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Published May 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

Precision ag on the rise

The number of producers utilizing aspects of precision agriculture is growing, a North Dakota State University extension official said.

The number of producers utilizing aspects of precision agriculture is growing, a North Dakota State University extension official said.

Precision agriculture includes management practices that allow farmers to be more precise in field operations and apply crop inputs more efficiently.

A GPS system is the basis of most precision agriculture practices, but is more than operator-assisted tractor guidance systems and automated steering systems, said Roger Ashley, agronomist with the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center.

“I think there are some producers in the area that have been using precision ag for the last six years,” Ashley said. “Really, the concept has been around for several years longer, too. It’s really catching on here, and we’d like to help producers become aware of what’s out there, what’s available, what kind of help they can find.”

Real-time monitoring of hay yields as well as identification of where the hay actually came from in the field is also a component, he added.

“It’s all geo-referenced,” Ashley said. “Before, people thought we could only do this with grain, but we can also utilize this technology in cattle operations and/or cattle and grain. It’s a really nice way to keep records, too.”

Beach producer Paul Zook, who has utilized precision agriculture for a number of years, said it isn’t an exact science.

“We started out with yield mapping and moved onto GPS guidance and auto steer,” Zook said. “Every year we’ve done this we had some swings in rainfall. We’ve been no-till for 30 years, and there’s very little research that’s been done on variable rate application on long-term no-till.”

Zook said technology is not to blame, however.

“I think there is (benefit) in it,” Zook said. “But I think there needs to be more research.”

To give producers more information, a precision agriculture expo, in conjunction with a field day tour, has been scheduled for July 14 at the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center.

“There will be some demonstrations there as well, so producers can see what it actually does,” Ashley said. “Some of the educational events actually take real-life examples and gives them an opportunity to see how individuals have utilized the tools used in precision ag.”

Ashley said industry representatives wishing to take part in the July event must register for exhibit space by June 11.

For more information, contact Ashley at 701-483-2348, ext. 106.

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