Southern Growers Find Precision Farming Pays

Kurt LawtonCorn, Cotton, Farmers, Fertilizer, GPS

Using GPS guidance and precise metering systems to cut P and K rates 40 to 50% while maintaining good yields is catching on in the south, according to a recent piece in Delta Farm Press magazine.

Glenn and Rodney Mast who farm near Columbus, Miss., say precision farming technology is helping them achieve such efficiencies. “When you put the fertilizer into the bed, it’s right where the plants need it. It gives every plant an equal opportunity for the nutrients needed for good growth.

“With GPS and minimum till, we’re able to go back and bed in precisely the same place each year, and we believe we’re building up fertility levels in the rooting zone with lower rates than if we were broadcasting.”

Rodney says they’ve seen the practice become widespread over the past 10 years in the Midwest, where they have relatives, and “I don’t understand why it hasn’t been more widely adopted here in the South. As expensive and risky as farming is nowadays, we’ve got to try things that can help us cut costs and be more efficient.

“To that end, banding has worked extremely well for us, but the biggest advantage is in more efficient application rates. Every university study we’ve seen, from Minnesota to Florida, and even in the United Kingdom (where it has become widely-used because of environmental restrictions), has shown the practice is tremendously more efficient and effective.

“In addition to the direct savings for input costs and the reduction in manpower hours, we’ve experienced no yield loss. These advantages, combined with the accuracy that GPS equipment can provide, are among the reasons why almost the entire Midwest has gone to strip-till over the past 10 years.”

GPS has been termed “the killer application” for farmers utilizing no-till/minimum-till and fertilizer banding practices, because its ±1-inch accuracy gives them unparalleled precision in placement of fertilizer and seed.