AUBURN, Ala.—Practices in the agricultural sector are evolving faster than ever before. As producers work to integrate better precision ag technology into their already complex operations, Alabama Extension and industry partners are working together to give farmers the information and technology they need to maximize profits and productivity in the field.
A recent Precision Ag event in Auburn gave the state’s row crop producers an opportunity to learn how to put advanced technologies to work on their farms.
Garrett Dixon of Dixon Farms in Lee County said workshops like this one have helped his family to integrate precision practices, which in turn have saved him money and helped to increase productivity per acre.
“Precision ag practices are important to me because they allow me to be a more efficient farmer and a better steward of the land I am able to farm,” Dixon said. “In my area—East Alabama—farm land is scarce, so implementing precision practices will help me better preserve the land that I’m currently able to farm in addition to helping me to produce better crops.”
Alabama Extension regional agent Christy Hicks said it is beneficial to periodically meet with producers, researchers and industry personnel to share ideas, gauge the needs of farmers in the state and to see the progress made in order to determine the course for the future.
“It is important for Extension and university professionals to understand farmers’ technological needs in order to tailor our programs to their needs,” Hicks said.
Scientists from universities across the South and Midwest headlined the meeting while ag equipment suppliers were also on hand to demonstrate different strategies for maximum productivity.
Dr. Ken Stone, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said water is the most important crop input in many world regions. Because regulatory actions restrict use in many parts of the U.S., he said diligent use of water resources is extremely important.
“Without proper management of water resources, we can’t reap the benefits,” Stone said. “By using variable rate irrigation and applying water at different rates and volumes throughout a field based on measured needs in each area, we can continue our commitment to water conservation and efficiency.”
Many farmers are steadily collecting data throughout the growing season. From soil sampling grids to yield monitors, producers have an abundance of data from the field. But one technology expert said that many farmers aren’t sure what to do with the data they have collected.
“First, producers must be able to choose their data wisely,” said Scott Drummonds, a USDA information technology specialist. “Learn to account for variability and determine which data sets are necessary to keep. More data means more analysis, so knowing what good data looks like is key to successfully putting it to work for you.”
Drummond’s other suggestions included choosing tools that are easy to use and can easily be applied to the farmer’s data set, developing a data organizational structure and keeping a notebook of daily happenings on the operation for future reference and for a guide with problems down the line.
Demonstrations on precision planting, data management, precision spraying and variable rate irrigation were presented by Russell Planter Service, MapShots, SunSouth John Deere and Valley Irrigation.