As we wrap up 2016 – a challenging year of drought conditions for some and flooding for others – it is natural to look ahead and ponder what may be different next year. While nothing beats the solid planning and application of hands-on experience that you bring to your farm, there are some advanced strategies, methodologies, and technologies that have the potential to give you an edge. There is no universal remedy to the issues corn and soybean growers face – every farm is different, as is every farmer – but we’ve rounded up a few of the top agriculture trends and tech to watch in 2017.

  • New seed treatment available in US
  • No-till, Strip Till and Short Vertical Tillage
  • Increased Use of Drones in Ag
  • Weather stations for precise, localized data

 

New Corn Seed Treatment

The BioAg Alliance, a partnership between Monsanto and Novozyme, has launched its first product: a new inoculant targeted at corn. Made from a naturally occurring soil fungus, B-300 SAT is “part of a revolutionary breakthrough in agriculture”. It works by growing along corn roots, improving their capacity to take up nutrients. B-300 is based on an existing Novozyme product called JumpStart, but with a new coating that gives it a longer shelf life and is compatible with other seed treatments. The makers of this new inoculant say that 2 years of trials in a variety of locations have shown a 3 bu/acre yield increase. Monsanto will be applying B-300 to all of its new corn hybrid seeds sold in the US beginning in 2017. While there is no mention yet of availability in Canada, this is a product to watch.

No-Till, Strip Till and Short Vertical Tillage

Not new techniques, but more and more farmers and agvocates are debating the possible benefits of No-Till for conservation, or Strip-Till as a potential “best of both worlds” scenario that has “the conservation benefits of no-till with the drydown and warming benefits of tillage.” Some wonder if a new form of tillage – short vertical tillage – is the answer, but soil experts from Purdue University are cautious. Short vertical tillage does offer the benefit of warming and drying the soil thanks to slicing up plant residue, but this tillage method doesn’t loosen up the soil much more than no-till since the tools only penetrate the top 2-3 inches of soil. Also, because the residue consists of chopped stalks that aren’t very well anchored to the soil, much of the residue may blow away, thereby reducing conservation benefits. Last but not least, shallow vertical tillage doesn’t incorporate fertilizers deeply enough into the soil to prevent significant nutrient losses, not does it typically destroy weeds effectively. At the end of the day, experts advise that the best choice of tillage depends on your soil type, terrain, farming operation and personal preferences – there is no “one size fits all” solution.

PROSeeds Shows A No-Till Corn Field

Image credit: mvburling / Getty Images 540206958

Increased Use of Drones in Ag

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) seem to be all the rage in ag these days. Some may feel that they are beyond what you really need, but the use of drones over farm fields is increasingly common as farmers discover the benefits this tech has to offer. You can choose to own or rent, or even just to hire on a service to do the work for you. While not necessarily simple to use on your own – there is a test to be certified to operate the machine, and you need to configure it with the right imaging technology for your farm – drones do have great potential for advanced scouting and gathering of other information that can be highly valuable in your decision-making process. There are even UAVs for automated crop spraying on the market now – they can track the terrain to maintain a uniform height above your fields, and even remember where they were when they ran out of spray product so they can resume where they left off. More common applications include crop scouting, watching test plot progress, spotting plant stress and tracking plant health… and hey, you’ll never get a more beautiful photo of your fields than an aerial shot taken on a drone fly-by!

Weather Stations for Precise, Localized Data

While weather prediction models – and therefore 10-day forecasts – are improving, there is a significant benefit in being able to measure actual temperatures, rainfall amounts, and more “locally” in your own farm fields. In any given rain storm, the actual amount of rainfall on your fields can vary from one field to the next, or even within a single field. Since water is arguably the most critical input for your soybean and corn crops, more accurate measurement of rainfall amounts from field to field can really improve crop management, decrease your costs, and increase your yield. Localized data can help you decide when and how much to irrigate, when to apply nitrogen, and more. Weather stations with advanced features like soil moisture and temperature recording, and growing degree-days tracking, can also help you decide when to apply fungicides, and the ability to measure wind speed and direction can help you identify the best days to spray. And yes, “there’s an app for that” – all of this data can be monitored on a smartphone or tablet. Of course, these high tech weather monitoring tools aren’t cheap, and they typically require an investment in the solar-powered weather station equipment as well as an ongoing fee for data services. A couple of cost-saving options:

  • Install one full weather station to measure temperature, wind speed and direction (which are probably fairly consistent across your whole farm). Then add several less expensive rainfall gauges placed in various locations throughout your fields to capture the variability in rainfall amounts from one spot to another.
  • Share data with your neighbours – either informally, or using a “network” such as CoCoRaHS Canada (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network Canada). This is a non-profit network of volunteers measuring and sharing precipitation data across the country.

 

We believe that tools and techniques like those outlined above will become even more popular – and be the topics of many conversations and debates – in the coming year. Of course, these are not the only trends and tech to follow in 2017. Watch our blog in the New Year for an overview of some cool new tractor technology and discussions on other trending topics. In the meantime, tell us about the methods and tech that you find useful on your farm: https://twitter.com/Sevita_PROSeeds and https://www.facebook.com/Sevita.Proseeds/.

 

Feature Image Credit: Bestgreenscreen / Getty Images 537269746

References:

Seed Treatment:

Monsanto, Novozyme seed treatment launch: http://www.farmindustrynews.com/crop-protection/new-seed-treatment-2017

 

Tillage:

http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/soil-health/5-tillage-myths

http://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2016-38/when-it-time-no-till-field-be-tilled

http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/soil-health/no-till-beats-tight-clay-soils

 

Drones:

http://www.farmindustrynews.com/aerial-imagery/taking-skies

 

Weather Stations:

http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/crops/accurate-weather-improves-decisions