Crop Fertilization Technology Meeting To Be Held

Posted: February 26, 2014

Some machinery, such as that attached to the sprayer above, uses near infrared light to determine the amount of additional nitrogen needed for corn and wheat. The rate applied is then adjusted as the machine moves across the field. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

The Next Generation Crop Fertilization Technology Education Meeting will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 28 at the New Market Fire Hall, 9771 S. Congress St. Sponsored by the Shenandoah County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension, the event is intended to educate growers about the latest farming technologies.

“We’re going to introduce at least six technologies that are new to this area,” said Bobby Clark, the senior extension agent who planned the event.

“Some are being used in other parts of the United States; [others] are fairly new to the whole [country].”

According to Clark, these technologies aim to help farmers more efficiently manage their output of nitrogen-based fertilizers. One of the intended results: a cleaner environment.

“The more efficient you are, the less risk there is to ground water and the less nitrogen that leaves this area to go to the [Chesapeake] Bay,” he explained.

 Additionally, using fertilizer more efficiently should result in a greater growth of crops, thus a higher profit.

To explain these new technologies, Clark has arranged for six specialists to speak at the event, including Jay Hundley, Keith Balderson, Tim Woodward, Wade Thomason, Hunter Frame and Kyle Sturgis.

Balderson, an extension agent, will discuss computer-generated yield maps, which he says can help farmers make better “management decisions.”

“[A yield map] shows the variability in the field; it shows you the weaker and stronger areas,” said Balderson. “There’s an interest now in treating those areas differently.”

If the map shows that a certain area of the field has a lower yielding capacity, Balderson says there’s no need to apply an excess of fertilizer.

“For the most part, we figure that area is only going to produce so much anyway, and you aren’t going to overcome that by applying more [fertilizer], so there’s no need to put enough nitrogen out there to grow more,” he explained.

Balderson says yield maps are not a new technology, but that there has been a recent increase in interest, due to the growing cost of farming.

“It’s costing more to grow a crop, so producers are doing everything they can to be more efficient,” he pointed out.

Another event speaker, Wade Thomason — a grain crop specialist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University — will speak about GreenSeekers, tools that use optical sensors to measure crop health.

“It’s sort of like writing a prescription for the plants in that field based on how they are doing right now in this year,” he remarked. “We’ll put more nitrogen where it’s needed and cut back where there’s less need, based on what the plants tell us.”

Thomason believes the meeting is “very timely,” as he says farmers are turning more to technology to improve their strategies.

“I think we are moving to incorporate more and more technology on the farm to improve our efficiency and become more cost effective producers.”

Registration is required; call (540) 459-6140.

Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or