No farmer expects to ever have a field groomed to perfection. Sure, some plots of land might have great production every year, but there’s always room for improvement.
Think about weeds: A field that is very productive still might have weeds lurking about, and even more weed seeds just waiting to pop up, considering the fact that each weed produces thousands of seeds annually.
You need to know what is happening on the field, whether it be weed growth or another issue such as soil moisture, erosion, insects, etc. One good way to do this is to utilize precision technology as part of managing your farm.
“There’s no single best way to identify problem areas. It needs to be a system approach,” said Viacheslav Adamchuk, who teach bioresource engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.
Many tools can help farmers find problems on the field. In addition to GPS, high-res cameras and sensors have been made to locate weeds. Unfortunately, operating such tools has been difficult for many farmers as the machines are not always compatible with the equipment farmers already have. Even so, it is important to look for weeds.
“There’s an investment either way …paying for the time to delineate areas that require little or no chemicals, or paying for chemicals that are wasted,” Adamchuk said. “Field experience shows, however, that good herbicide management and reducing the amount of chemicals applied can result in significant savings.”
Farmers need to make a profit, so it’s necessary to be frugal without limiting a crop’s productivity. One way to do this is to map weeds with a GPS unit, but that isn’t the only way.
A great technology that hasn’t been used enough is remote sensing, according to Mulliken. Even simpler imagery services like USDA Farm Service Agency maps or Google Maps are worth checking out – just know their limits.
“Farmers have a tremendous advantage over anyone else when it comes to their fields, so they should be out there looking for things at critical times,” Mulliken said.
Though technology might be a big part of farm management and identifying problems, Mulliken advised that farmers, “pay attention, be observant and take notes” in their field. You must be observant regardless of all the nifty technology.
“Even a little better understanding of the biology of weeds would go a long ways,” he said.