level. We can assign variable costs to a prescription map and overlay that with harvest data. Areas found to be less profitable provide an opportunity to better align input investments with yield potential the following year. 

Success Stories

Here are a couple of stories from our area that illustrate the value of using precision tools.


2018
The first was in a wheat field during the 2018 season. This was a trial field so it was planted with five different wheat varieties: four Croplan  and one West Bred in about 20 acre blocks. 

The field looked healthy and didn’t show any visual signs of nutritional deficiencies, but Winfield’s Field Monitoring Tool (FMT) was telling another story: NDVI values were not increasing as steadily as similar fields in the area, so tissue samples were taken to “ground truth” the data. 

Results came back and one micro-nutrient was deficient across all varieties: boron. Foliar boron was added in the tank during herbicide timing to correct the issue. When yield results came back, it showed positive increases in yield and/or protein, with a significant net gain revenue/acre in all five varieties. 

2017
In 2017, Valley United conducted a beta test on a 160 acre cornfield using Winfield’s Field Forecasting Tool (FFT). This grower typically does a side-dress application with 30 units of nitrogen in late June, around the V4-V6 stage. 

Within FFT, you can create heat maps that calculate yield responses with different application dates and rates, so we ran a scenario the day they started side-dressing. 

FFT was telling us if we delayed the application to after July 4th (about V6-V7), we would see a greater response. So we decided to split the field into two 80s, and side-dress the north 80 with a ‘normal’ timing (end of June), and the south 80 we would delay application until after the Fourth. 

When harvest came and yield data was analyzed, the south 80 did in fact produce higher yields with the same amount of fertilizer, and was within a couple of bushels of what FFT had projected. By following FFT’s recommendation and delaying their side-dress nitrogen application by about a week that year, they increased their yield and revenue/acre.

Right product, Right Amount, Right Place, Right Time

As a result of our merger, farmers on both sides of the river now have access to timely and efficient nutrient delivery and custom application options. Whether you fall apply, spring apply, no-till, strip-till, side-dress nitrogen at planting, split your nitrogen applications, or anything else, our team can supply the macro and micro nutrients you need, when you need them.

At Valley United, we strongly recommend prescription fertilizer application, which simply means variable rate application based on soil testing and yield mapping. 

This type of nutrient application is important for two reasons: first, applying more fertilizer than necessary to feed your crops may result in nitrogen and phosphorus finding their way into the water supply. And second, applying excessive nutrients is expensive—especially at a time when profit margins for grain are razor thin.

Seeds and Seed Treatment

Research has shown that seed selection influences your crop’s yield potential more than any other single factor. At Valley United, we pay close attention to university and other third-party yield data, as well as our own acre-by-acre yield results collected over many years and from many different farms, to arrive at our corn hybrid, soybean and wheat variety and sugar beet seed recommendations. Our plant genetics come from well-known national providers, including DeKalb, Asgrow, Croplan, NK, and Mycogen, as well as regional brands Thunder and Peterson Farm Seeds.

Follow the links below to current online seed guides from our seed partners.

Valley United also offers a range of seed treatment options to protect your seed investment from insects and disease, and get your crops off to the best start possible.

Tissue Sampling

After soil testing, plant tissue analysis is the second-best tool to help improve crop nutrition and yield. Farmers who use the R7 Tool, drones or other technologies for field scouting know it’s probably the best way to confirm or rule out possible nutritional issues spotted from above. 

If caught soon enough, a shortage of nutrients can often be corrected with a mid-season fertilizer application. Feeding corn nitrogen at tasseling, for example, can help push your crop over the finish line, and offers the flexibility of several smaller applications over the course of the growing season to help minimize nutrient runoff.

Micronutrients

N, P and K aren’t the only nutrients required to grow crops in the Red River Valley. Micronutrients can also limit crop yields in certain situations.

One of these is boron, an important micronutrient in sugar beet production. Boron deficiency symptoms first appear as a white netted “chapping” of the upper blade surfaces, along with wilting. If the deficiency becomes severe, the leaf stalk can crack and new leaves at the growing point may turn black. 

Soil types that are most frequently deficient in boron are sandy soils and fine-textured lake-bed soils. Boron deficiency frequently develops during drought periods when soil moisture is inadequate for maximum growth. Boron is one of the most leachable micronutrients, and sandy soils that are low in organic matter naturally suffer from excessive leaching.

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