ENID, Okla. —
Have many of you been reading about precision agriculture?
Just about every farm magazine will address the topic with several technologies that are available to you and give outstanding reasons for you to implement the technology. Most will provide you a good return on your investment, and the ones I find really important are the ones Randy Taylor, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service biomachinery and precision ag specialist, describes as “creature comforts.”
That is not what I will write about, but a creature comfort is one that makes you feel good or feel better than you would at the end of the day.
Before I get you thinking of ways to make you feel better at the end of the day, I want you to see simple ways to utilize precision ag technologies that will either make you more profitable or reduce input costs and improve your overall bottom line. The simplest precision ag technology in northwest Oklahoma would be the use of a nitrogen rich strip, or an N-rich strip.
The N-rich strip may be new to some, but most of us had an N-rich strip, albeit accidental. Before the days of auto-steer or guidance systems, many of us would overlap a fertilizer strip in the field trying to position the radio dial for an update on Oklahoma State University football. Well, maybe not all of you. We usually could see those overlaps later in the year and more normally when we had sufficient moisture for growth and development of wheat in the fall. By seeing that overlap, it should have signaled our wheat crop needed more fertilizer in the topdress season. Now, after several years of research, we know what that overlap is telling us.
Since about 2004, OSU soil fertility specialists have been reviewing these overlaps to determine yield potential for the overlap and comparing it to the area where the fertilizer overlap was not accomplished. With the development of the optical sensor technology, researchers also were determining the yield potential of both sites and developing formulas to fit the yield potentials being measures.
If you have not adopted the simplest form of precision ag, now is the time. Either you or your fertilizer suppliers can make a single pass with a fertilizer spread about 100 yards long. At the end of January or the beginning of February, if you can see that stripe, your topdress fertilizer application is needed. If you cannot find that N-rich strip, you may not need additional fertilizer and your preplant fertilizer treatment was enough to produce the crop given the weather conditions that have developed since planting the wheat crop.
For information about N-rich strips, contact your OCES ag educator for more information. They should have on file a copy of CR-2270, “Impact of Sensor-Based Nitrogen Management on Wheat Yields and Soil Quality.”
Gribble is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.