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Four Decisions from Data

The information Alabama farmer Jamie Blythe is gathering on her family’s farm is being turned into action items to make better decisions for the future of the operation. Blythe shares four insights she’s learned through data. 

  1. Variety selection. “This past year, one particular variety outyielded all others by 10 to 15 bushels per acre regardless of soil type and rainfall pattern,” says Blythe. “I don’t know if that same variety will perform in a similar manner next year, but I will certainly use that information in my hybrid selections for the upcoming planting season!”
  2. Planting prescription development. “Certain zones max out the yield potential at 26,000 seeds per acre; others can support up to 31,000 seeds per acre,” she explains. “Of course, this also depends on the variety I’m planting, but I try to plant only the appropriate population to maximize my net return per acre.”
  3. Soil sampling zone refinement. “My soils generally range from 4 to 10 acres per zone. If my yield data is properly calibrated, I can see variations in the field at that acreage level. I’m not blessed with consistent, flat land and relatively homogenous soil types. I have so much variation in soil type and elevation that it pays to be quite detailed in refining my soil zones on a regular basis,” Blythe says.
  4. Cover crop selection. “I’ve tried to capture any residual fertility in low-yielding areas after a drought year,” she notes. “I also try to spread a cover crop on all of my end rows, if possible, to mitigate soil compaction. Next year’s crop also determines my cover crop selection in terms of nitrogen needs.”
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