Predicting nutrients for yield management

Just what factors contribute to higher yield? When should nutrients be available to a plant for best results? Knowing the answers to just those two questions could put a lot of money on your bottom line. That's the goal of a new service from DuPont Pioneer called Encirca Yield services. It's a platform that fired up in July to help farmers improve timing, placement and management of key inputs during the growing season.

"We've been conducting a trial of Encirca Yield with 100 growers covering about 60,000 acres working on nitrogen management," explains Ken O'Brien, Encirca Services Lead, Central Business Unit, DuPont Pioneer. "We're releasing the product for the 2015 growing season, and growers can start using it now since nitrogen decisions are made in the fall."

He notes that often farmers will spend time with variable rate applications of lime or other nutrients, but nitrogen can get shorted in the planning process. Fall application may be just right in some locations, while a more 'distributed' model may be better for your farm, but how would you know? That's where Encirca Yield comes in.

"We have 50 years of weather data along with high-resolution soil maps we've developed with USDA and the University of Missouri that are available through the service," O'Brien says.

Combine the high-resolution soil maps, the weather data, and decades of agronomic knowledge into a crop model and the result is Encirca Yield. The system allows for predictive scenarios that can show you the highest probability of nutrient availability based on rate, application timing and hybrid.

Joe Hanson, senior manager, next-generation service, DuPont Pioneer, demonstrated the system showing how different application timings of nitrogen interact with hybrid, weather and soil types. The resulting model can show how much is available to the crop at key times V6 and VT. "You want 150 pounds of nitrogen available in the soil at V6 for a 200-bushel corn crop," Hanson notes.

Fall-applied nitrogen is a must for producers with a lot of ground to cover and the practice can reduce risk in the spring. Using Encirca Yield would allow you to predict N availability later in the growing season and provide you a picture of when the nutrient might have to be added later. There's research work that shows later-season applications for N-stressed crops can boost yields.

The key to Encirca Yield is that what-if prediction model. This allows you to start looking into when N is really available to your crop and what tactics might work best for your farm, soils and other conditions. In the video on this page, Hanson explains that process and discusses the value of increases data for better farm management.

Adds O'Brien, nitrogen is so complex to manage yet it is critical to yield too. "If you mess up your P and K application you won't see an immediate impact on yield," he says. "That's not true with nitrogen where a lower level could cut your yield in your current season."

This fact drives farmers to less focused on variable-rate application and more on getting N on the crop for top yield. With Encirca Yield customers would be able to manage N in more detailed ways because the system can predict how a specific practice can impact available nitrogen in the soil. "We can even figure what's been left from last year's crop based on weather and soil data," O'Brien adds.

And as farmers add more equipment that allows for in-season supplementation of nitrogen on that corn crop, a modeling system like Encirca Yield can help better manage N use.

The program is supported in the field by Certified Service Agents (CSA) who have contracted with DuPont Pioneer to support the service. "They work with growers to determine the right rates and help them manage these factors," O'Brien says. "Farmers like the service and they can review their data. And there's a small percentage that want to do that, but most want to work with a CSA."

He explains the CSA is independent of sales and does not sell seed or crop protection products. Their role is to consult with growers and work with them on the Encrica program.

Trends impact management

And there are changes to whole-farm management where Encirca comes into play. O'Brien points to the rising interest in multi-hybrid planting. It's a growing trend many are looking into that could boost yields, but managing that system will require more information about hybrids, soil types and weather interactions to make the right choices. "That will require a whole-farm approach," says O'Brien.

For example, he notes that two 109-day corn hybrids may work completely differently in the soil throughout the season, including when they'll need nutrients. That information will be key to maximizing new technologies.

Hanson explains Encirca Yield in the accompanying video and how farmers can put it to use in their operations.

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