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Precision agriculture can improve resource use and your bottom line

2 min read

Precision agriculture can help a producer improve yield and profitability while minimizing resource use, particularly water and fertilizer.

Soils aren’t homogeneous within a field, which will impact how plants grow throughout a growing season.

Manage water precisely

The ability to irrigate based on the plant’s needs will allow for improved water management, optimizing yield with input cost.

“The ability to irrigate based on the plant’s needs will allow for improved water management, optimizing yield with input cost,” says Herman Simons, manager of smart agriculture applied research at Olds College of Agriculture and Technology.

Nothing affects yields like water. It’s by far the biggest factor in yield variability within fields, regions and between seasons, says Steve Shirtliffe, a professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Plant Sciences.

Usually, more water is positive, but not always. An area that stays saturated for more than a few days can release the nitrate in the soil as nitrous oxide (N2O), which is agriculture’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, Shirtliffe says.

Know your marginal growing areas

Marginal growing areas are among risk areas that emit N2O emissions and identifying them and taking them out of production can save farmers money, as well as turn the area into one that no longer pumps out N2O, but instead fixes carbon, Shirtliffe says. There are also advantages of greater biodiversity and feed availability in dry years.

For other at-risk areas, it’s important to manage nitrogen fertilizer application to not only improve efficiency but also reduce N2O emissions.

“That’s one way that precision ag, for areas that have a lot of in-field spatial variability, can both increase profits and yields and reduce environmental impacts,” Shirtliffe says.

Optimize your unique operation

How much you can maximize profits, though, is individual to your farm and area. “There’s a large amount of variability from farm to farm, within provinces and across the country,” says Evan Shout, chief financial officer at the Hebert Group in Saskatoon, Sask.

“When determining the financial impacts of using precision technologies, the math will be independent of farming conditions, weather and many other aspects specific to your farm. A farm management consultant can help estimate how your bottom line could be impacted by one or more of these technologies,” Shout says.

Chat with your advisors about how precision ag could help you optimize input cost by using:

  • Auto steer to optimize inputs

  • Sectional control to minimize application overlap

  • Variable Rate Technology (VRT) to maximize yields and minimize input costs, leading to increased profitability

  • Satellite maps for zone delineation

  • Drones to collect field data like biomass, NDVI, weeds, lodging and crop height

  • Spraying technology to allow for more precise application of chemicals

From an AgriSuccess article by Richard Kamchen.