Many of today’s most advanced precision ag farmers are deciding it’s high time to take their relationship with their soil to the next level.
Why do we need to understand our soils more intimately? Because to effectively fix a problem, you need to understand what is causing it.
Consider a trip to the doctor’s office when you’re not feeling well. If the doctor can’t clearly see what the problem is, they may order an MRI to help them come up with an accurate diagnosis. Without this internal investigation, it would be very difficult for the doctor to come up with the right prescription to deal with your specific health issue. Would you mind if he just took a guess, hoping to get lucky?
I bet you would, and so would I. That’s why we developed the Soil Information System™ — an MRI for your soil. Now, farmers can finally know their fields like never before with the help of cutting-edge 3D soil mapping technology.
How it Works
SIS is a soil mapping solution that uses advanced sensors, intelligent targeting and geo-processing algorithms to produce accurate, high resolution soil and topographic information.
Armed with this vital information, farmers are able to:
- Understand detailed soil properties for each field, such as soil texture, compaction, root zone depth, moisture retention and availability, and soil fertility.
- View soil analysis for up to the top 48 inches (122 cm) of the field’s surface in 3D.
- Download soil maps into their farm management software application, including Trimble Ag Software.
- Work with their trusted advisors to create variable rate application maps from the soil map to help maximize plant growth.
- Access a robust dataset that drives intelligent irrigation decisions.
SIS Success Story
We recently had a farmer purchase a 216-acre alfalfa field in Northwest Montana, only to find out through a PowerZone soil sampling analysis that this field had extremely low pH levels. With pH ranging from 5.5 to 5.9, expected yield loss in an alfalfa crop would be upwards of 60 to 70 percent.
Knowing that something needed to be done to address these acidic soils, the farmer planned to broadly apply lime to increase pH. Under traditional management, a bulk liming rate of 3 to 3.5 ton/acre would be necessary to move pH levels to 6.8. However, the cost of lime in this region is very high, about $230/ton. This meant that in order to increase pH levels to an acceptable level to support alfalfa, an investment of nearly $150,000 would be required. A compromised rate of 2 ton/acre would be applied, still requiring nearly a $100,000 investment.
The farmer and their AGRI-TREND Agri-Coach decided to try SIS, to learn exactly how variable the low pH levels were across the field to see if a variable rate application made sense for this field. After the survey, SIS identified about 134 acres of low pH soil, which would need to be amended. This meant 38 percent of the field didn’t need any application. Other areas that needed amendment did not need it to the degree originally recommended. A variable rate prescription was created using 1-2 ton/acre, resulting in a cost of $51,060. This meant that the farmer would save $48,300 in application costs because he used SIS to understand exactly what was ailing his field. Then, the most cost effective fix was clear.
SIS: Multiple Applications
Here’s what you can do with SIS:
- Improve Crop Quality — SIS gives growers the tools they need to optimize growing conditions and improve overall crop quality. Plant materials within a field may be uniform, but the soils in which those crops grow are not. With SIS, growers can assess the variability within a field and treat different zones according to their unique needs, thereby raising quality to the highest grade achievable throughout the field.
- Increase Output in Low Producing Areas — Despite best efforts, subpar field areas can vex even the most committed grower. SIS can eliminate the guesswork and experimentation that goes into “fixing” these areas by revealing the exact factors that are limiting yield. Understand what keeps these areas from meeting production standards and design a strategy to bring all field areas to maximum growing capacity.
- Optimize Use of Water, Fertilizer and Amendments — Growers can immediately improve their bottom line by employing more efficient watering, fertilizer, and amendment application strategies. The difficulty comes with knowing where and to what degree you can reduce inputs without compromising crop quality. SIS makes it possible to target applications – making sure expensive inputs are used effectively. Growers using SIS data no longer need to manage to the lowest common denominator. Instead, they can take advantage of naturally occurring availability while concentrating on helping low-productivity areas achieve higher yield and quality, while maximizing the potential of their high yield areas.
For more information on SIS please contact Mark Kuehn, Product Manager.