Corn School: Counting tassels to evaluate variable rate seeding

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The practice of variable rate seeding for corn continues to increase as growers attempt to match seeding rates and hybrid characteristics to the varying yield potential across their fields.

With the growth of precision agriculture, every year more growers adopt variable rate seeding strategies but are they effectively evaluating and fine-tuning this strategy on their farms? AGRIS Co-operative agronomist Dale Cowan believes one way to gauge the success of variable rate corn is counting tassels to help determine final stand populations.

During his presentation earlier this month at the Ontario Agricultural Conference, Cowan shared how last summer he used field images captured by a drone to determine variations in final populations across a 79-acre field. The drone was programmed to fly the field and take an image on every acre. Using an algorithm to identify tassels, a precision ag service then produced a final population map of the field.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, Cowan draws management insights from the population map and corresponding yield map to show how growers can use this information to better evaluate how the variable rate strategy is performing in their fields.

Cowan believes growers are now at a crossroads in determining whether variable rate seeding fits their corn acres. In the case of flex hybrids, for example, final populations can provide insights into individual hybrid characteristics and whether these hybrids are performing at lower population rates. The data can also indicate how the hybrid is reacting to natural field attributes such as drainage, changes in topography, soil texture and moisture-holding capacity. (Story continues after the video)

Cowan describes how he collected the field imagery using a drone and worked with Sentera precision ag services to produce the field data he was seeking. Drawing on his experience with drone imagery and working with precision services, he shares tips on the best ways for farmers to tap into this information.

Click here for more Corn School episodes.

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