AGRONOMIC NEWS ITEMS
From Agronomists of the
Potash & Phosphate Institute
655 Engineering Drive, Suite 110
Norcross, Georgia 30092-2837
Phone (770) 447-0335
Spring 1996, No. 2
KNOWLEDGE IS NEVER A BURDEN
We are in the age of information...a real communication revolution. But do you sometimes feel there is so much information constantly being thrown at us that it is impossible to understand...much less utilize...any of it? Perhaps you feel more like an accident victim on the “Information Superhighway” rather than a beneficiary. Don’t be discouraged, but rather be selective. In crop production, ask yourself what information is important for efficient, high yield production and focus on that information and the tools to best utilize it.
Plants have much more genetic potential than we have management skill. What we actually do in managing a crop is minimize yield loss from that genetic maximum. So each decision...each detail... is important in squeezing the most out of that genetic potential. An uninformed decision based on habit or expediency can be very costly. Let’s consider some decisions:
- Variety—Crop varieties are constantly being improved. Today’s best choice may be tomorrow’s loser. It’s important to be informed of the latest university and industry releases. And very importantly, how each new variety should be managed to maximize its potential.
- Planting date and population—Know the ideal date to plant and how seasonal soil temperature might affect this date. Plant population and uniformity of planting also influence final yield.
- Pest control—Pests...insects, weeds, and diseases...must be controlled early before they rob yield potential. Preventative controls ensure no yield potential is lost. One aspect of preventative pest control that we seldom appreciate is the benefit from fertilizers. Plants that are well-fed and growing vigorously tend to be more resistant to a broad spectrum of pests. Potassium is especially noted in this regard. And in more recent years chloride has become recognized as effective in reducing a number of root and leaf diseases of small grains and other crops.
- Fertilizer management—Do you know which nutrients are most frequently deficient in your area? When was the last time you had your fields tested? Nitrogen must be managed on a crop by crop basis because it can be leached below the crop root zone by water. On the other hand, phosphorus and potassium nutrition can be built up in the soil and handled on a long-term basis since they are immobile in most soils. Starter fertilizer encourages rapid early growth, especially important in cool, wet springs or short growing seasons. In-season nutrient applications by side dressing or application through irrigation systems is an effective tool in high yielding production systems striving for even higher yields.
Information is the basis of all our decisions. Regardless of the source...county Extension agent, local fertilizer dealer, or the Internet...the key is knowing what questions to ask.
You may have heard about Variable Rate Technology. In this case the same information that we have always used is simply being utilized more intensely. Rather than look at the average value across a field, for a certain factor, we can now map its variation in detail. Monitors can be hooked up to grain combines to map yields on the go. We can superimpose on these yield maps information on soil tests, weeds, soil topography and other characteristics. We can now adjust our inputs to account for variation within individual fields. It is not so much using new information as it is better utilizing present information with new tools.
Don’t be intimidated by the volume of information available, but rather learn to be selective and learn to use that information better. We have the tools, and after all, knowledge is never a burden.
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