Ag Technology, also known as Precision Ag, helps farmers make smart, efficient, and responsible decisions about how and when they plant, grow, irrigate, harvest and transport crops.
With the growing population and world events, we know we will need to produce more grain to feed the world and do it more efficiently. That’s where Ag Technology (or Precision Ag) comes into play. Ag Tech allows farmers to produce more grain with less waste, less labor, and less inputs while simultaneously protecting our environment. Ag Tech puts information into the palm of farmers hands. Just like you access social media on your phones, farmers can access information about their farms and plants anytime, anywhere.
Ag Tech isn’t just for planting and harvesting, it provides solutions throughout the entire year. A healthy plant starts with the soil, so we start with testing the soil in the fall to prepare for fertilizing the crop. Grid or Zone soil sampling with GPS and variable rate capable machinery allows us to put the right rate of fertilizer on each acre of the field without over or under applying. This reduces fertilizer waste, reduces runoff from heavy rains, and still allows farmers to achieve high yields. Not only can we variable rate apply fertilizer, we can also variable rate apply the right amount of Nitrogen, Seed, and Crop Protection products where it is needed to produce the highest yields while still protecting the environment by not over applying inputs. To put this into perspective, think about nutrition in your body. You need to eat the right food, at the right amount, at the right time to remain healthy. For us, more food or vitamins are not always a good thing and plants are no different. That’s why we test the soil and plants to determine the right amount of “food” for a healthy, productive plant.
Imagine being able to spot spray weeds in large farm fields just like you do with spot spraying dandelions in your lawn, spraying the weeds only and not the entire lawn. That is now possible with Ag Technology through directed spraying systems like John Deere’s See & Spray. The technology allows sensors to identify the difference between a crop and a weed and only spray the weed. This can help us reduce our chemical use significantly throughout the field. We can also use AI technologies with drones through Taranis to identify insects, weeds, and diseases down to a specific bug or plant. We can then plan our insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide applications only on areas of the field that need it and know what pest to target, applying the right product to the right pest in the right area of the field at the right rate.
As you already know, water is our most valuable natural resource and our water supply and source needs to be protected for future generations. That’s another place where Ag Technology shines. We can utilize soil moisture probes and sensors to identify the plant available water to help us decide how much water to apply through irrigation. Nebraska has the most irrigated acres in the nation and sits on top of the largest water sources in the US, the Ogallala Aquifer. Utilizing soil moisture sensors and variable rate irrigation technology allows us to only apply the water that is needed to maximize yield while not over applying water, which in turn helps protects our valuable water supply.
At the cooperative, we continue to research year around Ag Tech solutions. With growing environmental and food supply awareness, it will take more advances in technology to feed the world and protect the environment for future generations.