High-tech equipment used to evaluate soil fertility
Haggard said the key to the process is to get the analyses done while the plants are young so fertilizer applications can be made in time to affect yields of the current crop instead of providing information for the next year, as the situation is now.
“This is the first step in this study,” Haggard said. “The second part of the research is looking at a variable-rate application for residual nitrogen across soil types.”
In Louisiana, soil types can change across a single field, so growers need to know how much of each fertilizer nutrient needs to be applied, and where.
In this study, Haggard is using GPS, GIS and other technologies to change application rates on the fly.
“The software determines how much material to apply without the farmer having to make any adjustments,” she said.
The GPS system determines exactly when an application rate needs to change and makes the adjustment automatically.
Haggard said the overall purpose of her research is to help corn and soybean farmers speed up the process for making decisions in order to maintain or improve yields.
She said the portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry equipment can be used in other crops, but she is focusing on corn and soybeans because they are the two main crops being grown in north Louisiana.