Corn School: Zone Sampling Key to Managing Field Variability


Harvest is wrapped up and your yield monitor has accumulated another year of data. What should you do with it?

In this episode of Corn School, AGRIS Co-operative agronomist Dale Cowan shares his thoughts on how you can use that yield data to guide soil sampling and create management zones in your fields.

Many farmers have at least three years of field yield data. That’s all you need to start creating management zones to more effectively manage inputs. “It’s a pretty basic approach where you identify which parts of the field are average every year; which parts are above average; and which parts are below average,” says Cowan.

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The first step is to create zones based on field yield data. The next step is to do a composite soil sample of each zone and create a map of the field overlaying the yield data and soil sample results. “This really helps farmers understand the variability in a field and build management options,” says Cowan. It also shows where there are opportunities to better manage inputs and potentially increase yields.

In this video, Cowan looks at a field where he has created six management zones:

  • pH ranges from 7.2 to 7.7 – average 6.8
  • soil test P ranges from 7 to 20 – average 12 ppm
  • soil test K ranges from 109 to 162 – average 132 ppm

Cowan notes the zone mapping/sampling approach typically highlights the need to better manage the low slope or sandy knoll areas of the field. “The maps really show you the level of variability and where it is in the field…. And the yield maps are saying you have differences there in yield as well.”

Farmers can then determine how best to apply fertilizer and identify the appropriate build or maintenance strategy in different zones across the field.

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Corn School (view all)Season 4 (2015) Episode 2

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