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Agronomics and Precision Farming, What You Need to Know!

Agronomics is, as its name suggests, a theoretical application that combines economics and agriculture. All precision farmers will use some agronomic practices, but some will fall on the wayside. This is because much of agronomic research is speculative and precision farming tends to be more grounded and based on provable outcomes. Nevertheless, agronomics does have a place at the precision farming table. In this article I will give you 4 great ways that agronomics is helping precision farmers get a tangible yield difference.

Seeding and Fertilizer Ratios

Precision farmers have been seeding more than ever before, yields have been increasing as a natural result but importantly, yields are growing at a larger percentage than the increase in seeds used. This first point means that precision agriculturalists are getting the most and best from their land. Another impact from a precision farm perspective was that farmers were expecting the need for fertilizer to increase at least in line with seeding rates. Agronomists stated that they anticipated that this might not be the case. So, studies were carried out on the theory and instead of precision farmers everywhere risking their profit margins, the theory was practiced across large farms with the ability to complete a study without too much cost being incurred. The results were unexpected. It was found that fertilization although required was not needed in excess of most existing fertilization practices. Agronomics had helped precision farmers everywhere reduce costs.

Row Spacing

Precision farmers have been toying with this one for years, some being strong advocates that reducing row spacing and allowing more plant space would have a better yield output. Detractors who tried it on their own farms were very quick to rubbish it and the debates that ensued were often heated (at least among precision agriculture circles). It was something that peaked the agronomic communities interest and was tested alongside the fertilizer study to answer the question once and for all. The short answer is that narrow rows did not have any real impact on yield output, flying in the face of reason but putting the argument to bed once and for all.

The Need for an Impetus, or Starter Fertilizer

Precision farmers again it seems have been sometimes throwing good money after bad, starter fertilizers have been shown by the agronomic community to not really have much of a bearing in terms of overall yield. This did come with a caveat that all fields tested were well fertilized to begin with and had been maintained, so there may be circumstances where starter fertilizers are required for example; if a farmer decides to expand farming onto a previously unused field. But in general, with well maintained fields, additional use of starter fertilizers had no measurable effect on yield and this again saved droves of precision farmers a lot of money.

Specialised Crops and Hybrid Maturities

A long-held belief is that crop variants with different maturity levels didn’t have much in the way of a yield difference. Precision farmers again went by their own experimentation, and agronomics proved them half right and half wrong. The studies found on this theory that longer maturities did increase yield quite significantly. In fact, the overall yield increase was around 10 bushels an acre. Not to be sniffed at then. Except that they also found there was a fine line between the maturity level and how wet the corn was when harvested. Longer maturity varieties found that the corn was sometimes 50% wetter than its younger counterparts, meaning that dry down quality was not offset by the drying costs. So again, another practice that precision farmers can safely not be too concerned about going forward to their next harvest.

Agronomics will continue to provide sound theories and test them extensively which will leave the precision farming community the freedom to grow crops with relative security. Sometimes agronomic theories change precision farming when they are tested, sometimes they serve to just be an exercise in futility, either way they are a great base line from which smart agriculturalists can form ideas, opinions and a sound knowledge of the practices that will help them grow their farm businesses. Definitely watch this space.


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