Talon Becker is a University of Illinois Extension Commercial Agriculture Educator working with the Data-Intensive Farm Management (DIFM) project to help farmers conduct their own on-farm trials throughout Illinois.
What seeding rate and/or fertilizer rate will result in the best possible yield for my field? This is one of the many questions that farmers ask themselves every year and that researchers and agronomists have been trying to answer for decades.
Numerous environmental and genetic hybrid or variety factors, either on their own or through interaction with each other, influence the actual optimum seeding and fertilizer rates for a given field or section of a field.
This is not a new concept. The influence of genetic and environmental variation and the interaction of these two major factors, often denoted as “GxE,” have been recognized since the early days of modern agronomic research.
Until recently, the best tools at the disposal of agronomists and agricultural researchers for estimating and accounting for the influence of these sources of variation in the estimation of optimal levels of a given agronomic input, such as seeding rate, have been multi-site and multi-year replicated trials.
The Data-Intensive Farm Management Project was featured in the recent February edition of The Furrow.
Precision ag technology is spurring a dramatic change in agricultural research. It’s replacing the time-consuming test plot techniques of the past – the marking flags, tape measures, weigh wagons, and grad students – with today’s automated computer files, variable-rate controllers, and yield monitors. These new tools are empowering growers to easily and economically generate data that makes on-farm research a reality.
“This new approach is a real game-changer,” says David Bullock, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. “The future could see farmers conducting experiments on their fields as routinely as they now take soil samples. The result will be management recommendations based on field data, rather than a ‘rule of thumb’ recommendation.”