Ever since the kids were little, we have always traveled out to see the in-laws in Northwest Missouri for the 4th of July. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it could possibly interfere with planting season at home in Indiana. This year is definitely one for the record books, and it looks like we are going to have to throw in the towel on the rest of our soybeans as well. When a mere twenty percent chance of rain in the forecast brings you 5 inches of rain overnight, it just might be a sign from above to clean up the planter and put it away until next year. As depressing as that might sound, after going for a Cub ride out along the Missouri river, and witnessing the flooding in the picture below, my problems back home seem pretty small It’s all about perspective!
Gavalon Elevator along the Missouri River with rotting piles of corn and soybeans
surrounded by massive flooding that continues for miles.
While we are on the topic of perspective, I want to bring up a very important point about the imagery and how it is read. As always, the primary purpose of the imagery is to point out DIFFERENCES within each field so management zones can be created. We already talked about reading bare soil images for planting prescriptions, but now the initial canopy pictures or “Fat Kids” pictures as I like to call them are becoming more prevalent with each passing day. This is a precursor to your yield map, and is a first glimpse of each zone’s yield potential going forward. It is extremely important to understand that each year will look different! The primary reason for this is always water – When, Where, and HOW MUCH. I am attaching the slide below to show one of our fields at home so you can see how it differs from year to year. Armed with this knowledge, we are now capable of building a nitrogen plan tailored to each year. If you need any help with this, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
This is an image showing the same field over the last six years. Good areas shown in blue, poor areas shown in red. Note how the “Fat Kids” (lush green areas) have moved around each year, and how the resulting zones change drastically. Now ask yourself: How could anyone possibly build an accurate nitrogen prescription without this image? In any of these years, would it have ever made sense to use a blanket rate across the entire field?
Our corn nitrogen strategy is to put out a base application early to keep the plants all fed properly, and then reward the areas that excel so they can meet their true potential. This makes sense to me from both an economic and environmental standpoint. It is also extremely easy to understand, and execute with either a high clearance ground machine or an aircraft. The application cost is generally either absorbed by the reduction in needed nitrogen, or by the benefit in yield. We call this our “Hindsight” program because we simply react to each passing year and the conditions presented to us. With regard to our farm, most of our fields will be turned over to the insurance company as “prevent plant” acres this year due to the flooding. Because of our nitrogen strategy, and how we use the imagery, ZERO nitrogen has been applied. This strategy saved me over $100 per acre which will cover the cost of the imagery for over a decade, but from an environmental standpoint, I believe the benefits to society in general are even greater.
Thanks again for spending time with me, and please don’t hesitate to ask questions. Each image type we provide to you tells a different part of the story. Continue to use the Thermal to scout the different “sub-climates” within your fields for pests and disease. The ADVI generally does a great job of pointing out the Fat Kids, and the NDVI is now starting to show general health. Remember, the Thermal and ADVI will always show relativity within each field, so a dull, boring greenish picture is generally a good thing because it shows uniformity. The NDVI on the other hand is a “normalized” picture and is meant to be used for comparison over spans of time. For these, you would want them to be showing all purple which indicates a high concentration of chlorophyll. As always, the best way to learn all of this is by scouting your fields and noting the correlations between the imagery and what you are finding on the ground. There are always a few wildcards, but just remember, I’m always here to help.
Best wishes on a great 4th of July weekend!