Poll: Will Tighter Margins Change Your Fertilizer Practices?

Lower commodity prices will likely lead farmers to adopt technology and practices that maximize fertilizer efficacy, says the head of a North Dakota-based precision ag machinery manufacturer.

Speaking at the AgriInnovation Forum in Winnipeg last week, Howard Dahl, president and CEO of Amity Technology, said he sees a period of tighter margins driving producers to try new approaches for meeting crop nutrient requirements.

Howard Dahl of Amity Technology, also co-founder of air-drill manufacturer Concord, Inc.
Howard Dahl of Amity Technology, also co-founder of former air-drill manufacturer Concord, Inc.

“It’s in those times that people are most open to change and most open to trying new things. I think we’ll look at better utilization of the fertilizer dollar and some of the tools available in precision ag. A bit of a tougher time may force more people to take a look at the tools that are available,” said Dahl in the video below.

While soil sampling is a regular practice on many Canadian farms, he said increased testing will likely be the first — and easiest — step toward improved nutrient efficiency on U.S. farms.

“There’s a tremendous number of farmers that still don’t do soil sampling. I think that’s one of the single biggest factors for those that are not paying any attention in that area,” said Dahl, noting the trend toward applying fertilizer only when a plant needs it will continue. “I think we’re going to see very little fall application of fertilizer in the future as the tools become more available to put it on at the time of seeding and the split application, mid-season application of fertilizer.”

Having witnessed the advancements in precision farming since launching air-drill manufacturer Concord, Inc. with his brother Brian in 1977, Dahl said he dreams about equipment someday having the ability to assess soil nutrient levels on-the-go in the field.

“The ideal would be to have in real-time a 24 inch soil sample, immediately send that information to an airseeder that may have three bins for fertilizer, and varying the rates of fertilizer based on what is needed all in real-time,” he explained. “There are some tools — spectrometers — that are pretty expensive, and so to do that in real-time, in the ground, there are people that have spent a fair bit of money on this and hit a dead-end, but I do believe it’s going to happen someday.”

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