Hot ag topics for 2014 from Iowa On-Farm Network
Some people make New Year’s Resolutions. The Iowa On-Farm Network team made a list of the topics it thinks will be in the news more than ever for 2014 and the success and future for on-farm trials. Farmers working with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) On-Farm Network use precision agriculture tools and technology to run on-farm field trials. Trial strips compare a grower’s normal practice with just one alternative, which can be a difference in products used, application method, timing, or other management practices.
Data and Technology
“Big data” may have big potential in agriculture. “One of the goals of companies developing large databases of ag information is to generate better agronomic recommendations,” said Pat Reeg, ISA On-Farm Network operations manager. “As we talk with growers participating in the On-Farm Network, some are very excited with the decision aid tools in the pipeline. Others are skeptical and concerned about their privacy and ownership of the data collected.”
Since the very beginning of the programming that grew into the On-Farm Network and Environmental Programs and Services, ISA has collected large volumes of data from participating farmers. This includes georeferenced aerial imagery, yield results, plant and soil samples and other relevant spatial data used for research purposes.
“This data is owned by the participating farmers who remain anonymous when we disseminate the results,” Reeg said. “Our objective is to discover, implement and validate the use of advanced agronomic production practices that improve productivity, profitability and environmental quality for Iowa farmers. One way this is achieved is through the use of replicated strip trials comparing products and or practices within fields and then aggregating that data across many locations and over time.
The online fungicide calculator and replicated strip trial database are two example of how farmers can use “Big Data” to make informed decisions. These tools use real-world comparisons based on years of data that can inform farmers and can also provide an indication on the return of investment for products and practices studied.
Technology is simplifying the data collection process and rapidly increasing the amount of information that can be collected. “Advanced GPS systems, wireless data transfer from precision agriculture equipment, and UAV’s are just a few of the topics we will cover at the upcoming On-Farm Network Conference,” Reeg said. “In addition, we will provide a session specific to discuss “Big Data” as it relates to ISA research and beyond.”
Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
Whether you’ve felt it yet or not, this important document will eventually impact all Iowa farmers. It was pulled together by a widely varied team that included scientists, farmers, business people and government agency representatives from both the state and federal level. Not only does it include a roadmap for reducing ag and other non-point source contributions to Iowa’s waters, it also includes the science and a list of practices farmers can use to implement nutrient reduction on their own farms. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will open the Thursday, February 20, On-Farm Network Conference program with an update on progress since the plan was enacted last spring, as well as discuss farmer and landowner obligations under it. Matt Lechtenberg, state water quality coordinator, will lead a conference breakout session on practices, structures and other means of reducing nutrient loss.
Interest in cover crops in Iowa has been growing over the past few years, but adoption of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy has brought them to the forefront. Based on the science outlined in the strategy, cover crops, especially in combination with reduced tillage or no-till, look to be one of the most effective practices farmers can adopt to reduce soil and nutrient losses. While cover crops may seem like a simple fix, Iowa farmers attempting to integrate them into crop rotations have found getting covers seeded and stands established can be a challenge. Seed selection, seeding rates, timing and method of seeding, spring burndown, and the potential of soil moisture uptake ahead of the main crop in dry springs, are among the factors growers must consider in using cover crops.
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