Measuring water-driven yield potential to make crop management decisions

After seed is placed in the ground, the yield potential of a crop is often determined by water availability.

If it’s too dry, a grower may decide against top-dressing fertilizer or applying a fungicide.

In other cases, there might be more soil moisture available to the plants than recent weather or a rain gauge would suggest — so an in-crop application might still be justified.

With advancements and adoption of soil moisture sensors over the last few years, a farm equipment dealership in southwest Saskatchewan has developed an app to interpret data from soil probes to make real-time crop management decisions.

The Crop Intelligence program is based on data collected via John Deere’s Field Connect weather stations.

A Field Connect station (photo courtesy of John Deere)

“We’ve had the John Deere Field Connect weather station for four years now, and the data was always something that was a little overwhelming for the grower and the agronomist,” explains Ryan Hutchison of South Country Equipment, in the video below. “What we developed was something simple to interpret what crop available water is in the soil, how much rain falls out of the sky, and try to determine what our water-driven yield potential is.”

In addition to agronomy decisions, the app’s information on yield potential could possibly be used to inform a grain marketing plan.

“The risk is if you only have fifty per cent of normal plant stand, we can’t measure that. That’s the reality of still needing boots on the ground,” he says. “But definitely there are some marketing insights going on as well.”

While soil sensor technology has moved forward in the last decade, Hutchison says the improvements in communications technology — data connectivity — will be important for taking the next step in real-time field monitoring.

Ryan Hutchison of South Country Equipment discusses their effort to monitor water availability and use that information to manage crops:

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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