Farming by the Acre
Aug 29, 2019
With a growing emphasis on maximizing the dollar, minimizing inputs and reducing environmental impact, modern agriculturalists have started utilizing the Four R’s of nutrient stewardship. To accomplish those goals, the Four R’s suggest using the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time and in the right place.
To correctly implement the Four R’s, producers must know the baseline nutrient concentration of the field and utilize variable-rate technology. The best way to achieve that goal is through precision agriculture technology.
The MKC Optimal Acre Program is an innovative solution for producers seeking to implement precision agriculture in their operations.
“The number one goal of the Optimal Acre Program is to increase profitability by lowering the per-unit cost of production,” says Ross Benisch, MKC precision ag specialist and Optimal Acre Program lead. “Optimal Acre was created around the idea of our tagline. We understood that there was and remains a great opportunity for our member-owners to increase their profitability through the implementation of precision ag practices and technology.”
The foundation of Optimal Acre is soil sampling. “Once we know the underlying macro fertility and begin to address any issues, we can start to implement additional tools and technology to drive profitability,” Benisch says.
One of the goals of the Optimal Acre Program is to lower the barrier of entry into precision ag. GPS grid sampling can get expensive quickly, with first-year costs often exceeding $15 per acre.
The team at MKC helps producers utilize precision agriculture through the Optimal Acre Program. Lauren Liggett, MKC decision ag consultant, has seen first-hand how the program can save producers money on inputs and earn them more money at harvest.
Curtis Kohman is an MKC member-owner in the Abilene area who started grid sampling through the optimal acre program in 2017. Like many growers, Kohman farms some rented ground. He was interested in enrolling in the Optimal Acre Program on his rented land but was hesitant to pay for the program on his own.
Kohman decided to reach out to his landlord for assistance.
“I told him, it’s costing me money and it’s costing you money. It takes me the same amount of time to farm that land, and if I’m not doing the best job I can, it’s hurting both of us,” Kohman said. “It’s kind of like baking a cake, if you don’t know what to put in there, your end product probably won’t be very good. If you put the right ingredients in the bowl and make it the right way, you’re going to have a lot better product at the end.”
After speaking with Kohman, the landlord agreed to split the cost with Kohman to sample all of his ground. He pointed out that the services provided from consultation to satellite imagery are an invaluable addition to the program. Kohman believes the Optimal Acre Program has made a significant impact on his operation.
“You can apply the minimal amount of nutrients to raise a crop or you can do it the right way and apply what the crops need in the right spot,” Kohman said.
Another MKC member-owner, Janice Stevens near Manhattan, Kansas, has also seen the problem-solving power of the Optimal Acre Program.
Stevens noticed that blanket applications did not suit her highly-variable fields and decided to start using variable-rate technology. Before beginning with the Optimal Acre Program last year, she was using GPS grid sampling for some time. It wasn’t until the data from the grid sampling was paired with other layers of data and the agronomy expertise that comes with the Optimal Acre Program that she was able to really extract the value of precision ag.
With the help of Strategic Account Manager, Nathan Larson, she was able to identify and treat a field that had chronically underperformed.
“Now that I’m in the Optimal Acre Program, having another set of eyes viewing my yield maps and imagery has made a difference. I noticed one field had some very good beans and some terrible beans mixed in,” Stevens said. “Nathan took all of my yield maps from the last eight years and was able to track the trends displayed in the field and make a recommendation to solve the problem.”
Stevens lists Larson’s help as the most significant benefit of the Optimal Acre Program. It gives her peace of mind to know he will have her back throughout the growing season.
Being relatively new to the Optimal Acre Program, Stevens is hopeful it will continue to keep her accountable and organized in field treatments.
The Optimal Acre Program sets a standard of how precision agriculture is foundational to enabling profitable decision to benefit the producer. At the heart of the program lies the strategic account managers, working to ensure each year is profitable for every producer and delivering on success.
“I have never met a grower that could not benefit from implementing precision technologies and practices in their operation,” Benisch says. “We are here to help our member-owners navigate the complexities and challenges of precision so they can achieve their goals. Whether that is growth, building for the next generation, being profitable and continuing to do what they love, precision ag and the team at MKC can help.”
To learn more about the Optimal Acre Program, visit www.mkcoop.com/OptimalAcreProgram.