Before you join in with my wife and tell me I need to work on my political-correctness skills, please understand that I LOVE my “Fat Kids.” You see, my fat kids are what I refer to as my healthiest, biggest, and most robust plants in my fields, and they are beginning to show themselves in the imagery about this time of year. It is the point at which certain areas appear to begin to canopy, while others lag behind and still look like dirt. To find the fat kids picture, focus on your series of regular color pictures, and look for the one that looks like it’s about half green, and half brown. The green areas are where the fat kids live, and will most likely be your highest yielding this fall. In another month, the field will all grow together and these fat kids will no longer be evident even though the yield potential has already been set. What’s important to note, is that your fat kids will move around quite a bit from one year to the next. Take a look at the image below showing the fat kids picture, and its corresponding ADVI zone map on the same field over a period of the last five years.
After seeing the fat kids picture, I don’t think there is an agronomist on the planet that would want to manage that field the same way from one end to the other. It’s also obvious that each year is distinctly different, so that prescription you may have planned back in February probably looks pretty silly right now. What we do with this information moving forward is where it really gets fun.
On the Sutton Farm, this picture drives our entire corn nitrogen program. At planting, we put down about 60 pounds of N with the planter and sprayer. Once we are sure we have the corn out of the ground, we come back at traditional side dress time and give it about another 70 pounds. Then we wait for the fat kids picture to emerge that comes to us about V8, and we will use this image to drive our final late-season prescription. Because we fed the entire field this way, I know with certainty that the skinny kids are not skinny because they were lacking nitrogen. There are a multitude of reasons why the fat kids move around so much from year to year, but the primary one is always water, and how that affected emergence and early growth. Therefore, your fat kids picture is your first indication of what your yield map will most likely look like, and also defines your field into zones based on its yield potential going forward.
Although the fat kids picture is coming to me now, I will be waiting until about pollination time before coming back in with the Hagie and putting it to work. By then, I know what mother nature has thrown at me for most of the season, and can manage my nitrogen application accordingly. I start out by going to my best zones based on the fat kids picture, and make an educated decision on what I think that area still has the potential to yield. I also know how much was already applied, and a rough idea on what might be provided through mineralization, so I build a prescription to make up for the difference. I then move through the remainder of the zones and do the same thing. Often times, the skinny kids in the red zones get a zero rate if they have been severely damaged already by something other than the lack of nitrogen. It’s that simple, and it’s hard to go wrong. We call this our “Hindsight” nitrogen program because that is what it really is. Wait and see what the weather brings and then respond accordingly.
This year, I am wanting to experiment with growth regulators and/or foliar feeds in our soybeans in a similar manner. In this case, I am thinking a regulator would be beneficial in the fat kids areas, but a foliar feed would be appropriate for the skinny kids. I’m always looking for outside advice and collaboration, so if anyone out there wants to play along, or has suggestions for products, please don’t hesitate to reach out. As we look towards 2019, I would like to assemble a select group of farmers who would like to push the boundaries of what we can do with aerial imagery, and how this can change the way we farm even more. Please let me know if you might be interested.
Hopefully this has been helpful. I know it was a bit long, but the “Fat Kids” picture may be one of the most important images you will receive all year, and I wanted to get you thinking. Thanks for reading and I look forward to exploring more with you in the future.