Logistics pays off for nutrient sampling

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An efficient system to schedule and track progress by crop nutrient specialists doing soil sampling and tissue sampling is required when working with a large number of farmer customers spread over a wide geography.

When an ag retailer offers nutrient sampling services, the employees doing the sampling can be new from one year to the next. As farmer customers expand and change their farming operation, the sampling crews have to locate the new fields.

In-season tissue sampling requires taking samples at appropriate plant-growth stages. Fall sampling requires coordination with the farmer for pre-harvest scheduling and conforming that harvest has been completed before soil testing proceeds.

click image to zoomTroy Walker, GIS specialist and manager of Ceres Solutions AgVantage Program “The point is that with rapid changes in both the geography you are servicing and rapid changes in employee base, you’ve got to have a solution to things that could become barriers to your ability to execute, do business and serve and deliver to your growers like they need,” said Troy Walker, GIS specialist and manager of Ceres Solutions AgVantage Program.

 SOFTWARE SCHEDULING

The first problem Walker identifies as a concern is guaranteeing that specific field information and customer goals are compiled and preliminary work orders are logged into a computer program. Working with software programmers, Walker developed the company’s “Tracker” program that does the job for Ceres Solutions.

He said it became impossible to operate with paper notes from agronomy salesmen, faxes that would get lost or not

print or even e-mails that could get overlooked in the volume of communications and junk e-mails. The software program used by the company has agronomy salesmen logging the information needed into the AgVantage Tracker program.

When it is time to hit the fields sampling, information needed is transferred into a logistics system for scheduling and showing work progress. From the Tracker, the information is transferred into AgLogic by John Deere. It is not an automatic process but a manual operation, and that is a frustration to Walker. In his opinion and most in the precision ag industry, the different brands of software need to talk to each other and allow _ le transfer.

AgLogic is an example of a system that combines GPS, cellular technology and web-based software. It can do scheduling and routing, wireless file transfer and real-time reports. Walker isn’t so much interested in the telematics as the logistic aspects.

TISSUE SAMPLING

Photo by NCRS Tissue sampling is becoming a bigger aspect of the Ceres Solutions AgVantage program. Scheduling of sampling becomes even more important and complicated when tissue sampling is involved. Walker explained, “We are going to sample 500 fields this summer for tissue samples. Tissue sampling is not like soil sampling when you can just show up one time and you are done. You have got to show up at that tissue sample field three or four times during the season. And you have to show up on the right day for the right growth stage.”

The answer for scheduling put Walker back to working with software programmers to figure out how to use planting dates, seed selection, scouting information, a calculator for growing degree days and more to schedule tissue sampling.

The computer software program calculates sampling dates based on the information entered. The dates are manually entered into the AgLogic system so that a sampling route and spatial reference can be established.

The logistics information captured for soil and tissue sampling shows the sampling pattern throughout a field and even where to restart sampling if it had to be suspended due to rain or dark.

Using the software programs provides a positive return on investment for Ceres Solutions. Walker said, “We are in a much better place than we were five or six years ago.”


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