Farmers face fast-paced technology

By Amanda Rockhold -

Farmers recently spoke on the subject of farmers facing fast-paced technology. They also have many equipment choices to increase profit margins and fertilization efficiency, such as image sensing and dual placement planters.

“I think as we build a database, we learn to read imagery, take that to the field,” said one of those Madison County farmers, Nate Douridas, Molly Caren Agriculture Center on Jan. 11 at Beck’s Hybrids in London,. “There can be a lot there, especially as we look at late season opportunity.”

Douridas spoke at the Equipment and Tech Panel at the Precision University Nutrient Management Conference, which was held at Beck’s.

Topics included key pieces of technology and equipment to advance nutrient and fertilization management. Also on the panel was farmer Lee Radcliff of Radcliff Farms in Pickaway County and Dr. Scott Shearer, Professor and Chair at the Ohio State Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Douridas has been utilizing aerial imagery for about five years, comprehensively for two seasons, he says. He also began to use manned aircraft flights, which deliver 10 to 13 images per growing season. But he can also learn a lot from their zero nitrogen sufficiency check strips, “and a lot can be learned from those strips in different fields and different zones across the cornfields.”

“Do you have the capacity to apply the nutrients where they need to be applied?” asked Dr. Shearer. He says farmers should consider their existing complement of equipment and what tools can be added to be more effective for nutrient management and increase profit margins at the end of the season.

For farmer Radcliff, understanding what integrated ag has put together has been beneficial. He emphasized that his farm has a lot of variables and is “kind of a mixed bag.”

“The first step of where we’re going is the standard. And if we don’t have that, we have nothing,” said Radcliff. “If we can’t get a good, uniformed standard and good uniform emergence in what we’re coming through with the variability we’re working with, we’re already in a hole.”

Radcliff says they’ve been integrating as much technology as they can afford. He will focus on the technology that will help them react before it’s too late. “We can be quick to apply a product when it’s a saving grace,” said Radcliff.

Dr. Shearer touched on remote sensing, although he says that it may not be for everyone. “How do we sense when there are nutrient deficiencies,” he said, “and do those early enough so that we can go out there and apply nutrients to help prevent any yield loss?”

He says the better a farmer can delay the nitrogen application the more opportunity there will be to adjust the crop, such as the split application two or three times per year. There are aspects he is starting to study at Ohio State, trying to get answers for producers.

“I don’t know that I am necessarily a big advocate of late season application,” said Dr. Shearer. “But I think we’re going to have to figure out how to use it and how to be effective with it.”

Dr. Shearer added, “Withholding that last application could be where the profit is, too. Let’s not forget that.”

Shearer says the other aspect to look at is placement of planting, such as 2 by 2 and tools for regulating salt accumulation.

“For some people it’s going to be 2 by 2 placement,” said Dr. Shearer. “For some you’re going to look at maybe applying nitrogen behind the row units.”

In the future, Douridas says he will certainly watch and evaluate the dual placement 2 by 2 to determine if there is a fit for him. He has also purchased a turbo till to minimize the potential phosphorous loss out in the field.

“Part of our phosphorous is put on with the corn planter in the 2 by 2,” said Douridas. “But we have that salt concern, so right now all of our pot ash is broadcast in the fall.” He recently transitioned from a mounted tank on the planter to a large capacity pool tank, which “gives us the flexibility of more acres and more volume.”

For more information on these topics, visit the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering website at

Amanda Rockhold is a staff writer for Rural Life Today. She can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617.

By Amanda Rockhold