Showing posts from April, 2023

Fast Crop Emergence

  Fast seed germination is critical for getting crops off to a good start and to achieving higher crop yields. Cold wet weather often causes early crop stress that can be difficult for the plant to overcome and may cause yield losses long-term. Fast seed emergence has many advantages. First, the seed generally has enough energy to get the roots established and a leaf growing to capture the sun’s energy. When seed roots emerge quickly though, there is less time for seed damage by insects, especially seed corn maggots, wireworms, and root worm larva. Fast growing plants can outrun most slug damage or flea beetle which feast on sickly plants that are struggling to grow quickly. New growing roots supplement seed nutrient reserves to improve plant growth, especially from micro-nutrients needed to speed up plant growth. When seeds germinate slowly or the seed is of poor quality, none of these benefits occur. Often, seed planting occurs when crop and field conditions may not be perfect. Somet

Using Agricultural Drones

Agriculture drones offer farmers the potential for addressing several major challenges. Drones help farmers optimize inputs (seed, fertilizer, chemicals), react faster and more efficiently to pests (weeds, insects, diseases), save time scouting, improve variable rate applications, and estimate yields. They are fast, reliable, fairly inexpensive compared to traditional machinery, and can give very precise information instantly. Drones help farmers from planting through harvest. Drones are being used in several major ways. First, small drones analyze crop fields for soil analysis. Drones provide 3-Dimensional (3D) maps of fields which help farmers with planting decisions and fertilizer needs. Drones monitor crops in real time and can identify crop nutrient deficiencies which can be corrected quickly before crop yields decline. Crop sensors are good at identifying nitrogen and water deficiencies in a crop field, especially where irrigation is used extensively. Drones are even being used t

Building Soil Carbon

  The following revised article came from information provided by Jon Stika. Jon Stika is a retired Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil health instructor. He is also the author of A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health. Farmers are looking at carbon markets, just as they look at crop markets, to improve their bottom line. The goal is to transfer carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. The real question is what conservation practices increase soil carbon? If a farmer is looking to sign a carbon sequestration contract, it makes sense they understand carbon cycling and soil carbon storage. Carbon market contracts use the term “sequestered carbon”. Sequestered carbon includes oil, natural gas, and coal; carbon that is tied up. Do farmers want to sequester carbon or recycle soil carbon more efficiently? Soil carbon is one of the most limiting nutrients for improved crop production. With an estimated world population of 8 billion people today and

Increasing Predator Insects

Insects damage over 30% of all crops worldwide amounting to at least 220 billion dollars lost annually. Insect damaged plants allows many plant diseases a way to enter wounds, further complicating crop damage. Insects can sense when a plant is unhealthy. These plants become a preferred food source, since they feast on plants high in nitrates due to incomplete photosynthesis. Healthy plants produce full proteins which the insects cannot digest, so they avoid healthy plants. Good plant nutrition decreases insect and disease crop damage. Another way to reduce crop damage is through predators that consume both insects and disease organisms. Most predators need food, shelter, and habitat to help these beneficial predators thrive. Small fields surrounded by natural vegetation offer refuge and extra food. Diverse crops and multispecies cover crops with small open flowers promote predators. Soils high in crop residue (mulch) and biological activity offer winter refuge and food for predators. U