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  1. What Is Precision Ag?

    Precision agriculture (PA) can be an intimidating topic.

    High-tech terms like drones, robots, sensors, geo-mapping and big data come up when discussing precision ag. Not only are those concepts misunderstood and complex, but they all come with price tags— and often large ones.

    All of this complexity and expense have led to the relatively slow adoption of many PA practices on farms across the United States. However, in recent years, growers big and small have started tapping into the emerging potential of PA.

    According to a 2016 United States Department of Agriculture report:

    • GPS-based mapping systems, including yield monitors, are used on about 50 percent of all corn and soybean farms in the U.S.
    • Guidance and auto-steer systems have been adopted by approximately 33 percent of corn and soybean farms
    • Soil mapping using GPS coordinates and variable rate technology for applying inputs are used on 16 to 26 percent of these farms.

    Adoption of Precision AgricultureIn 2017, 261 Canadian farmers participated in a precision ag survey conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 65% of participants said they strongly agree that PA is useful, while 70% of participants said they use farm management software on their computer.

    The survey participants ranked how important certain reasons were for using precision ag on the farm. ‘Better crop management,’ ‘improved equipment and labor ’ and how to ‘reduce crop input costs’ were ranked as the top three reasons for adopting PA.[1]

    What is Precision Ag?

    Before we delve into the specifics of PA, let’s define it. The primary goal of precision agriculture is to strive for profitability, efficiency, and sustainability on the farm. This is achieved through a combination of PA technology and PA equipment. First, PA technology gathers and analyzes data from every action performed on your operation and helps guide both your immediate and future decisions: what seed to plant in what field, or where exactly you need a precise amount of fertilizer or chemical. Then, once you have an idea of what needs to be done on your farm, PA equipment puts your plan into action. For example, you can prep your land by using automatic section or variable-rate application control. Or, you can precisely maneuver your tractor and implements using a hands-free steering system, like the Autopilot Automated Steering System. And, with the right farm management software, you can manage complex prescriptions across a variety of productivity zones all in one platform.

    The PA movement started in the 1990s with the introduction of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A wide range of sensors, monitors, and controllers were also developed during that time and were used on ag equipment like shaft monitors, pressure transducers and servo motors[2]. With the rapid introduction and adoption of mobile computing, high-speed Internet and reliable satellites, the reach and usage of PA has grown immensely over the past decade, so much so that it now touches almost every area of a farm operation.

    Why Invest in Precision Ag?

    When your hardware and software can communicate with one another, you won’t have to spend as many late nights planning your next steps—the capabilities of precision ag will manage it for you. By improving your overall efficiency, you can have more meals at home with your family and make it to more family events and get-togethers. The ripple effect of precision ag moves beyond your operation, giving you more than just monetary value.

    But that doesn’t mean PA won’t help your bottom line. There is a cost and time savings benefit for your farm that can be realized through implementing PA. Studies show that return on investment (ROI) in PA varies depending on numerous factors like the type and size of your farm, specific technology introduced and how the data is analyzed and implemented.

    However, when PA is introduced correctly and is part of an overall plan, various research studies show that PA technologies can quickly reduce labor and crop input costs, cut back your water usage and save you time and headaches when planning and executing each growing season.

    The most important thing to know is that PA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for your neighbor might not make sense for you. Looking at each operation individually and implementing solutions that work for your particular farm is the only way to use PA successfully and receive a positive ROI.

    It’s the technology that ties your whole farm together, giving you the control and visibility you need to make better decisions. When you’re able to make better decisions, you know you’re getting the most out of your operation, giving you peace of mind and renewed confidence.

    5 Tips to Help You Succeed with Precision Agriculture

    Trying to decide which PA technologies are right for your farm can seem like an intimidating task. However, the solutions incorporated into your farm can be simple and should make sense for your operation. If you go into PA with the right attitude, you can be successful and see a significant return on your investment.

    1. Start with a goal

    Whenever you make an investment in your operation, it should be a part of your overall business plan and solve a problem where you currently have no solution. Creative problem-solving is something that has been done on the farm for centuries. But now, the solution is often found within a piece of technology rather than in the shop.

    1. Understand the management and maintenance required

    Good technology should work for you. If you’re going to spend the money on new seeding, spraying and harvesting monitors, you need to calibrate the machines regularly, organize the data, ensure it’s accurate and then act on what the data tells you.

    Just like any piece of equipment on your farm, PA technologies need to be maintained in order to maximize their full potential.

    In addition, it’s important to understand how different PA technologies can work together in order to give you the best results. For example, a seed monitoring system like the Field-IQCrop Input Control System can be used in conjunction with a guidance display system like the GFX-750 Display or the TMX-2050 Display. When used together, you can accurately monitor and map your fields in real-time and correct problems as they arise. You can also simplify precision ag data management by using features like Autosync  that connects to other data sources.

    1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

    As long you’re making PA decisions based on data and not on emotion, any missteps should be small and learned from quickly. In fact, much of the success of using PA technology is accomplished through trial and error. Recognizing the error and making adjustments in the moment will ensure your PA technologies are accomplishing their goal of increased efficiency and productivity.

    1. Have a support network

    Making the correct PA decisions for your farm is not easy—especially the first ones. Having solid support from a Trimble Vantage Reseller can be a great help when you make the initial investment, as you evaluate your data each season and when you expand the technologies used in your operation.

    1. Get connected

    The web is an incredibly powerful tool to find other farmers who are making similar decisions on their farm. Web platforms like YouTube and Twitter can greatly expand your support network. It’s a great idea to search for reviews and testimonials before you invest in a certain piece of technology. Farmers around the world post online reviews that offer the pros and cons of various equipment and products—which is invaluable and free.

    So now that you’ve got the right PA mindset, let’s explore some of the most popular technologies available.

    Guidance & Steering Systems

    Some of the first and most widely used PA technologies on farms across the U.S. were GPS-guided combines, tractors, sprayers, and seeders.

    High-precision guidance and steering provide outstanding accuracy when working in the field, allowing growers to work anywhere, any time and in all conditions, even at night.

    One of the largest benefits of guidance systems is the reduction in the amount of overlap and/or skips within the field, saving you fuel and time while dramatically lowering your stress levels behind the steering wheel.

    The improved accuracy in the field also ensures you’re seeding and spraying efficiently. A 2009 study from Virginia Tech University estimated a range in savings of 2-7 percent (with an average of 5 percent) in input costs due to GPS guidance systems.Guidance & Steering Systems

    Looking at specific guidance systems, there are a few to choose from:

    • Assisted steering systems provide you with a path to follow in the field. This results in more accurate driving, however, you still need to control the steering wheel.
    • Automated steering systems are in full control of the steering wheel, allowing you to take your hands off the wheel during trips down the row and keep an eye on the planter, sprayer or other equipment. For example, the AutopilotAutomated Steering System can help you complete your field applications quickly and accurately. By using terrain-compensation technology, it remains highly accurate, even on difficult terrain. It can also be used with the TMX-2050 Display, sharing your data between your hardware and software and keeping them connected with one another.
    • Intelligent guidance systems provide different steering patterns depending on the shape of the field and can be used in combination with the above systems. These are extremely helpful systems when working on an irregularly-shaped field.
    • Implement guidance systems ensure that your tractor and implement are working together, even when your hands aren’t on the wheel. Systems like the actively control your implement so you don’t have to. The implement is able to correct its position without input from the tractor and keeps them both on the same guidance line. 

    Land Preparation

    Preparing your land each growing season is a delicate balance between things you can and cannot control. Even when we do everything right, it can all be wiped out if the rain clouds stay away. While PA doesn’t erase that volatility, it does give you a few more tools to successfully handle the variables that are out of your control.

    Before making any decision, you’ll need to know what’s going on in your soil.

    Land Preparation
    Random soil sampling is the traditional approach that works best for uniform fields with little variation, while managed random sampling looks at soil from average production areas. This approach is different from random sampling, which provides an average of all cores taken throughout your field. Managed random sampling is recommended if you can’t identify a dominant production area on your field.

    Benchmark sampling is suggested for fields with more variability (hills, depressions, etc.). Benchmark sampling reduces the variability of a field by reducing the area sampled. A small area representing the majority of the field is sampled the same number of times as in random sampling.

    Solutions like the Soil Information System (SIS) can give you the most complete picture of your soil health. It helps you understand soil texture, compaction, root zone depth, moisture retention and availability and soil fertility.

    Beyond soil sampling, another new source of data to help with land preparation is imagery from aerial field views. With infrared images of your field, you can quickly identify problems that you simply can’t see from the ground.

    Because of the intricacies involved, teaming up with your local Trimble Vantage Reseller is recommended when it comes to soil sampling, mapping and interpreting the results. While soil sampling is not an exact science, understanding the condition of your soil will help you determine how to prepare your fields for a growing season.

    PA equipment is particularly valuable in strip till and anhydrous application. Guidance display systems enable you to accurately monitor and map field information in real-time, with a wide array of functionalities to suit different farming needs. Tractor, implement and row guidance steering systems minimize skips, overlaps and guess rows, incorporating terrain compensation technology to maintain precision in difficult conditions. 

    Yield Monitoring

    A strong addition to any PA strategy is yield monitoring. Introduced in the early 1990s and working in conjunction with GPS technology, the use of yield monitoring equipment has increasingly become a conventional practice in modern agriculture.

    Yield Monitoring
    Information like seed varieties, moisture, grain loads and auto-cut width are gathered by the yield monitor and shown on a display in the cab. This can help you make in-the-moment decisions in the field that might not be apparent with the naked eye.

    When you take all this information and format it into a yield map, it becomes a powerful tool that can inform all your operational decisions going forward. Combined with your cost of production and application maps, a yield map will show you what areas of your farm are more profitable than others and should help you bring other areas of your field up to par. You can go one step further with farm management software that provides ‘Profit Maps’ so you can deep-dive into each field and see what strategies are working.

    Variable Rate Technology

    Armed with your yield monitoring data, you’re now ready to unleash the PA power of variable rate technology (VRT). VRT is the ability to adapt parameters on a machine to apply seed, chemical or fertilizer according to the exact variations in plant growth or soil nutrients and type. VRT can be adapted to crop sprayers in either an individual nozzle or section (a set of nozzles). Planters with VRT usually have the automatic controllers on individual rows. Solutions like the Field IQISOBUS Liquid control system and the enable you to control the amount of liquid that’s being applied on your operation, reducing your input costs, and creating a high-yielding environment for your crop.

     Variable Rate Technology
    So, instead of applying a uniform amount of seed on one field, VRT allows you to apply the optimum type and amount of seed in a specific area of any field—either automatically or manually right from the cab. You can also avoid double coverage and eliminate wasted inputs.

    Another huge bonus is that you’ll have a complete record of all inputs used in your operation, helping you make future decisions.

    Is VRT Worth the Investment?

    Like all PA technologies, it depends on how it’s used. When used alongside soil sample data, aerial maps and yield monitoring, VRT is extremely effective at ensuring your inputs are being applied to your fields as effectively as possible.

    While it often takes some trial and error, if you’re committed to the PA process, you should experience a fast return on your investment.

    Flow & Application Control

    By managing the flow and application of inputs on your operation, you can precisely apply inputs where needed on your field. Seed monitoring systems are especially helpful during planting; you need to know when you’re experiencing planting issues like skips, doubles and failed unit rows. But, you can’t fix what you don’t know. Fortunately, a seed monitoring system, like the Field-IQ Crop Input Control System, sees what you can’t.

    Flow & Application Control
    You can monitor your seeding information or fertilizer delivery lines in real-time. It allows you to control your variable-rate application and helps you keep an eye on your automatic section control. It also prevents costly planter problems by catching them early before they impact your yields. When used in conjunction with a guidance display systemlike the GFX-750 Display or the TMX-2050 Display—you can accurately monitor and map your fields in real-time and correct problems as they arise.

    Reducing applications in low productivity areas of your field helps you reduce money spent on inputs. Typically, around 10-20 percent of a field under-performs, so why spend precious time and money on an area that isn’t giving you the results you want?

    At a single glance, you should be able to see where your fields are making you money and where inputs are not paying off. Precision ag is a farm management strategy, one that is best evaluated using profit maps over the long-term.

    Water Management

    As we’ve all experienced firsthand, water is a scarce resource, especially in drought conditions. A precision farm irrigation system is one way to mitigate issues that come up when rain clouds don’t appear. But when it does rain, you can’t always monitor your fields in-person. That’s where PA software solutions can get the job done for you.

    Irrigation & Water Management
    When managing water, factors like precipitation, irrigation and soil moisture contribute to available water for your crops, which in turn impacts your yields. But your yields are also affected by additional factors like topography and soil type. Visual surveys of your field can easily identify any obvious red flags like erosion and depressions where ponding occurs. Using GPS tools like WM-Survey with RTK accuracy are crucial for identifying steep slopes, rises and low spots that can impact your yields.

    Or, you can use the VerticalPoint RTKGrade Control system on your operation. Other land-forming systems are only operational 75 percent of the time, which means you get fewer working hours and higher costs. But Trimble’s grade control system integrates with the Trimble® FieldLevel II System and gives you faster, more accurate results. By using ground-breaking technology, it operates at 95 percent uptime in even the most challenging environments.

    With it, contractors get increased uptime and a reduced number of passes needed to complete a job. And, farmers can benefit from fields that have better water management and crop yield.

    But the path to proper water management and higher crop yields begins with your soil. Soil type can heavily impact its ability to retain moisture and deliver it to the crop. While clay soils are great at retaining water, they are also heavy and sticky. On the other hand, sandy soil drains well with high hydraulic activity and percolation. But if you want to produce consistent yields throughout your field, you need to appropriately space tile laterals throughout the entire field in order for it to drain properly.

    Hardware solutions like the FieldLevel II System streamline surveying, designing and leveling required for land-leveling projects. It also helps ensure optimal water management by providing you with improvements in yields, water usage and farm productivity.

    Data Integration

    If there’s any real magic in PA, it’s found in data integration.

    As you’ve read above, there’s no shortage of data that growers can collect, whether it’s yield maps, soil test results or input costs. However, the real power of PA is unleashed when all that data is combined to provide you with a complete story of your operation. But, that’s easier said than done, and in many ways, integration is one of the hardest things to get right in PA. 

    Farm Data Integration

    5 Ways to Get Better Data Integration

    The basic goal of PA data integration is to organize all your farm data in useful ways for analysis and decision-making. Here are five things you can do to help make that happen:

            1. When you purchase any new software or hardware for your farm, make sure it’s compatible with what you’re already using. If the systems don’t work together, then it won’t give you the results you’re looking for. But, if you’re using ISOBUS technology, you won’t need to worry. ISOBUS technology is the industry-standard to achieving compatibility between tractors and implements by following a ‘plug and play’ mandate. You no longer need a separate or brand-new display system for each tractor, as it allows for both display and machine to speak to each other, regardless of brand or age. ISOBUS equipment like the ISOBUS-compatible GFX-750 Display or the Field-IQ ISOBUS Control Solutions keep you connected to every piece of software and hardware.

    ISOBUS

            1. Make sure you regularly calibrate and service your technology solutions just like you would with your equipment. Take the time to get to know the technology you’re using, and you’ll save yourself time and money down the road.
            1. Investigate high-speed Internet options for your farm—both in your office and in the field. If possible, the benefits of having a high-speed Internet connection in the cab might be worth the investment to help with in-the-moment decisions in the field.
            1. Explore online data storage. All those USB sticks that you’ve got in drawers in your office are nice backups for your data, but they aren’t as effective or practical compared to storing it all in one place online. Online or ‘cloud’ storage space is getting cheaper and safer all the time and allows you to easily share with your accountant, farm advisor, insurer or lender. And remember—it’s your data—and you have the right to know how it’s being used by your operation’s stakeholders.
            1. Partner up with an expert. While hardware and software solutions are becoming more compatible and easier to use, it’s still an intimidating task to get them all working together. A Trimble Vantage Reseller is an invaluable resource to have, especially when getting started, to make sure all your PA data is integrated and getting you the information you need to make the best decisions for your farm. 

    Correction Services

    When thinking about accuracy and getting the most out of your operation, correction services are an important point of consideration. Many farmers benefit from higher levels of accuracy available from providers like Trimble. These advanced-positioning services give you access to innovative positioning services tailored to fit the accuracy level that’s right for your operation. From sub-inch to sub-meter accuracy needs, our intelligent solutions drive precision ag success.

    As an example, CenterPoint RTX satellite-delivered correction services, provides high accuracy positioning better than < 2.5 cm and offers built-in redundancy to ensure connectivity, consistency and quality for less cab time, tighter rows and straighter lines. CenterPoint RTX also provides corrections for all GNSS constellations, taking full advantage of all supported GNSS constellations, including Galileo and BeiDou. Using these additional satellite signals, the CenterPoint RTX provides faster RTX convergence times and more robust performance under natural obstacles such as trees. Customers may experience up to 40% faster convergence times when additional satellites are used for CenterPoint RTX. Trimble RTX correction services are repeatable pass-to-pass, season-to-season and year-to-year for achieving high accuracy positioning for your guidance system and precision farming needs.

     

    The Future

    Traceability, instant weather reporting and up-to-the-minute commodity market information are all data sets that are rapidly being addressed by the latest PA software solutions—with the aim to receive and send this data automatically and instantaneously from the tractor or your office.

    A scenario in the not-too-distant future might look something like this: You’re seeding your field and the weather forecast changes to a much-needed rain. With this new information, you increase the fertilizer rate to take advantage of the added moisture in the soil. Because your cab is web-enabled, this adjustment is automatically reflected in your fertilizer order sheet, cash flow, yield projections and your marketing plan. There’s no need for any extra data entry or office work—your entire operation is integrated and automated.

    Increased data integration will not only help you focus on growing a crop, but growing the best possible crop. Technology, agriculture, food—these are industries that are always changing, and Trimble is keeping pace.

    The Precision Ag Farm of the Future

    The Precision Ag Farm of the Future

    Our vision of this concept is simple. It’s one where you have the right technology to solve your day-to-day problems, enhancing your farming operation and your life. The ongoing integration of technology on your farm allows you to turn your precision ag equipment into true decision-making tools for your business. That’s the ultimate goal of precision agriculture.

  2. Check out the Highlights of our 2018 Software Updates

    You may have noticed…the Trimble Ag Software engineering team had a busy 2018!

    In case you lost track of all the upgrades and enhancements, check out this ‘at a glance’ list of the highlights, with links to find out more information. If you have any specific questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at TABS_Sales@Trimble.com or 1-800-282-4103.

    And have a great 2019!

     

     

  3. Plug and Play with ISOBUS: What it is and how it can Help Your Operation

    If you’ve invested in or researched precision technology, you’ve likely heard of ISOBUS.

    But what is it?

    Also referred to as ISO, it is the industry-standard communication protocol for ag equipment manufacturers that allows computers, vehicles and implements — regardless of their brand — to “talk” to each other.

    It’s what makes “plug and play” possible across different brands. With standardized plugs, cables and software, if a piece of equipment has ISOBUS, you can plug it into any ISO display and get the same user interface (UI) and workflow, display to display, tractor to tractor.

    Benefits of ISOBUS

    Due to its consistency and simplicity, ISOBUS can provide many benefits on your farm.

    For starters, you no longer have to stick with the same brand for every tractor or implement you purchase.

    With dozens of manufacturers listed in the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) compatibility database — the organization founded to improve cross-manufacturer compatibility of electronic and electric components of ag equipment — you can have a mixed fleet without worrying that a piece of equipment won’t work with another, as long as they’re all equipped with ISOBUS.

    Farmers can register to access the AEF’s database for more information on certified ISOBUS products and to determine compatibilities between equipment.

    For those with mixed fleet farms and several employees, ISOBUS can help keep operations running smoothly, as any operator can take any ISO-capable tractor, plug the ISO implement into it and begin working. They don’t need to recall settings or do any additional setup because everything is loaded and ready to run, reducing downtime.

    Finally, having ISOBUS can help with reselling your equipment. Since ISO is the industry standard for ag equipment, there’s no concern of it becoming obsolete, and it makes it easier to sell to someone who may be running a different brand.

    Does it really work?

    There is a perception among some farmers that ISOBUS doesn’t work, and this is likely due to equipment that was marketed as being ISOBUS compatible when it truly wasn’t. These products may have been marketed as “ISOBUS prepared” or “ISOBUS light,”

    In some scenarios, there is no way to determine if a piece of equipment isn’t ISO compatible until you try to use it. For example, you may find an implement works with the same brand’s display, but when you try to pair it with a different manufacturer’s product it doesn’t function. True ISOBUS should always work, regardless of the display in the cab. Trimble Field-IQ™ ISOBUS Control Solution provides the same functionality, regardless of whether you’re using a Trimble display.

    Trimble’s Field-IQ™ ISOBUS Control Solutions don’t hide anything or have “ISO plus” features that will work on one display but not another. Our ECUs can be used with whatever display you already have — what you get on one is what you’re going to get on the rest.

    Getting Started with ISOBUS

    Whether you have ISO-ready equipment or you’d like to retrofit your implements, there are two basic components every grower needs to get started with ISOBUS. Which are a Universal Terminal compatible display and an ISO ECU. Keep in mind that ISOBUS offers additional functionality and features that build upon these two basic components.

    The first is a display, which contains the Universal Terminal (UT) functionality, formerly called the Virtual Terminal (VT). You can think of the UT like a computer monitor — just as you can plug a computer monitor into any PC and get the same result, the UT can be plugged into any ISO-equipped implement and function the same. The UT will be your interface for controlling the implement and typically contains the UI to configure and operate the implement.

    The second component is an ISO capable Electronic Controlled Unit (ECU), which is what makes the implement intelligent and allows you to control the implement from the cab. The ECU goes on the implement, stores all of the settings and holds the user interface for the UT to load and display. It also generally contains all of the control layers and the electronics needed to control certain components such as a boom valve or control valve.

    If you’re buying a piece of equipment that is already ISOBUS ready, all you’ll need is a UT-capable display, such as the GFX-750 or TMX-2050, which is just one small feature of these displays. But if you already have equipment you’d like to make ISO compatible, such as a sprayer you’d like to be able to add section control, you can retrofit it with a solution like the Trimble® Field-IQ™ ISOBUS Liquid Control.

    You may also need some help from your equipment or precision ag dealer to get everything set up, depending on what the ECU is doing and the functionality it offers. If it’s an OEM-equipped ECU, there may be certain things you can’t do or don’t have the tools to do, so you’ll need help making certain adjustments.

    With Trimble’s ECUs and others that are geared toward retrofitting an implement, there are more settings open to you, so you can make tweaks and tailor the solution to your implement.

    But with any ECU, you should be able to make basic adjustments, such as general flow calibrations.

    Glossary of Terms

    Whether you’ve been using ISOBUS for years or are just learning about it, there are several terms you’ll likely come across. Here is a brief glossary of those terms.

    • Universal Terminal (UT): A display capable of operating any implement and multiple implements. Formerly called the Virtual Terminal (VT).
    • Electronic Controlled Unit (ECU): The device put on the implement that makes the implement smart. It stores all the settings and the user interface (UI) for the UT to load and generally contains the control layers and electronics needed to control certain components. This is what allows users to control implements from the cab.
    • User interface (UI): The means by which the user and a computer system interact.
    • Task Controller: ISO messaging that automates commands for the ECU. It is broken down into three sub-protocols:
      • Basic: This collects data totals, such as how much product was applied and how many acres were covered.
      • Section: Provides section control of the implement.
      • Geo: Handles geo-referenced application and collects data based on location. For example, GPS-prescription applications are controlled by this protocol.
    • AUX-O and AUX-N: Auxiliary devices that either offers extra input or expanded output in the ECU. AUX-O stands for the old protocol, while AUX-N stands for the new protocol. AUX-O and AUX-N are not compatible with each other.

    While we’ll be diving deeper into ISOBUS in future blog posts, you can learn more about this technology and how it may benefit your farm by checking out the Trimble® Field-IQ™ ISOBUS Control Solutions.

  4. 10 Helpful Tips for Tax Planning

    With the new year now underway, many of us are setting goals and establishing resolutions that will set us up for success in 2019. A big part of hitting our goals, of course, is understanding what went well during the previous year, and where things could improve.

    This is certainly true in farming, which is why we turned to one of our resident experts, Scott Nusbaum, who is not only a Product Manager with Trimble Ag Business Solutions, he is also a Certified Public Accountant and has some keen insights in how farmers can leverage accounting tips to finish off the year strong.

    Year-End Accounting Tips

    • Review Year-End Enterprise Statements — The end of the year is a great time to start analyzing the financial results for each enterprise. Trimble Ag Software provides comprehensive cost analysis for each one of your field, livestock, equipment, and people enterprises. The Enterprise Statements will pull costs and revenue directly from your accounting records. However, for this to happen it’s important that you allocate all of the important costs and revenues to an enterprise. If you’d like a report of any un-allocated transactions, try the General Ledger Detail Report and use the option to “Select specific detail items to print”. When doing this you will be able to select the “Unassigned” detail item to get a report of any transactions that you may have forgotten to allocate.  
    • Update your Software — Trimble Ag Software always has a year-end accounting update in January (for the previous year). This update is critical for accounting purposes as it includes updates for printing and electronic submission of year-end tax forms. Additionally, it includes updates for Federal Tax Withholding for the new year. If you are subscribed to maintenance you can update by going to the Help menu and selecting Check for Updates. If you are not subscribed to maintenance, you can order it through the Marketplace in Trimble Ag Software or by calling the Trimble Sales Staff at (800) 282-4103 or emailing TABS_Sales@Trimble.com.
    • Printing 1099s — As year-end approaches you’ll need to start planning for creating 1099s for your landlords and other vendors. The Purchases Report can be used to get a list of transactions with totals for any 1099 vendors. If you’re using the Advanced Accounting module you can also print Forms 1099-MISC and 1096. Or better yet, use the software for electronic submission of Forms 1099-MISC, 1099-INT and 1096. For more information check this out.
    • Printing W-2s As year-end approaches you’ll need to start planning for creating W-2s for your employees. Trimble Ag Software Advanced Accounting makes this simple! The Employee’s Earnings Report can be used to get a list of payroll details for all of your employees. You can also print Forms W-2 and W-3. Or better yet, use the software for electronic submission of Forms 1099-MISC, 1099-INT and 1096. For more information check this out.
    • Ordering blank W-2s and 1099s If you will be printing your 1099s and/or W-2s with Trimble Ag Software, be sure to order your forms soon! Trimble Ag Software has partnered with Nelco Solutions to provide forms that are guaranteed to work with your software. Click here for more information.
    • Reconcile Bank Accounts — Year-end is one time of the year where Bank Reconciliation is extra critical! Before you start printing year-end financial reports, make sure that you have your bank statement completely reconciled for the year. 
    • Review Supply Inventories Be sure to print a Supplies Inventory report for the end of the year and review it closely. If there are supplies that are off by a small amount, you can adjust them in the Adjust Supplies area. Supply Inventories that are off by a large amount can be due to having purchases or jobs that are incorrect. If you find that your inventories are off by a large amount, you should review all purchases and uses (jobs) for the material. The General Ledger Detail Report can be filtered by supplies to see individual purchases for selected supplies. And the Jobs tab has a filter where you can filter your jobs for selected supplies.
    • Review Crop Inventories — Be sure to print a Harvested Crop Inventory report for the end of the year and review it closely. If there are crop inventories that are off by a small amount, you can adjust them in the Adjust Harvested Crop area. Harvested Crop Inventories that are off by a large amount can be due to having Crop Sales or Field Harvest Records that are incorrect. If you find that your inventories are off by a large amount, you should review all Crop Sales and Harvest Jobs for the Crop. The General Ledger Detail Report can be filtered by Crop Sale accounts to see individual sales for selected crops. And the Jobs tab has a filter where you can filter your jobs for the job type of Harvested to see just harvest jobs.
    • Update Depreciation — Depreciation is a key cost for each of your pieces of equipment. This cost gets passed on to the fields where the equipment has been used. If you are using the Advanced Accounting module be sure to enter your depreciation for the year.
    • Printing Reports for Accountants, Bankers, and Others — Year-end is a time to review financial results with bankers, accountants, tax preparers, owners and others. The following is a list of some key reports that are useful at year.
      • Tax Schedule Reports — Provides a report that is laid out to match your Schedule F and other year-end tax forms
      • General Ledger Detail Report — Provides a list of transactions by account for the year along with a balance of the account.
      • Market Value Balance Sheet — The Advanced Accounting module includes a Market Value area where you can enter current values for all your assets.  Once your values are entered you can print a Market Value Balance Sheet along with a supporting schedule with all the details. This report is particularly useful for bankers and other lenders
      • Cash Flows Statement — The Advanced Accounting module includes a cash flows statement that helps you to easily analyze where your cash came from for the year and where it went!
      • Financial Measure Report — The Advanced Accounting module includes a Financial Measures Report that computes over 20 Farm Financial Ratios that helps you to analyze the financial performance of your farming operation. This report provides a “drill down” button that lets you quickly dig into the details that are used for each ratio.
      • Save as PDF — If you’d rather not print your reports, all reports have options for saving in different formats including PDF files that can be e-mailed and shared with others.
    • Year-end — Once you are sure that your books are correct and your taxes have been filed, you can close your year using the ‘Year End’ option on the Accounting menu. The year-end process is simple and provides a checklist of items to be sure you complete. However, the most important part of year-end is that it is not something you typically do at the end of the year (I know that’s counter intuitive). Year End can be performed anytime during the New Year. The software is designed so that you can start entering transactions and printing reports for the new year, while the old year is still open. So you can relax and do your year-end after you are sure everything is correct.

     

    For more information on Trimble Ag Software’s Advanced Accounting, visit us today.

    Happy holidays!

  5. Trimble’s Precision-IQ Steps Forward for Today’s Farmers

    Precision ag keeps getting smarter. From hardware that can track and provide insights into your in-field processes to software that can help turn data into actionable information for year-over-year improvements, the modern farm looks much different than our parents’ farms.

    We released Precision-IQ with three main goals:

    • Make upgrades and the adoption of new precision ag features easy for any farmer with a supported Trimble device
    • Introduce new interface functionality (touch-screen switch control, simplifying field selection criteria, etc)
    • Build a platform that farmers can trust and that will grow and adapt to their farming operations as they change

    Listening to feedback from farmers, we’ve learned what we got right and what we got wrong. We’ve taken the feedback and revamped Precision-IQ with the core functionality our farmers need. New versions of the application will tackle the biggest challenges our users face, such as labor shortages and the ever-increasing need for greater efficiency and productivity. With this strengthened foundation in place, we’re poised to build a product that revolutionizes the farm of the future, regardless of size.

    The farm of the future ties the entire operational cycle together with information from each season flowing into and informing the next. This allows us to make better decisions in an era when our farms are heavily impacted by outside influences like dropping commodity prices, agricultural tariffs, and mother nature’s unpredictability. Precision-IQ arms you with actionable data to put some control back in your hands, both in real time and the long term.

    What is Trimble® Precision-IQ™?

    The Trimble® Precision-IQ™ field application for our TMX-2050 and GFX-750 displays is an easy-to-use advanced field management system. This application gives you the ability to collect and manage the information and data from infield activities and then analyze that data back in the office using your farm management software.

    For legacy farmers familiar with the capabilities of FmX® Plus and for those new to Trimble — now is the time to look at Precision-IQ.


    New Precision-IQ Features Pave the Way for Future Innovation

    Run Screen Pattern Selector

    The Run Screen Pattern Selector allows you to cycle through your library of AB lines and curves without having to leave the run screen. Similar to a feature that FmX® Plus users will be familiar with, this gives you a quick way to change guidance lines from one to the next based on your location and the needs of your operation.

     

    Client/Farm Filter and Entry

    Easily filter down to fields of a specific client or farm. Organize your data by farm and field name for quick lookup and easy access to their fields when onsite. No more scrolling through long lists of fields to find the one you’re currently working.

     

    Master Switch Box and the 12-Section Switch Box Support

    Be confident that you’re spraying when and where you intended with a switch box you control and can monitor to make sure switches engage at the right time.

     

    Field-IQ (FIQ) Basic Rate and Section Control License Upgrade UI

    This feature allows for modules for “Field-IQ Basic Rate Only” or “Section Only” to be unlocked to a Rate and Section module to give you greater control, flexibility and control over your application processes.

     

    Access Paths

    Designed for crops that live in beds and creep and move, access paths give you the ability to create a repetitive skip in your fieldset. Protect your vines by giving your sprayer the room it needs to do its job without stepping on your crops. Choose to guide to your swath set or to your access paths.

     

    TMX-2050 Implement Switch via EXP-100 Remote Logging Switch

    This out-of-the-box functionality for the Trimble® GFX-750™ display system display system is now available for TMX-2050 Precision-IQ users. Easily know when your implement is up and when your implement is down. This allows you to automatically start coverage logging based on the positioning of your implement’s 3-point hitch. 

     

    Precision-IQ – New Application Control Coverage Logging options

    This feature provides coverage logging accuracy you can trust with as much or as little control and detail as you need. Define coverage and data capture parameters within your implement setup.

    For common setup and functionality questions, please view our Precision-IQ how-to video library:

     

    3 Reasons to Invest in Precision-IQ

    Want to take your precision ag practices to the next level? Now is the time to think about upgrading your TMX-2050 with Precision-IQ or to purchase a new GFX-750 or TMX-2050 with Precision-IQ pre-installed.

    1 – Ease of Use

    Precision-IQ is easy to use for any operator. It’s simple, straightforward and requires little to no training to get anyone on your crew up and running.

    2 – Your Farm’s Future

    We are always listening to farmers about innovating and improving our technology. This ensures our solutions serve customer needs based on the way you want to farm today and in the future. Precision-IQ is the foundation to a platform you can trust to grow and change with your farming needs.

    3 – Support and Resources

    When you invest in your farm using Trimble products, you’re getting the support and resources of a worldwide network of precision ag experts. Our resellers are fellow farmers and agriculture advocates living in your community who are eager to help you improve your farming practices. They’ll get you more time back to spend with your family and make your profession more enjoyable with the assistance of world-class precision ag technology.

    To learn more about our innovative yet intuitive display, view a video demo of the GFX-750 display system.

  6. 8 Technology Tune-up Tips for an Efficient, Accurate Harvest

    With the end of the season fast approaching, you’re probably monitoring your crops and the weather for the ideal time to get into the field and begin harvesting.

    While you likely know the importance of conducting a thorough inspection of your equipment before you get the combine rolling, you should also ensure your precision technology is up-to-date and functioning correctly.

    It’s key to do this now, because otherwise, you may find yourself making repairs and corrections later — when you would rather be spending that time harvesting.

    Not only will a pre-harvest tune-up save on time and reduce stress, it’ll also ensure the data you’re collecting is accurate, which is crucial if you plan on using it to create prescriptions for the next season.

    Here are some tips on how you can inspect and prepare your precision technology for a smooth and successful harvest.

    Pre-Harvest Tune-Up: Steering Systems

    1 – Start with the Steering Hardware

    The first step is checking the hardware of the guidance steering system. This includes:

    • Greasing all spindles and kingpins, and making sure there’s no wear in them, as that will result in a poor response in the system.

    • Checking that linkages are tight and aligned properly.

    • Verifying that the camber, caster and toe of your steering system are within spec, as unalignment will cause the system to pull to one side, resulting in uneven and excessive wear on your tires and potential steering errors.

    • Ensuring the tires are in good shape — tread depth is within proper spec; no excessive wear or deformities. Also, be sure that they’re inflated to the proper pressure as listed in the operator’s manual.

    If you have a hydraulic steering system — which most factory-installed systems are — you’ll want to make sure the hydraulic oil levels are good. Also, check that the hoses aren’t leaking and are secured in the proper locations; not falling down and getting in the way of the tires or the threshing mechanisms.

    It’s also important to check that the filtering system is updated, with any filters changed according to the service time periods stated in the manual. Clogged filters cause reduced flow which in turn can cause reduced steering performance – and nobody likes that…

    If you have an assisted steering system, such as the EZ-Pilot and EZ-Steer, you’ll need to make sure the anti-rotation bracketry is good and secure, which is generally on the steering column. Again, verify that the linkages and brackets are tight. No bushings or other pieces should be sloping or worn.

    And if your system has a steering sensor, check the linkages on it, ensuring they’re free and clear, working properly with no sticking or slop. Cables should be routed properly and not hanging. If you find any wearing or broken wires, repair and replace them as required per the service manual.

    2 – Do a Test Run

    After you’ve checked all the physical aspects of the steering system, you’ll want to do a test run.

    But first, if you transferred the GPS guidance system from another piece of equipment — such as your tractor or sprayer — to your combine, make sure the right vehicle is entered into the system, so you have the right dimensions and configurations set up.

    Once you’ve confirmed the configurations are correct, set an AB line in the field and see if the system steers to it and is providing good performance. You’ll need to do this with the header on and threshing mechanism engaged as this can change the dynamics of the system.

    Also, verify that the steering angle in your display matches the angle of your tires. For example, if you turn your wheels to the left and the display says the angle is 27 degrees, draw a line in the ground from the tire and calculate whether the actual angle is within a couple degrees of that.

    If you’re not seeing a good performance from the test run, start with the basics: Verify measurements and orientations of precision ag equipment – more often than not inches became feet or vice-versa. You can also do the corresponding calibrations for the system over again per the installation manual.

    But if you’re not familiar with this process or not comfortable doing it, you may want to contact your precision ag dealer to redo the calibrations for you or verify the setup is correct.

    3 – Reactivate GPS Subscriptions

    If you have a GPS subscription that needs reactivating for harvest, this is also the time to contact your service provider and get it back up and running. There is usually a little lead time to get it reactivated, so it’s better to get this done now so you know it’ll be ready to go for the timeframe you expect to be harvesting.

    4 – Do a Data Cleanup

    After conducting a full inspection of the steering hardware and testing that it works properly, you’ll want to do a data cleanup of your guidance lines so that only the ones you need are available. This is especially important if you have custom or hired help that will be using the system, as it helps ensure they’ll choose the right line.

    If you have a bunch of guidance lines in your system and you’re not sure what they do, it’s best to just get rid of them.  

    Also, consider whether you’ve changed landowners, have acquired new land or have renamed any land, as this is also the time to redo an export out of your ag management software so that your field structures are up to date for proper data collection.

    Aim to have everything set up properly so that you’re most likely to succeed in getting in the right field at the right time.

    Pre-Harvest Tune-Up: Yield Monitors

    5 – Calibration Key for Accurate Yield

    Our yield monitoring systems are volume-based, which means it senses the amount of crop that sits on the paddle in the grain elevator. So the first step in collecting accurate data is to teach the system what the zero point is — what does the paddle look like with nothing on it?

    Because the paddles can wear and change shape over time, this affects how much volume the sensor reads.

    You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll keep or delete the load data from the previous season for calibrating this season’s yield.

    If you’re harvesting a different crop, it’s likely going to need its own calibration. For example, if last year you harvested wheat and now you’re harvesting corn, the grain is different and the grain flows are likely different as well. So you’ll probably need two separate calibrations.

    You’ll also need to factor in whether the yield potential is similar. If the last wheat crop you harvested was hailed out, its grain flow would’ve been much lower. If your wheat crop this year is normal, the calibration won’t be tailored for a much higher grain flow.

    That also means that if you’ve got a crop that has some sort of stress, it may not produce as much yield as the previous season, so you’re probably going to have to calibrate it to this year’s crop.

    6 – Harvest for Accurate Data

    To calibrate for this year’s crop you’ll need new data in the system before you can apply offsets to it, which means you’ll need to do some harvesting to correct the system.

    We recommend harvesting at least four loads to get an accurate calibration curve. What is considered one load depends on the machine and operator — for some, it may be how much it takes to fill the combine grain tank, for others, it may be how much it takes to fill a semi.

    The loads also need to be taken at various speeds so the system can get a sense for different crop flows to create an accurate calibration curve. If you take all your loads at the same grain flow, you’ll only get one point on the curve.

    While you can do more than four loads, we don’t recommend going above six or seven, as it likely won’t make much of a difference in the accuracy of the calibration.

    7 – Troubleshooting Calibrations

    If you decided to keep your old load data for calibrations and you start to see inaccuracies, inputting new loads is not likely to help — instead it’s only going to skew your numbers.

    You can try to patch it, but more importantly, you should stop, take a look at the machine and figure out what’s wrong. Know that if you need to change something, you might have to get some new calibration loads to reset the data.

    Many problems that come up on the yield monitor often indicate a problem with the combine itself. This primarily includes cleaning the elevator and making sure the chain and paddles are in good shape.

    Another consideration to keep in mind is that without a scale ticket, you can’t offset your yield data, which means the information the system is collecting may not be 100% accurate. You’ll still know the high and low points in your fields, but the numbers won’t be relative until you have that information.

    But once you do have your scale tickets, you can always go back into the system and apply that information to correct the data later.

    Learn more about how a Trimble yield monitor can help you capture valuable data that will enhance your decision-making for next season and beyond.  

    Start Early

    The sooner you can start on this process, the better. Try to do this at least a couple weeks to a month in advance of when you plan on harvesting, that way if you need to order parts or make major repairs, you’ve given yourself enough time to get that taken care of.

    The other benefit to doing this early is that you can teach others on your operation how to work the systems and troubleshoot problems. That way if you find yourself in a situation where someone else needs to step in, you can rely on them to get the job done. It’s much easier to teach others these things when you’re not under stress yourself.

    If you’re not comfortable inspecting and maintaining the precision side of your pre-harvest maintenance, look for precision ag companies or a precision technician at your dealer that may offer a maintenance service to do this for you. Costs for this kind of service may be anywhere between $150 and $500, plus any additional expenses for parts and repairs.

    Remember, your data is only as good as the machine itself. If something isn’t working properly, you’re probably not collecting accurate data, which can have big consequences for future growing seasons.


    Photo Credit: Chip Bryars, Vantage South

    Authors: Dwight Easterly and Zach Gettman

    Zach Gettman is a Product Manager for Trimble and manages the development of solutions worldwide. With 10 years of experience, specializing in flow and application control systems, he aims to help farmers increase their efficiency in the field.

    Dwight Easterly is a Field Applications Engineer for Trimble, helping farmers improve efficiency and productivity on their farms with the proper installation of precision ag technology.

  7. Make Data-Driven Decisions That Drive Farm Profits

    Ever find yourself doing a bit of guesswork when it comes to making decisions on the farm? Are you following a gut feeling one day, or doing things the way they’ve always been done the next?

    Trimble Farm Data DecisionsYou’re not alone — it happens all the time. But with the information at your fingertips, it doesn’t have to. By capturing the right farm data, and then leveraging the right ag software platform to help you turn that data into actionable results, you can set up your farm for maximum success.

    To simplify the process, we’d like to share a free step-by-step guide to making this happen. Welcome to our free e-book, “Using Data-Driven Decisions to Grow Farm Profits” that we’re excited to share with our farmer audience because we know it’s going to make a difference.

    In this free e-book we’ll examine the difference between data and evidence —two terms that are often used interchangeably but actually have very different meanings. This difference is particularly crucial in the business of farming. Truly understanding the difference is where precision farming becomes decision farming, and the real payoffs begin. Here’s a quick snapshot:

    ► Data — Factual information such as numbers, percentages, and statistics.
    ► Evidence — Data that is relevant and furnishes proof that supports a conclusion.

    In “5 Ways to use Data-Driven Decisions to Grow Farm Profits” you’ll learn about how digital data can be used and/or processed in a manner that supplies the evidence to help you understand where your farm business has been and, more importantly, where it needs to go. You’ll also gain tips for how to track farm data effectively and efficiently, including inputs, yield, crop plans, grain prices, and much more.

    Get started today! Read our e-book for free and start turning good data into solid profits.

  8. Unlock the Proven ROI of Ag Software

    The farmer paused, looked up and asked, “Sounds interesting, but what’s the ROI?”

    Business leaders ask about return on investment (ROI) almost daily when facing critical decisions — should I go with Option A or Option B? Or Option C and hold the course? At the end of the day, they need a way to know how the decisions they make today will impact their farm’s bottom line tomorrow, and possibly for years to come.

    Various methodologies are commonly used when calculating ROI, depending on each farm’s management style as well as the parameters in question, such as:

    • How many months do I have to recover the initial cost?

    • How much more profit will be generated?

    Sometimes, more comprehensive models such as weighted average cost of capital (WACC), free cash flows or time value of money are used. On the flip side, we all know that it can also come down to the harder-to-measure metric of ‘following the lead of your neighbors’, which drives a surprising number of on-farm business decisions.

    In this blog we focus on how best to calculate ROI of cloud-based farm management software — one of the most crucial investment decisions farmers are making. The answer? We think it’s more nuanced than a spreadsheet, and that it transcends the standard yield enhancement equation. Here’s why:

    Guide to Calculating the ROI of Ag Software

    First, keep in mind that every farm is managed differently. That’s why we need to move from farming and financial practices, to more human aspects of how data is handled on the farm.

    In the graphic below, the blue tiles show a typical path for how information flows from the operator in the field (on the left) to the farm manager (on the right) — who is also in the field when cloud-based software is not used. The yellow tiles show how cloud-based software shortens the time it takes for information to be accessible by the farm manager.

    ROI of Ag Software Money Saver

    Here, we can clearly see that ROI is revealed in the wasted resources — time, money, peace of mind — that can be generated when cloud-based software is not used. It also calls out the opportunities that can be created when key personnel can be directed to do more valuable tasks, thanks to good software.

    In the second graphic, pictured below, take a look at the light red tiles. They describe the types of waste that can occur when cloud-based software is not used. The bright red tiles on the right highlight the outcomes of those wasted resources — namely, there are more fires to put out, the team isn’t finding fires until after they have grown into blazes, and at the end of the day they have less time to put out the fires.

    Naturally, reducing this waste can improve profitability because resources are being deployed efficiently. But that can be difficult to measure. Furthermore, we believe there is more to cloud-based software than simply reducing waste, which is an important goal of any organization.

    But don’t take it from us. It’s much easier to relate to these impacts by hearing about some personal experiences of a few farmers we have been working with. These growers use cloud-based software that includes a native mobile app, vehicle display integration and a broad online array of functionality.

    Case Study #1: Love That Smartphone

    A potato grower in northwest United States shared his experience of reducing his costs during harvest by reducing the number of trucks because he could see his bins fill in real time. Before using our software, he received bin reports on Saturdays after the load tickets were collected in the office every Friday, loaded into a spreadsheet and sent by email. As a result, he did not see how the bins were filling up faster or slower than he projected mid-week.

    In the first harvest after moving to software, he watched bins fill up on this smartphone app and redeployed trucks to fields with higher-than-expected yields to smooth out his logistics in real time, reducing the amount of time the harvest crews sat idle. He found that he could reduce the number of trucks because he did not have as many surprises on Saturday!

    Case Study #2: Decisions Made Easy

    A commodity grower in southeast United States shared that before software, he did not consider trying new crops because he felt it was too onerous to record field activities, scouting reports and weather while trying a new crop and trying to stay in touch with his agronomist. However, after trying cloud-based software for a year, he felt more confident about converting approximately 50 acres to watermelon. It was easy to record field activities and weather conditions for food safety compliance and he could see his agronomist’s scouting reports in near real-time. Plus, although he did not have 15 years of experience with watermelons, he felt the record keeping was more complete and easy to use, giving him valuable lessons for the next season. Not to mention… it provided a significant boost to his bottom line.

    These examples are played out in the graphic below, where you can see how attacking cost reduction opportunities and pursuing new marketing programs become more attainable as cloud-based farm management software does more of the heavy lifting, freeing up valuable personnel who can help drive profitability!

    ROI of Ag Software Trimble

    At the end of the day, good management of ROI requires good data, and that’s why increasingly, farm management software is becoming a regular cost of doing business — no matter what you grow, or how large your farm operation.

    The most important advice we give to prosperous farmers is to find the right software partner for your operation. Lean toward a provider who’s going to be here for the long term (i.e., not the latest free farm data app financed by a venture capitalist with no ag experience), and one who understands your need to incorporate more precision ag in order to scale your operation.

    The ROI of ag software can be the most valuable metric in guiding us to make the right decisions. Good luck! And we wish you a great crop season.

    Source: Matt Denninger, Customer Success Director with Trimble Ag Business Solutions. 

    To learn more about how to harness the ROI of Trimble Ag Software contact us today at TABS_Sales@Trimble.com or 1.800.282.4103.

  9. How to Use Reference Strips for Better Nitrogen Management

    How much money could you be saving per acre by using reference strips? How much money are you wasting today? A simple change in your farming practices could make a major impact on your bottom line, and those farming practices all come down to better nitrogen management.

    There have been many advancements made in the farming industry around nitrogen management. Variable rate application maps, for example, help identify zones within a field where soil should be managed differently. Largely, though, the way we manage nitrogen today isn’t that different from what our great-great-grandfathers were doing. Farmers go out year after year and apply nitrogen at a flat rate to their field, regardless of the actual needs of the soil. This is done with an “I’d rather be safe than sorry” mentality with many farmers believing that the additional nutrients will lead to a healthier plant. The reality though, is that there is a diminishing return on over-applying nitrogen when it comes to cost and too much nitrogen can actually damage your crop’s potential in some cases.  

    The Ebb and Flow of Nitrogen Mineralization

    Every year, the amount of nitrogen naturally available in the soil, anywhere in the world, changes. One year, the level of nitrogen might be perfect for cultivating a healthy plant. But the next year, you may have had a lot of rain or other poor climatic situations that have affected the soil and therefore affected the amount of nitrogen mineralization naturally available to your crops. If you apply the same amount of nitrogen in a “good” year as you would in a “bad” year, you might end up with healthy plants in either case but will have wasted a lot of money in the year when nitrogen is already at a healthy level. This is where reference strips can be incredibly valuable, both by saving you money on unnecessary nitrogen input and by giving you useful information to amend nitrogen-poor soil to ensure healthy yields.

    N Rich Strip down the center and the farmer practice (Source OSU)

    What does a reference or nitrogen-rich strip do?

    The theory and practice behind reference strips has been cited for years by agronomy experts at Oklahoma State University among others and involves the implementation of a nitrogen-rich strip in your field to be used as a point of comparison for the rest of your field.

    As an example of how this might work: if you were to add 20% more nitrogen than whatever your typical flat rate is to one strip, you’ll be able to measure and calibrate the optimal nitrogen input amount for the rest of your field based on the performance of that strip.

    What will your reference strip tell you?

    Nitrogen Deficient Soil: In a year where the soil is lacking in nitrogen, you can expect to see healthier plants than the rest of the field because you applied extra nitrogen that your plants needed and were able to use.

    Nitrogen Healthy Soil: In a year where there is enough nitrogen in the soil naturally, you can expect to see little difference between your nitrogen-rich strip and the rest of your field because there was already enough nitrogen in the soil, it didn’t need your extra 20%.

    Once you have analyzed the results of your nitrogen-rich strip, you can then use it as a calibration point. Your eyes can only see so much on their own, by using Greenseeker with its smart sensor to scan the nitrogen-rich strip and then scan the rest of the field you’ll have the information you need to make nitrogen input decisions for your entire field.

    How does Greenseeker work?

    Greenseeker is able to determine the optimal amount of nitrogen to apply to different areas of your field, based on information you enter about your crop type and application rate. The sensor will then be able to determine when, where and in what amounts nitrogen should be applied to your fields to produce the best yield. When using a complete Greenseeker system with a guidance display, not only can it determine when, where and how much nitrogen should be applied but it can also generate an after-the-fact report of the exactly how much was applied and where. Giving you the ability to find locations which may need further attention and to track nitrogen needs year-over-year.

    Technology has the ability to see what your eyes can’t and will be able to read the difference in nitrogen levels from your reference strip to the rest of your field.

    (Source OSU)

    This grower applied three times the amount of nitrogen to the area on the left than he did to the area on the right. Can you see a difference? Neither could he. As a result, he wasted money adding more nitrogen than he needed to his field that already had healthy levels of nitrogen.

    How Start Using Reference Strips

    GreenSeeker Handheld

    Using reference strips can save you time, money and give you peace mind. But how do you make this change on your farm?

    1. Education:

    The better you can understand how, when and why to use reference strips, the more value you will get from implementing this process. There are a number of helpful resources in the agriculture community like the agronomy experts at Oklahoma State University who have a lot of information about implementing and getting the most out of the practice on your farm

    • Resource: Oklahoma State University Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Reference Strip Information

    2. Planning:

    Using nitrogen-rich strips correctly comes down to careful and diligent planning. While the actual practice is a simple one, timing matters. You’ll want to get your test strip identified in your field, have the 20% extra nitrogen applied and be able to test results as soon as possible so that you can apply appropriate levels of nitrogen to the rest of your soil in time for your crops to reap the most benefit.

    • Resource: Oklahoma State University Nitrogen-Rich Strips Guide

    3. Data Analysis:

    While Greenseeker can help you determine how much nitrogen is needed in different areas of your field, it offers benefits that go beyond that. By collecting data to help you organize and record your nitrogen use year-over-year, Greenseeker provides information that can help you make smarter farming decisions that will save you money over time and make your practices more efficient.

    • Resource: Oklahoma State University Sensor-Based Nitrogen Rate Calculator

    Farmers that implement the use of reference strips into their farm are often surprised by how easy the process is, especially in relation to the payoff. The return on investment is easy to see the first year that you have a soil-healthy field that you would have otherwise unnecessarily treated with nitrogen. Knowing, instead of guessing, that your soil has the right amount of nitrogen for your crops allows you to get your crop planted and confidently move onto the other needs of our farm.

    Whether you’re a local crop consultant looking for a tool to help you do a quick diagnostic test while in a client’s field or you’re  a cash-crop producer that wants to better manage your nitrogen application to save money and get the most from your fields, a tool like Greenseeker is a must-have on any precision agriculture farm.

    Learn more about GreenSeeker and Trimble’s complete line of Variable Rate Application and Flow Control Solutions

     

     


    About the Author: Daniel Rodriguez is a Product Manager for Trimble and manages the development of solutions worldwide. With 18 years of experience, specializing in crop sensor application systems, he aims to help farmers introduce innovative solutions into their fields, focused on helping increase yields and be more efficient with input management. 

  10. Stay a Step Ahead of Hail Damage

    Farmers notoriously love talking about the weather. And rightly so — it impacts their livelihood. In most instances, the relationship between farmers and the weather is very one-sided. Mother Nature is the boss; she levels the judgement and farmers find themselves either reaping the benefits or salvaging the remains.

    However, while growers can’t influence the weather, they can adopt management decisions that take into account how broad weather patterns affect their bottom line. They can also leverage software tools that put them a step ahead after a major weather event occurs.

    David Renkas, a Saskatchewan farmer, has been making the most of the Hail Alerts feature in Trimble Ag Software.

    “Hail Alerts point you in the right direction and save you a lot of miles, especially with the remote areas of a farm and fields being so spread out,” says Renkas. “You might not have easy access to the far end of a particular field, but if you knew that’s where hail hit, you’d go out and check rather than getting a surprise at harvest time.”

    Pictured below is an example of the contoured maps sent to the Trimble Training Center in Fort Collins, CO on June 20 following a hail event.

    Hail AlertsAs you can see with this map, farmers get specific information about damaged areas right in their inbox with Trimble Ag Software’s Hail Alerts. By seeing a hail coverage map overlaid on their field boundaries, farmers know the precise location and size of hail. This information can save them time and money when scouting fields to assess the damage.

    Hail Alerts is part of Trimble’s Ag Premium Weather. For farmers with busy operations, working with Mother Nature rather than against her can make all the difference. With Hail Alerts, farmers can:

    • Save valuable time by knowing precisely when and where their farmland has been hit by a hail event, including the size of the hail.
    • Skip a lot of the guesswork by know exactly where to go — or direct their crop scout, field agronomist or hail adjuster to go — to assess the damage and investigate possible remedy treatments.

    Ag Premium Weather helps farmers with up-to-date tracking of precipitation, temperature, and growing degree days —  without the worry of physical rain gauges or expensive in-field hardware. Customers get current and historical precipitation data, which enables them to improve operational planning, anticipate yield potential and adjust yield goals.

    Ag Premium Weather is an add-on module to the Farmer Pro bundle. Data can be viewed from the Trimble Ag Mobile app, available for download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

    Or get a free demo of Hail Alerts today!