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Agrimarketing : June 2015
COVER STORY/continued from page 17 understand the variation within a field,” he says. “For this undertaking, we offer the R7 Tool. The tool combines Answer Plot information with satellite field imagery, along with other information sources including yield data or soil maps. With this information, farmers can develop agronomic management zones that inform planting and in-season applications. These zones allow farmers to micromanage their fields for optimized yield.” What happens in the field during the growing season is also of interest to WinField. Vande Logt equates field imaging to what happens in professional football games. “Think about a modern NFL game,” he explains. “After every series of plays, the players grab a tablet or a printout to review the previous set of plays to examine where a play fell apart, why another one was successful, or where the opportunities are to make a tweak that can get the ball into the end zone. “We do something similar when we’re growing crops, by using satellite images that measure plant health,” Vande Logt continues, “The map measures plant biomass pointing us to an area of the field where yield potential may be falling behind or a spot that’s ripe for a yield increase. This is a much more sustainable approach to yield optimization than broadcast applying fertilizer or pesticides to an entire field. “However, while a satellite image can reveal plant health damage, it will not diagnose exactly what is wrong. If there’s a pest issue, most times you can see the problem right away. “But if there’s a plant nutrition issue, you might be left scratching your head. This is where the old school approach to tissue sampling is useful. In fact, we’ve built the industry’s largest collection of plant tissue sampling data in our NutriSolutions 360° System. It helps us better understand the correlation between nutrient uptake and yield.” Vande Logt continues, “The report we get back provides a measurement of the three macronutrients (N, P and K) and various micronutrients plants need to grow. It tells us the specific 18 Agri Marketing s June 2015 nutrient level of the plant, so we know how much product we need to apply. This goes a long way toward reducing overfertilization and nitrate runoff, while optimizing production.” The company notes that the right benchmark for sustainability needs to be inputs per bushel, not inputs per acre. “It’s also important that we reduce agricultural runoff of these inputs into the ground water,” says Vande Logt. “By using data, we can be careful that we don’t over apply. Otherwise, we lose the right to claim sustainability.” Prescription maps, as seen here in the R7 Tool by WinField, combine various layers of data to help farmers establish management zones. This serves as a playbook for variable rate applications and can help farmers manage their fields in a more sustainable manner. of sustainable farming. “Consumers link sustainability SHARING THE STORY Looking at today’s agricultural industry, Vande Logt believes that sustainability is the ‘topic du jour.’ “You don’t have to look very hard to see that companies of all sizes are embracing the sustainability challenge,” he explains, “And with good reason. It’s going to take an industry-wide effort to feed the growing world population. “With the heightened conversation surrounding sustainability, it‘s getting increasingly difficult to distinguish who has a vision, and who is actively executing sustainable practices in the field. As Thomas Edison stated, ‘vision without execution is hallucination.’ The vision of sustainability is the easy part. Taking suitability from vision to an operational model that’s executed on a field-by-field basis is the tough stuff.” Vande Logt continues, “Going back to how we work with retailers and farmers, the idea of using a vast amount of data to precisely manage a field is something I think consumers can appreciate. Having the ability to only invest in areas where they have a high chance of boosting production is the definition to words like ‘organic’ or ‘GMOfree,’ when in reality, it has much more to do with taking a holistic approach to agronomic management that limits the amount of inputs necessary to produce a bushel. The fact that this approach helps drive precise input placement in a manner that increases yields and lessens waste is a win-win-win for consumers, farmers and the environment. It’s the big payoff of precision farming.” Vande Logt recognizes that there have been plenty of discussions around sustainability. “I don’t think the issue is about having more discussions,” he states. “I think it’s about having better discussions. “From an ag media perspective, I think we have the opportunity to better unite the industry to speak with one clear voice when it comes to sustainable agriculture. “The ag industry needs to get more involved with those conversations about sustainable ag happening on a consumer level,” Vande Logt concludes. “This requires us to not only be better communicators but also to be better listeners. If we take the time to understand what is driving consumers’ concerns, we can provide better information.” AM
AgCareers Canada 2015