Nathan-Woydziak-web“Heads or tails?” demands the referee as the coin is tossed into the air.  Every football game begins with a choice, heads or tails. Profitable Precision Ag requires making a similar choice.

It seems like with the flip of a coin, commodity prices are going up or coming down.  Just like in football, we have to switch strategies back and forth from offense to defense in order to stay ahead.

The benefit of utilizing precision ag tools is that it can be used offensively and defensively.

profitable precision ag side a-bConsider this field:

We know the field average yield is 200 bu/ac corn and that is what we have been basing our uniform fertilizer recommendations on.

We know that the west side averages 225 bu/ac and the east side averages 175 bu/ac because of yield monitor data collected over the last 5 years.

I know, not many fields fit this exact scenario.  Many fields do have this variation in yield though.  The same concepts we talk about below can be applied as long as the variation in yield exists.

Let’s use variable rate (VR) fertilizer to go on the offensive and increase yield to achieve a profitable precision ag strategy.

For the west side, we push the yield goal up to 250 bu/ac because we think we have been leaving some potential on the table with the 200 bu/ac yield goal.

The east side was already being fertilized for 200 bu/ac corn.  No need to push it higher because we have already determined that 175 bu/ac may be close to its true potential.   In fact, a reduction in fertilizer may be warranted.

We ended up spending some extra money on the west side, hoping to reap higher yields at harvest, and possibly reducing fertilizer costs on the east side by fertilizing closer to the true potential.

Let’s use VR fertilizer to play some defense and protect the pocket book thus achieving a profitable precision ag strategy.

For the west side, we do not push the yield goal.  Instead, we use the same 200 bu/ac yield goal we have used for years.  So no extra cost is accrued on that side of the field. Remember the east side was already being fertilized for 200 bu/ac corn, but we were only harvesting 175 bu/ac.  Let’s play defense and fertilizer the east side for the 175 bu/ac yield goal that we have been averaging on this half of the field.

Using this strategy, we end up saving the fertilizer dollars on the east side, while the west side is treated like normal.

Keep in mind these common sense strategies can be applied to lime, gypsum, seed, and other inputs.

So next time commodity prices make you switch strategies, keep in mind that using precision tools is beneficial in either scenario for making sound agronomic decisions.  These tools are responsive to both your offensive and defensive plans in your playbook.  It’s up to you and the agronomist to recognize the current strategy required, and execute the right play.

Written by: Nathan Woydziak, Hoisington, KS
Featured image by: Josh DaVee, Dodge City, KS