There is no question that Precision Agriculture is the hot topic in field crop production today. While still in the relative early stages of development, rarely has a new sector expanded so fast, and with so much collective energy devoted to it, as Precision Ag. The entire agronomy industry, from seed companies to crop input suppliers, along with equipment manufacturers and hardware/software developers and supporters are moving rapidly to keep up with producer demand.

So why is producer demand so high? In other words, what are the drivers of Precision Agriculture? As always, the primary driver is opportunity for increased profitability and stability in yields. There’s lots of positive third party research and testimonials from the early adopters that there’s significant potential to reach these new plateaus. And our collective knowledge and experience in Precision Ag is only just beginning to build.

A secondary driver, particularly in Ontario, will be the need for increased nutrient stewardship. The recently announced Great Lakes Agricultural Sustainability Initiative (GLASI) will continue to increase awareness around nutrient application to fields within sensitive areas. Or more simply stated, how to get nutrients to remain in the field and available for plant utilization before loss to the environment. The 4 R’s of fertility; Right Placement, Right Rate, Right From, and Right Time, will be a significant crop production focus going forward. Precision Ag dovetails into all of the 4 R’s, but in particular, Right Rate.

Take the above map for example. It represents Satellite NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetative Index) variation in a corn field. Darker green represents healthier plants, lighter shades to yellow indicate lesser plant health and probability of reduced yield potential. Without knowing any history on this field, one could surmise that the differences across the field could be a result of many things; soil type, topography, etc. But it’s undeniable that this field lacks uniformity…and that’s where Precision Ag and the notion of variable rate 'scripting' seed and fertilizer applications becomes an important tool for both profitability and stewardship. By identifying various Management Zones (Yield Zones) within the field, we can increase/decrease input rates to match yield potential and offset the risk of nutrient loss or non-utilization by the crop.

What is PRIDE Seeds doing to support Precision Ag?
As a seed company, we’re moving rapidly to provide our customers not just with best-in-class hybrid genetics, but also an elite level of product knowledge to support the decision-making process behind Variable Rate Seeding (VRS) scripts. Even if the grower is not using VRS technology, this knowledge allows us to make precise seeding rate recommendations by hybrid, by field and yield environment, for staticrate planting.

PRIDE Seeds, in co-operation with our parent AgReliant Genetics, are working from two fronts to develop the best information database on our seed products. This program is combined under the AgReliant Genetics Advantage Acre Precision Ag platform.

Our Experimental Density Trials (EDTs) are research-block type trials where we test our new commercial hybrids in densities from 18k-48k per acre, to determine optimum seeding rates per environment for yield, while not compromising agronomic traits such as lodging and standability. These are extensive trials with a wide data set, to give us a solid foundation for seeding rate recommendations which are then incorporated into VRS field prescriptions.

The second facet of this research is our Advantage Acre Innovator Trials. These are full-field scale trials positioned across Canada and the United States to test our proprietary VRS script algorithms. These algorithms are based on various data layers within the field; topography, soil type, CEC, etc. These scripts contain seeding rates specific to Management Zones, along with staticrate checks incorporated into each Zone to facilitate the 'ground-truthing' of the VRS program.

When we launch the Canadian version of AdvantageAcre, we can look forward to providing growers with the best seed company based platform for independent, trusted recommendations to support the implementation of Precision Ag crop production on our growers' farms.