Fine-tuning Fertilizer

Quantifying soil spatial variability doesn’t do a farmer any good unless they are able to respond to that variability. Dr. John Fulton, Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University, joins the FarmBits Podcast to discuss variable rate application technology and effective input management methods for responding to spatial variability.

Does This Product Work?

Source:  Emerson Nafziger, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

“Every agronomic decision is a good one for someone” is a quote that I saw recently that reminds us that being “entrepreneurial” is high valued in today’s business world, rewarded in some cases by large amounts of venture capital invested in startup companies. That’s as true in crop agriculture as in any other business, and it means that startups are under pressure to find or create niches and product(s) to fill them, and to demonstrate that these products are widely sellable. The “grand prize” can be sale of the startup to a larger company, yielding a large return for investors and a chance for the entrepreneur to get a large financial award and perhaps move on to bigger projects.

The result is an increasing number of novel crop inputs, accompanied by creative marketing campaigns. Such campaigns often employ the trappings of science to help build trust in such inputs and those who develop them. Photos of serious-looking people examining flasks or test tubes while dressed in white lab coats populate websites, especially for startups that are developing and selling novel inputs such as microbes, or the less specific terms “biologicals” or “biostimulants.” Companies tend to point to field trials they have in their database, and a selected set of such results may be available to potential customers. Testimonials are very common, and almost every such website includes mention of the positive ROI (return on investment) that buyers can expect from use of this product.

Unsurprisingly, company websites tend to highlight data selected for the purpose of supporting sales—it would make little sense from a marketing standpoint to show all of the data. A few decades ago, it was common for companies to engage university researchers to conduct trials on novel products, and for companies to use such results (at least the favorable ones) to help support sales. There may have been cases in which results from universities were insufficiently positive to support sales, and a product wasn’t taken to market as a result. But for the most part, university testing was used to demonstrate that the company had enough confidence in the product that it supported public research on it even without knowing what such research might show.

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Now is the Time to Fine Tune Your Sprayer

Source: Erdal Ozkan, OSU Extension

Pesticides need to be applied accurately and uniformly. Too little pesticide results in poor pest control and reduced yields, while too much injures the crop, wastes chemicals and money, and increases the risk of polluting the environment. Achieving satisfactory results from pesticides depends heavily on five major factors:

  1. Positive identification of the pest.
  2. Choosing the least persistent and lowest toxicity pesticide that will work.
  3. Selecting the right equipment, particularly the right type and size of nozzle for the job.
  4. Applying pesticides accurately at the right time.
  5. Calibrating and maintaining equipment to make sure the amount recommended on the chemical label is applied.

Inspection of sprayers

Higher pesticide costs and new chemicals designed to be used in lower doses make accurate application more important than ever. There is no better time than early spring to take a closer look at your sprayer. Here are some of the things I would recommend you do this week if you don’t want to unexpectantly halt your spraying later in the season when you cannot afford delaying spraying and missing that most critical time to control weeds:

  • First, if you need new or one other type of nozzles on the boom this year, do not delay purchasing new nozzles. Do it now.
  • Double-check your sprayer for mechanical problems before you start using it.  You won’t have time to do this when planting is in full swing.
  • Clean the sprayer tank thoroughly and make sure all filters on the sprayer, especially the nozzle filters are clean.
  • Clean spray nozzles to make sure they are not partially plugged. Check their flow rates, and replace the ones that are spraying more than 10 percent of the original output at a given spray pressure.
  • Check the agitator in the tank to make sure it’s working properly. This is extremely important if you will be applying dry chemicals. Run water through the spray system to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Always carry a spare, excellent quality pressure gage (glycerin filled) in your shop, and check the accuracy of the pressure gage on the sprayer compared to the reading you see on this spare pressure gage. Your rate controller will not know if your pressure gage is bad, and the flow rate of nozzles will be adjusted by the rate controller using the bad pressure gage.
  • Once you are convinced that all sprayer parts are functioning properly, it is time to calibrate the sprayer.

Calibrate the sprayer

One can determine if the chemicals are applied at the proper rate (gallons per acre) only by carefully calibrating the sprayer. Calibration, perhaps more than anything else, will have a direct impact on achieving effective pest control and the cost of crop production. While applying too little pesticide may result in ineffective pest control, too much pesticide wastes money, may damage the crop and increases the potential risk of contaminating ground water and environment. Results of “Sprayer Calibration Clinics” I participated in Ohio a while back, and data from several other States show that only one out of three to four applicators are applying chemicals at a rate that is within 5 % (plus or minus) of their intended rate (an accuracy level recommended by USDA and EPA). For example, if your intended rate is 20 gallons per acre, the 5% tolerable difference will be 1 gallon (5% of 20). So, your actual application rate should be as close to 20 gpa as possible, but not outside the range of 19 to 21 gpa.

How do you calibrate the sprayer?

There are several ways to calibrate a sprayer. Regardless of which method you choose, you will end up measuring the nozzle flow rate (in ounces), and the actual travel speed in miles per hour to determine the actual chemical applied in gallons per acre. Once you determine the actual application rate, you should find out if the difference between the actual rate and the intended rate is greater than 5% of the intended rate (plus or minus). If the error is greater than the 5% tolerable error margin, you will need to reduce the error below 5% by doing one of three things: 1) Change the spraying pressure, 2) change the travel speed, and 3) change nozzles (get a different size) if the error cannot be reduced below 5% by making adjustments in either the pressure or the travel speed, or both.

It usually doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to calibrate a sprayer, and only three things are needed: a watch or smart phone to record the time when measuring the nozzle flow rate or the travel speed, a measuring tape, and a jar graduated in ounces. Please take a look at the Ohio State University Extension publication FABE-520 for an easy method for calibrating a field crop (with boom) sprayer.  Here is the URL for this publication: http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-520 

Time is now to purchase the right nozzles for your spraying needs

Source: Erdal Ozkan, OSU Extension

This is the time of the year you must complete shopping for nozzles because the spraying season is just around the corner. Each part of the application equipment plays a critical role in achieving maximum performance from the sprayer. Therefore, each component must be selected carefully and must perform successfully the tasks associated with it. Although nozzles are some of the least expensive components of a sprayer, they hold a high value in their ability to influence sprayer performance. They help determine the gallon per acre intended application rate. They also influence the droplet size, which plays a significant role in achieving improved penetration into crop canopy and better coverage on the target pest, both affect the efficacy we expect from pesticides applied. Wrong choice of nozzle may hurt us in several ways, but here are the three most obvious ones: We may end up with streaks of untreated areas causing non-uniform pest control; or simply complete failure or ineffective pest control which require repeat applications; and finally, we may end up losing a significant part of the pesticides applied in the form of spray drift. Sometimes, the choice of nozzle may be determined by the requirements given on the pesticide label.

Selecting the best nozzle requires careful consideration of many important factors including: sprayer operation parameters (such as application rate, spray pressure, travel speed); type of chemical sprayed (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides); mode of action of chemicals (systemic, contact); application type (broadcast, band, directed, air assisted); target crop (field crops, vegetables, vineyard, shrubs and trees, etc.); and spray drift risk. I will briefly cover some of these topics in this article. For detailed information on nozzle selection, I strongly recommend you read a new Ohio State University Extension Publication, entitled “Selecting the Best Nozzle for the Job”. In this publication, you will see step-by-step guidelines for selecting the most appropriate spray nozzle for a given application situation. The publication is available online at following web site: http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-528

Which nozzle type is best for your situation? Continue reading

Using Zoom Well

By: Kristina Sullivan -Knox County Master Gardener

New ways to learn are in the air, for all of us.  You may have watched your kids or grandchildren go to school on their computers, but you are also invited to use new tools for educational credits in the Master Gardener program.  And your friends and relatives may be inviting you to be part of distanced “meetings.”  One of the most popular agents for these meetings is the Zoom software.  Information follows on what Zoom can do, and how to take advantage of it and communicate effectively.

Using Zoom from Home

Zoom is a software program now very popular, allowing users to communicate using computers, electronic tablets, or cell phones.  Zoom users can record sound and pictures or video, and share computer screens.  The company has invented some specialized terms that are likely to become part of our common language, such as “Zoom Meeting,” a conference using smart phones or computer cameras.  Another term we see in business settings is the “Zoom Room,” a room all wired, connected, and organized for Zoom Meetings, usually only possible for big companies.

Most of us are using Zoom from home.  Plan for good communication, for sound and sight.  Block your Zoom space from household noise as much as possible; it can interfere with your own effort to contribute to a meeting.  Close the room door, or ask housemates to keep it quiet until after you are finished.  Plan a light on your face, from the side if possible, so that others can recognize you.  Check your own background for your picture to be sure there is nothing showing that you would rather keep private.  Make a space for paper and pencil in case you want to keep notes or write down a name, title, phone number or Web address (URL).  If you are making a report or presentation, remember the visual lessons you learned from video taping:  have neat hair, dark clothing (bright white makes a glare on camera), and sit up straight.

If the meeting is expected to be a long one, more than 45 minutes, set up a glass of water or other beverage in a handy spot.  Keep tissues handy for sneezes. When you speak, speak up!  The microphones cannot fix whispers or mumbling.

Make a listening space in your mind, clearing out other thoughts and concerns.  Most of the OSU lecturers available to us have spent many years studying and developing their knowledge of a range of topics, and we will benefit most from them by listening well.

 

The person organizing the meeting or lecture sends you an invitation in the form of a URL in an email.  By clicking on the URL, you send a signal that you are ready to join the meeting, and you will be admitted.  Log on early and look at the screen.  You can participate by sound only by muting the microphone icon (click on it); it is actually a good idea to mute the microphone except when you are talking.  This blocks your dog barking noise, and helps others to hear better.  You can also block your picture.  You can record or tape the meeting.  There are several features Zoom can do, some of which are only for the organizer and some available to everyone on the call, such as screen sharing.

You can ask questions in real time, or type questions or comments on the “Chat” box on your screen.

At the end of the meeting or lecture, the organizer will log off, and you can click the “log off” box and end your participation.

More About Zoom

As a relatively new software product, Zoom is continuing to work on important issues like security.  One of the early problems with this software was “Zoom bombers,” uninvited participants who joined meetings and sent all participants graphic videos or pornography.  Meetings can be protected by “locking” the session after it begins, so no one can join late, and certainly not uninvited.  This is of great importance for companies concerned about trade secrets.  Organizers can now remove participants from meetings, mute them, and disable “private chats,” in which participants snarl the meeting by talking only to each other.  Objectionable participants can be reported to the Zoom company.

The company has several tiers of service involving different fee structures and intended for different sizes of audiences, participants, and time spans.  It is defined generically as “a cloud based video conferencing service for virtual meetings.”  Zoom can also be connected to a TV set.  Free of charge, Zoom will work on any device; it will automatically log out the user who logs into a second device at the same time.  A Zoom client, such as OSU, has paid the fees to make it possible for employees to connect Zoom to the email system and also to the computerized calendar system.

Additional services can be offered through special applications, or apps, designed to be used with Zoom, on desktop or Apple computers, and on phones using Ios or Android operating systems.  These are called Zapps.  Some are free, some cost fees.

The Google company has developed meeting software that competes with Zoom, but it appears at this writing that Zoom is the preferred software.

On Zoom

Zoom also supports a public platform for performances and the marketplace, involving payment (“marketization”).  For classes, concerts, dramatic performances, music lessons, or any other event online, this software brings access close to home.  They accept PayPal or major credit cards.

Ag Tech Tuesdays

The Ohio State Digital Ag Team’s Ag Tech Tuesday webinars are continuing this month! The online February series will cover results from several 2020 eFields trials and be held each Tuesday starting at 10:00 EST for 1 hour. There will be plenty of time for participants to ask questions.  The following provides details for the 2021 Ag Tech Tuesday sessions.

 

2021 AG TECH TUESDAY: EFIELDS RESULTS

  • February 2 – Improving Profitability in Corn Production

Weather and Climate Trends, Aaron Wilson

Irrigation, Amanda Douridas and Will Hamman

Corn Seeding Rates, Chris Zoller

SmartFirmer Seeding Rate, Elizabeth Hawkins

  • February 9 – Pushing Soybean Productivity in Ohio

Boots on the Ground, Laura Lindsey

Local Boots on the Ground Results, Mary Griffith

Foliar Fertilizer, James Morris

Soybean Seeding Rates, Ken Ford

Sulfur on Soybeans, John Barker

  • February 16 – Tech to Improve On-Farm Efficiency

Manure On-the-Go Sensing, Chris Shoup

Yield Monitor Data, Alysa Gauci

Virtual Reality and Field Demonstrations, Brooke Beam

Equipment Technology, Andrew Klopfenstein

  • February 23 – eFields Small Grains, Forages, Soil Health, and Water Quality Results

Production Budgets and Custom Rates, Barry Ward

Winter Annual Forages, Jason Hartschuh

Barley Cohort, Eric Richer

Hemp, Lee Beers

Soil Health Testing, Boden Fisher

Registration for Ag Tech Tuesdays is free but required.  Just visit go.osu.edu/AgTechTues to register.  If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Hawkins (hawkins.301@osu.edu

 

Spraying with Drones

By John Fulton (Associate Professor), Chris Wiegman (graduate student), Erdal Ozkan ( Professor), and Scott Shearer (Professor), Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have become a common technology in agriculture. As of early 2019, there were around 1.3 million registered drones in the U.S. and over 116,000 registered drone operators within the commercial sector. Within agriculture, drones have been mainly used for scouting purposes. Today, uses of drones include collecting remotely sensed imagery, tissues samples, and water samples. Spraying with drones is also available through some manufacturers.

Drone spraying has been used Southeast Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea for several decades. In fact, the use of this type of spraying in Japan can be traced back to the 90’s. Currently, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of drones used in these countries, mostly in rice production that requires applications done when the field is flooded with water, making entry of motorized vehicle to the field impractical. Drone spraying has also been considered as the most effective and safe way to treat crops grown in steep hills.

Drone spraying is becoming increasingly available for specialty crops and row-crop production. Here is the U.S., drone spraying was approved in 2015, but under strict policies in the state of California. The Yamaha RMAX from Japan was the first drone sprayer tested in California prior to approval. Most recently, drone manufacturers such as DJI (https://www.dji.com/) have started offering high payload rotor drones that include sprayers. Spray applications using drones has arrived in Ohio as well.

Spraying with drones is a unique practice since it is conducted autonomously. Drone sprayers are equipped with almost all the parts of any other sprayer: a tank, a pump to push liquid through the hoses to the nozzles, filters and a pressure gauge. But there are limitations, mostly on the size of these components because of the power required to keep the drone sprayer in flight mode for a reasonable time.

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Autonomous Planting Revs Up

Source: DTN/Progressive Farmer

Many of you who have attended our Central Ohio Agronomy School or Precision Ag Symposium have heard Scott Shearer talk about robotic equipment completing our field work.

It is now a reality.

A remote-controlled Kubota M5660SU tractor plants soybeans last week at Bellcock Farms near Sac City, Iowa, while another identical unit heads to the seed tender for a refill. Sabanto, an autonomous technology company, is seeding soybeans in Iowa and Illinois this spring. (Progressive Farmer photo by Matthew Wilde) 

Click here to read full article

 

Virtual Office Hours – Knox AgChat

As you know The Ohio State University has closed all Campuses and Extension offices.  While our office is closed, we are working from home and will continue to do so until we are able to return.   You can reach us by phone (740-397-0401) Monday through Friday from 8 – 5.  You can also reach us anytime by email:

        John – barker.41@osu.edu              Sabrina – schirtzinger.55@osu.edu

In the meantime we are working diligently to create new options to stay in contact with everyone.  With this in mind, beginning Monday April 6 we will begin VIRTUAL OFFICE HOURS – Knox AgChat

Knox AgChat will provide us the opportunity to utilize video and/or audio conferencing on your computer or cell phone.  You can join us online here: https://osu.zoom.us/j/3927263521  or join by phone 1-253-215-8782 and enter Meeting ID: 392 726 3521.

We will focus on Ag questions from 7:30 – 8 and Horticulture questions from 8 – 8:30.

Additionally, we plan to periodically invite guest speakers to our chat.  We will post that schedule each week.