Farmers may never completely replace the significant role of human decision-making when it comes to managing crop production. But new technology can sure help.
"Technology is an enabler and not a replacement. The goal is not to exchange it for human decisions, but rather to enable better, more efficient decisions with data. Technology should be a force multiplier to the expertise of farmers and their trusted advisers"” says Ben Brame, DTN vice president of agriculture product management."“Human expertise makes it successful."
The DTN AP (Agronomic Platform) is designed to help farmers and their advisers make decisions together to protect yields and profitability through targeted recommendations. The AP includes tools that help identify in-season problems in time to control them and to make informed control decisions with the data.
"The AP helps farmers and their service providers do a better job of scouting, helping find more insect, weed and disease problems during the growing season"” Brame explains."“And when problems are found, the AP helps them use data to decide if applying additional crop protection products makes economic sense, along with the ideal timing for treatment. As a result, service providers and farmers are able to build more effective, trusting partnerships."
Data Plays Integral Role
Brame stresses that the technology and data generated by it is only as good as its proper use. To maximize the investment, he says farmers must take the time to understand how the decision-making tools can help them effectively find and take action on problems encountered. From there, farmers can work with service providers to create a timely scouting plan, document which fields will be scouted and how often, and document any key risks in the plans.
Data play a critical role in managing crop production systems via the AP. Risk models can find more problems in time for farmers to control them. Brame says the AP generates alerts on which fields are at risk for specific insects and diseases and growth stages for optimal timing of herbicide application.
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"Farmers can utilize accurate weather and crop growth stage models to prioritize fields to ensure that they are visiting each field during key growth stage windows when problems are likely to occur. DTN provides disease risk alerts based off of our weather network"” points out Brame.
"You also can identify ideal timing for postemergent herbicide or fungicide spraying for foliar disease. Weather-based risk models can predict disease susceptibility," he says. "DTN performed a successful pilot project in 2018 for corn disease scouting."
Degree-day-based phenology models can also help anticipate insect flights. DTN Smart Trap is an automated electronic hardware device that detects insects in fields and wirelessly reports the data. Data can be cross-checked against third-party traps as well.
"DTN can combine its hyper-local weather station and Smart Trap data with satellite imagery and human observation to anticipate risks," explains Brame, who assisted in developing the original software for visualizing Smart Trap data. "The AP tool launched commercially last fall and is ready to provide insect, weed and disease management advice in soybeans and corn."
Steps To Make the Most of Data
As farmers prepare to use the DTN AP to make the most of their data in 2019, Ben Brame, DTN vice president of agriculture product management, offers three steps that can help guide economic management decisions.
Step 1. Efficiently Collect and Report Data
Brame says data collection should be done through a scouting app, DTN weather stations and other field sensors. He recommends farmers vet devices to ensure they have reliable, consistent data. Select technology that is easy to install and retrieve with an easy-to-use presentation.
"Imagery through Terravion and others can be used to monitor field health and pinpoint the location of problems. Photos can help confirm what action should be taken, while a scouting app can collect more robust data for compelling reports," says Brame. "We have an agreement with Terravion so users can see the imagery in the DTN app and scout over the images as needed."
Step 2. Use Data To Make Economic Spraying Decisions
Brame encourages farmers to use DTN’s Economic Impact Calculator to better decide how to intervene after reviewing the monetary impact of problems based on severity. The calculator incorporates many economic impact studies from land grant universities that can help farmers understand if a control decision makes economic sense for a particular problem.
"The calculator takes into account the severity of the problem, the farmer’s yield goal and the commodity price to estimate a total cost of the problem," says Brame. "It then compares the cost of the problem to the cost of the application to estimate profitability of the decision."
Step 3. Use Data To Time Spraying Decisions
When planning a spray application, reference product labels to understand optimum weather conditions and avoid wasted trips to fields. A good weather source is critical to forecasting field conditions to ensure temperature, wind conditions and humidity levels are appropriate for spraying.
Also, be aware of particularly sensitive surrounding fields and use an inversion model to reduce risk, especially for highly volatile chemistries. Brame says growth stage models can help farmers prioritize fields and ensure chemicals are applied during optimal stages.
"Farmers and applicators working to avoid spray drift and related chemical issues can use DTN Spray Outlook" he says. “The tool combines DTN’s field-based weather forecasting with the ability to plug in parameters of the product being sprayed for best times to apply that product.”
To learn more about the DTN Agronomic Platform and to sign up for a free trial, visit the website: www.dtn.com/agronomic-platform.
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