Every grower knows there's no such thing as a perfect field. There may be parcels that produce great yields (and profits) year after year, but there's always something that could be better.
Take weeds, for example. Even in what would be considered a productive field, there could be a dozen or more different weed species present — and the number of weed seeds dormant in the ground, just waiting to emerge, could be astronomical given the thousands of seeds a single plant can produce each year.
Whether it's weeds or other potential problems (like insects, erosion, soil moisture, etc.), understanding what's going on in your fields is important. A good way to accomplish this is by using available technologies and embracing precision farming practices as a part of your overall management efforts.
In short, precision farming is an integrated agricultural management system that incorporates several different technologies. One of these technologies is GPS, which growers can use to map problem areas in their fields no matter the size of the operation.
"Everybody needs to spend time walking their fields and observing what's going on. Recording things using GPS is the best, most accurate way to do this," says Jerry Mulliken, JM Crop Consulting.
Mulliken's company contracts with growers in the Fremont, Neb., area to map up to 15,000 acres each year. As a part of this work, they scout fields looking for problem areas and then mark the locations using GPS. This data can then be used by growers for a number of purposes, including determining where to spot-spray for weeds.
According to Mulliken, taking time to check your fields and map problem areas is something that needs to be done yearly.
"You can do an awful lot on just $5 per acre … and that's a trivial expense," he says. "If you find just one weed problem, you'll pay that expense back very quickly."
So instead of applying herbicides uniformly across an entire field, spraying only where needed using GPS waypoints can offer significant cost savings to growers. In addition, there are environmental benefits to reducing the volume of herbicides used.