Thursday, January 7, 2021  •  Episode 15

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Quantifying soil spatial variability doesn't do a farmer any good unless they are able to respond to that variability. Dr. John Fulton, Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University, joins the FarmBits Podcast to discuss variable rate application technology and effective input management methods for responding to spatial variability. In this episode, Dr. Fulton covers topics such as  input rate algorithms, variable rate map generation processes, matching equipment with application requirements, and impending variable rate application equipment advancements. As the final episode in the "Quantifying and Responding to Soil Spatial Variability" series, this episode synthesizes the information presented in previous episodes with practical implementation information that is critical for optimizing one's response to field variability.


"If you're not doing some on-farm research to evaluate your zones and then evaluate your rate, or product, or source that's going to go into that zone, I question how reflective agronomically those prescription maps are, and are they truly profitable for your operation." - Dr. John Fulton


"I mean it's one thing to be able to create a prescription map. . . To execute that is a whole different component to the equation. I can create all kinds of maps, and I can even confirm that that map's as good as it's going to be scientifically, but in terms of executing it and having the ability to do that is a whole different component of this." - Dr. John Fulton


"The soil is like a sponge. If the sponge is full, and I add another drop of water, that drop of water is either going to have to be absorbed and then put out the other side of that sponge, or it's going to just run off of the sponge." - Dr. John Fulton

Opinions expressed on FarmBits are solely those of the guest(s) or host(s) and not the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

On this episode

host Samantha Teten
host Jackson Stansell
guest John Fulton
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Show Notes

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Jackson: Welcome to the FarmBits Podcast, a product of Nebraska Extension Digital Agriculture. I'm Jackson Stansell, Samantha: And I'm Samantha Teten, Jackson: And we come to you each week to discuss the trends, the realities and the value of digital agriculture.
Samantha: Through interviews and panels with experts, producers and innovators from all sectors of digital technology, we hope that you step away from each episode with new practical knowledge of digital agriculture technology. Jackson: To wrap up our series on quantifying and responding to soil spatial variability, we are joined by Dr. John Fulton, a professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the Ohio State University. John's research and extension specialties are in digital agriculture, data analytics machinery automation, and application equipment.
Samantha: Our discussion today will center around how we go from maps to variable rate applications and then how these applications are executed in the field using modern machinery technologies. Some aspects of this are considerations of the products applied, the algorithms used to go from measurements to target rates, and the accuracy of prescription execution with contemporary application technologies.
Jackson: This episode will touch on elements of all the previous episodes in this series so if you haven't had an opportunity to listen to those yet, I highly encourage you to do so.
Samantha: So, with that introduction out of the way- there is a lot to learn in this episode, so here we go with our interview featuring Dr. John Fulton.

John: Jackson, Samantha, thanks for having me on and it's always good to interact with the folks at Nebraska. I compliment what you guys do and it's kind of a two-way street, we've talked to a lot of folks out that way and they and that's a good way of learning, but also challenging yourself to improve things and this is one thing is getting people together and talking about hot topics and important topics, so I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Samantha: So, this episode with you is wrapping up our series on quantifying and responding to soil variability. So, we've had the pleasure of talking about soil sampling, on-the-go soil mapping and data processes that turn these measurements into maps now let's talk about how we're going to apply all of this. So, the fertilizer side- what fertilizer applications should be informed by measurements of soil spatial variability and why?

John: Well, I think as we stand today for sure phosphorus and potassium and microbes are going to have to be connected to precision soil sampling okay and whatever strategy or approach the grower decides or the service provider offers to that grower, so that's for sure all connected up. You know, I think the challenge is and as as we all know it is, is how do we deal with nitrogen and things like corn and wheat in particular through the Midwest, and that's a little bit more challenging and just because the complexity of the nitrogen cycle and in our ability to sense or identify what we think is profitable out there in the field and matching that all up but from a precision soil sampling no doubt-nutrients macros and microbes and lime is definitely, and I encourage growers even small growers that haven't tried to do some kind of precision soil sampling to pick a field or two and do that. I think there's a lot of things today that we've unraveled or at least understood that precision soil sampling followed by variable rate- there's an advantage there not only profitably but from an environmental perspective, too when we think about phosphorus.

Jackson: What exactly do you think some of those profit benefits might be? Can you can you kind of quantify the profit benefits and potential environmental benefits that you may be seeing in Ohio?

John: You bet, so I tell you first our research would suggest on average and again this is a very broad average that a grower is going to be able to save seven percent on their fertilizer build and when I say fertilizer we're talking about P and K lyme is a separate separate piece in terms of that equation and profitability that's no doubt, I think we've proved that variable lime is profitable, but from a fertility perspective P and K we can save on average seven percent. Now you know if a grower goes out and maybe has a precision sampled and all the sudden finds what we call what I describe as hot spots that we have to have some corrective measures, that bill may go up first but you know over that whatever your cycle is three or four years, two years in your sampling cycle in in six to ten years basically you're going to get a maintenance range and when you're at that maintenance range on average you're going to be saving seven percent that may be more for some farmers but I don't want to leave the conversation and saying hey we're right out the gate you're going to find savings because there could be areas that you're just going to have to make some corrective measures and and kind of throw the potash in particular what we find a lot of times we're going to throw some potash out that's really going to see some benefit on our soybean crops and the yields to soybeans. And then on the phosphorus side just again trying to get the maintenance levels across that field. On an environmental perspective, what I would tell you if we're matching soil needs made in keeping ourselves below the critical level in a maintenance range that opportunity for there to be offside transport of phosphorus is going to be minimized when we're doing variable rate versus a fixed rate okay because one maybe a very simple example is if I'm doing fixed-rate phosphorus and I continue to do that and maybe that or some history of pretty manure I may have some real high IP test levels and where a lot of times those are on the borders or on one side of the field just again because of history of what we've been we've applied to a field, but it's in those if I had a P, you know I'm going to have loss the soil is like a sponge right if the sponge is full, and I add another drop of water that drop of water is either going to have to be absorbed and then put out the other side with that sponge or it's going to just run off of the sponge. So, with that in mind, it's kind of similar with phosphorus. I just think with matching your phosphorus to your and getting yourself into the maintenance range the the opportunities for loss in the system is much less, much greater much less however you want to put that than than just doing a fixed rate type approach across fields.

Jackson: That's a good way to describe it. I think that's really easily tangible for people out there to understand.

Samantha: I think it's great that you've taken the time to put some numbers to that profitability looking at the average across the state, that's really cool to see. Okay, so does the type of fertilizer being applied so if whether the grower can't apply manure versus dry spreading urea or map change whether the application should be spatially varied. So are some fertilizers better to spatially vary than others?

John: I don't know if i would say it's better necessarily, Samantha, what I would say is in general source isn't as, doesn't matter as much when talking about inorganics. So whether I use urea or 28 you know and granted, as long as you have the units they're there when the plant needs them. The source doesn't matter. Same for phosphorus and potassium.What I would say is that there are some nutrients probably easier to vary than others today and probably my easiest example or simplest example would be manures are a little bit more challenging. Sure we can do it but it's a little bit more costly to implement and fully execute today. But when we look at 28 we look at urea as an example as nitrogen sources we look at map at least here that's our primary phosphorus source dry and we look at potash those are systems and we have the equipment to be effectively to apply them out across crop fields. But manures I would tell you it's a little more challenging especially on the liquid side and even on the dry side it's more challenging to effectively deliver manures as we do some of these inorganic fertilizers.

Samantha: So, I know there's lots of different methodologies behind it- but can you describe to us the process by which you would convert a soil property or a nutrient map and convert it to a spatially variable prescription application? How you would recommend that to farmers.

John: So, I'm going to tell you two two approaches that are the first one is pretty common and I think we all do it and then the second one is is really - when I think across the U.S. Midwest in particular is becoming probably the I don't want to say norm but highly adopted way of doing precision fertility management. So, the first one of course is what we talked about either grid is a zone sample you send those to the lab and then you use your university recommendations or what the university mentions as their recommendations to convert those soil sample results into an applied amount of whatever source that you've chosen to create those prescriptions. Most softwares, if not all, precision ag softwares today I don't want to say it's automated within three to four steps you can go from sampling to having a prescription done on the field today. We've become as a industry much more efficient. I don't know if people are interested, I'd tell you we're probably somewhere between 60 to 70 percent more efficient with time today going back you know 15 years. There was a lot of steps, I mean 8 to 20 steps to go from sampling or creating points to sampling the points or zones to sending that off getting that data back that was like depending on this program a 12 to 20 step process. Today, most the software packages that handle this in terms of not only creating points or zones and handling it you can get down to three to four manual steps. So, just think about the efficiencies that's brought to the industry in terms of just creating prescription maps for farmers today and accuracy of that in my opinion, too. Because every time we automate make sure that's accurate we're taking an error source out of it. The second method today is in becoming fairly common across the Midwest, farmers are generally sampling every other year or every three years it seems like in a lot of cases okay in between and so it's the same process but it's becoming more of a check have I moved my soil fertility you know if I have how much and kind of learning from that. But, we're also blending in those off years using yield maps for those cases where we're in a maintenance range of supplying back what we've taken off of that field whether it's a two or three year rotation, so whatever I take off in a lot of cases we'll just use a corn, soybean where I took off with my corn that took off with my soybeans with from a P and K and micro perspective my prescription map just gets converted basically as a yield map back to a removal map and ultimately a a prescription map. So, I don't know if that's answering the full question, but those are become the two common ways kind of the basic and normal approach and then this kind of modified approach where yield maps are becoming such a critical data layer to fill in those off years where we're not sampling.

Jackson: Yeah, I think that answers the question you know it's basically which algorithm do you want to use- do you want to use the calculations from the yield or do you want to use those university recs based on the soil test to get back to what you need to do.

John: Yeah, and it's both right we don't want to over fertilize but at the same time we want to use the university recommendations because that's plays into this environmental piece, too. Let's not forget that when groups look inside from the outside in they want to see standards and they want to understand the standards of course university recommendations become those standards and so when we can state that or a farmer states that that's going to in my opinion will help out on that environmental discussion and the sustainability discussion at the same time because you can point to- I am following those standards.

Samantha: Would you like to put a plug in here for collecting good quality yield data to help with these recommendations?

John: Well, you know, yield data is such the critical data layer right at the end of the day you know. I always talk about there's two primary data layers and then we can talk about second or secondary later but yield year in year out is one of those primary data layers that becomes so important if your farm is utilizing precision ag or precision ag services. And so if it is that important being a good combine or harvester operator in conjunction with a technology operator becomes crucial to get quality data out. So, if I'm a grower and I'm looking at trying to use the data layer to put into my fertility planning and and rec process then I need to know what those low yielding areas are to those high yielding areas, as well relatively to be effective in using that yield data. So, I don't know if I've got anything great other than calibrating and paying attention and doing some checks basically as conditions. Moisture within the crops change, test weights change, you need to be checking your calibration. I always say at least two points on, on test weight and so those are just general things to think about as you go through the the season and just doing some checks to make sure things are calibrated.

Jackson: Seems like you and Dr. Luck are on the same page there, that's for sure.
John: We'll say we've had some discussions.

Jackson: So, you know we've talked about using these university algorithms to create nutrient prescriptions We've talked about you know basically using your your yield maps to create these nutrient prescriptions. Are there any newer processes or algorithms that some of these private companies like say a climate corporation or somebody like that is using that may not match these university recs or you know just accounting for our uptake of our previous crop that are gaining some traction out there for growers?

John: Well, the obvious ones would be the nitrogen tools that and there's four of them out there. You know, I think there's some validity in those those tools to help with nitrogen management. When we talk about site-specific meaning per field type analysis can be challenging. I think they can give you some suggestions and help you explain some things but ultimately it's going to be yourself or the consultant tying rates to zones to make that happen on the nitrogen side though they've made a lot of progress I don't want to discount those nitrogen tools. On the P, K side I really haven't seen other than maybe some new technology coming down the road. Nothing today commercially that's really changed dramatically, changed what we're seeing from from our for macros and and micros in terms of how we manage and do that on a variable rate. You know, we've automated or beginning to automate the sampling process out in the field we're seeing that grow, but in terms of the algorithms I think you're asking Jackson, I don't, I haven't seen a lot of movement on that part. One thing I would add to the discussion or at least the thought around this discussion is we're starting to see some companies get pretty significant volume of samples and information about fields built into their databases. So, I know a few of people are trying to begin to explore how to tap into that knowledge those data and maybe think about the P and K in particular and micros. But, I haven't seen any results here yet. That how do we, how do we take some of those pretty significant databases that have been built over the last 15 years 10 to 15 years and extract new knowledge about how we may or think about doing phosphorus and potassium.

Samantha: That does make me think. I did see some research come out of Corteva. The people that have like put their soil samples into Granular and then they were just able to see across certain regions where there were lots of deficiencies. Like I said, I don't know how they're using that or what that's going to translate into, but it is fascinating to see those trends. John: Yeah yeah, and I think we're just starting to get to the cusp of that, Samantha because we've got a couple companies here on the eastern side again when you're able to connect yield fields with yield and some other descriptive layers, data layers, elevation possibly of course soil types always out there. But, some other things that are very high resolution that gives us fuel by field, I think we can begin to explore some trends. We'll see where that takes us, but I would think here in the near future we would start to see some of those trends and how we can translate that into a farmer using that for their recommendations or tailoring recommendations to their farm.

Jackson: So, we've been talking a lot about soil spatial variability and how that data might be useful for determining spatial variable applications. What are some other layers that you would like to see and you do like to see currently integrated with this soil spatial variability data to inform our spatially variable applications?

John: Well, for talking a little pie in the sky I would love and you know industry is kind of driving some of this in terms of development. Boy, it'd be nice to have a couple things. Number one, the ability to you know I guess we can measure some of this with sensors but slow moisture variability across the field- being able to model that continuously over the growing season really cool data layer to play into some of this fertility management. I think in time if we can get you know maybe a couple more years of development work under our belts here we may have some you know fertility type sensors that we can stick in the ground and complement that as well. And you know, it's kind of like small moisture sensing you know how many do you need to stick out in the field, well probably going to be quite a few if you really want to do it right you know just from a statistical standpoint. But, if we get fertility at some level- let's say nitrate and aspiration and even some kind of P level understanding- I will tell you and soil moisture boy, I'd love to be if we could model those and be fairly confident over the growing season. I think that would really change our mind, coupled with weather and weather predictions how we do fertility management more in season. I'll say it that way from planting to end season type management.

Jackson: So, just to kind of piggyback on that how would you like to inform where those sensors are placed in a field I know you said there need to be a lot but how you know what would be your choice about how those those locations would be informed?

John: Yeah, so we would I think for us we probably again you guys have a lot different soil and topography and just your field conditions are different in Nebraska. So, when I say this I'm speaking, I want to make everyone understand I'm speaking in Ohio. What our conditions are you guys need to kind of address what your major variables are. I want to tell you that organic matter and measuring that and having a high resolution organic matter map is a would be a big step for us. Next, I mentioned this before drainage and basically it's water hoarding capacity and drainage and coupled together is if we can take elevation and build in a fairly high resolution where water flows where it's going to stand in certain conditions having an elevation map and doing the derivatives of that and then doing our organic matter. We're going to have a lot of insight of where we need to replace sensors across the field because we're going to have highly eroded areas to essentially low organic matter potential. You know, in those areas to other areas that might be three plus percent organic matter, so being able to use some of that tech information and it's fairly readily available in Ohio but that we can I think we could do a pretty effective job determining where we would place those sensors to inform some of the if we're trying to model that or use that information to make decisions on I think that would help us greatly. Those would be the data layers I'm thinking about of course yield, love to put yield into that too. But, you know every year is a little different in terms of weather patterns as well so we'd have to have quite a few years of yield data to put into that equation too. But, those would probably be my three here in Ohio.

Jackson: So, when we're thinking about prescriptions still how can we start using or are people already doing this using these precision technologies to execute on-farm research to then inform prescriptions on individual fields, what are some of the advantages and benefits that we may get out of that?

John: So, my first comment is if you got precision technologies on on your farm I would encourage grower to be doing some kind of on-farm research answering their own questions you know you guys have a great you know on-farm research network out there. You're learning things not only for yourselves but the grower that's cooperating and there's just a lot of value, and when I think about prescription maps you know there's two things right. There's essentially we'll generalize this- there's the zones, are the zones right for the particular product that I'm trying to bury that's your first question and the second question is how do I determine in most cases what rate or source that I'm going to put in that zone that's profitable and so my thing is if we're not if you're not doing some on-farm research to evaluate your zones and then evaluate your rate or product or source that's going to go into that zone I question how reflective agronomically those prescription maps are and are they truly profitable for your operation. And, I'm not sitting here pointing fingers and saying people are doing things wrong there's a lot of room for all of us to improve but for grower my question always is- is how do you know that's effectively providing a profit to you and you've delineated the variability of whatever you're trying to vary out there appropriately, so and I think you guys do a great job and I you know you can confirm with me that's why we do a lot of with our growers strip trials where we're not really varying whatever it is the rate or source for the strip but we're changing that between strips and that gives us two ways number one to evaluate our delineation of zones where should that be happening for that particular treatment and secondly understanding within that zone then we can go back and analyze and say what was our optimum or what was our economic optimum that should have been applied in that year. And if I replicate that over you know I'd say like six years if you're in a soybean corn rotation but if I can bear with the grower the grower can bear with us and we step through that all I think they're going to be better off and what they're going to find in the case of seeding and maybe even some of this fertility at times basically nitrogen there's going to be some cases where man it's just a slam dunk. I should be doing it all the time in that field to an adjacent field. I either need to learn more or let's just stick with the fixed rate because it's profitable and it's easy for me to do on this field. But, we find there's a lot of fields that are very tailored or because of history or because of the the topography a lot of times for us it's drainage and topography right it's elevation and drainage for us. If we can understand that and then we can understand how we should be delineating and then adding and what's our profitable either seeding rate or fertility rate that goes into that zone. So but technology, precision ag technology and easily enables on-farm research and growers need to be profitable and if they're having people make prescriptions that's great but they got to be evaluating some of this themselves they should be asking their own questions on their farms and evaluating that to be able to understand what is profitable what practices work what doesn't work and be doing that out on a field by field basis in my view. And, if they can get to that there's a real value and a real learning experience for them as they get into all this. I make a comment and I can't remember Dr. Luck was I don't think he was involved with this project. We did a survey back in 2017. In fact, I think he was involved and we surveyed only farmers that have been doing precision ag, so I'm talking about farmers that are all in on technology they're real up they're probably doing variable rate seeding for and to some level and variable rate fertility. Do you know how many of them are doing on-farm research?

Jackson: I don't even really want to take a guess because I think I'm going to be wrong.

John: 84% of the respondents are doing some kind of on-farm research and I guess I use that as my testament that technology I don't know if it simplifies on farm research but it really enables growers to go out and test some of their hypotheses or interests or questions very simply and with that it becomes that learning experience that they really want to understand you know learn from and make changes or document you know what I am doing it right.

Jackson: Dr. Fulton further recommended that farmers and researchers consider machinery capability and availability when considering implementing variable rate applications.

John: I think as growers farmers and even us as you know research I think we need to keep track of the equipment and and processes that precision ag service providers are offering to us. I mean it's one thing to be able to create a prescription map and it's always I separate out to execute that's a different strat is a different whole different component to the equation right. I can create all kinds of maps and I can even confirm that that map's as good as it's going to be scientifically but in terms of executing it and having the ability to do that is a whole different component of this and so as growers I just think you need to be thinking about both of those as two different pieces of of your fertility management and then thirdly and come back to the on farm, I still believe that on-farm experimentation really helps farmers fine-tune their fertility management. What practices, what rates how are things profitable within my system that's a necessity to keep at it and it only the real advantage that is the acceleration of learning that goes on with that farmer when there's doing that type of research.

Samantha: So, building on that you kind of talked about where we are like at adoption and the technologies we do have what machinery technologies do you think will be coming? what are people working on?

Jackson: And, in particular maybe with those dry spreaders and some of the section control that you were talking about earlier?

John: Yeah, we're going back to switch back to the the spinner spreaders that we've been using. We're starting to see quite a bit of technology come in play. Some of this has kind of been around but I think just having access and many manufacturers provided number one having dual or multiple bin dry fertilizer spreaders have been around for a while, but it's not until recent years that you could go to your retailer and actually look on the lot and actually see one on the lot. And so, from a farmer perspective what I like about that is I can put two prescriptions in if not up to four depending on what you're trying to do. Make one pass across the field and so that's been a a big area where today you know think about planters I mean Jeez we can put eight prescriptions in if we're controlling hybrid seeding rate fertility. And insecticide per se I mean you could do that today my point on fertilizer spreaders is we can very effectively today, with the software making the prescriptions and applicators do one pass multiple products executing individual prescriptions because now those prescriptions are all going to be equivalent spatial in terms of where the highs and the lows are. So, I think that's been a real advantage in real development over the last five years to see that come into play. First, secondly you're starting to see what I would call the European influence on spinner spreaders and so when I say that is number one you're starting to see some new designs come into play that enables swath control not full with swath control but a lot of times it could be 15, could be 12 sections depending on the company but I can actually effectively with changing the position and the speed of the spinners on there they can actually implement swath control like on your planter. So, when I'm working in point rows or kind of abnormal shape fields it can shut off in sections and not just shutting off in like a 90-foot swath all at once and coming back on it's actually broken down. Take your 90 and divide it by 12 or 15 it could be shut off and come back on in sections like that and we're seeing that come in play here in the U.S. And so, I'm starting to see though that technology starting to be available or being on at retailers when you stop in and look around and see what they have for equipment. So, that's another thing that's really come is the improvement of section control and doing it by zones now on these fertilizer spreaders. I think that's a big advantage to not only them but also the growers in terms of more uniform application of product.

Jackson: So, I'm not super well versed in terms of how this equipment works but how difficult is it to assess the accuracy and distribution of what's applied with these pieces of equipment because you know as data analysts people who are trying to figure out what goes on with yield, we kind of want to see that as applied, so how accurate is that right now?

John: For fertilizer, basically you're getting a pretty coarse resolution as applied map and so again going back to even the machine behind me, I mean if you had a raven basically you're going to get full width whether that's 90-120 full width coverage map and you're just kind of getting an average right. Across that whole boom, so we're getting pretty course on our as applied maps if I understand where you're heading with that and that where it comes back there's a couple things. Number one if we can get some sensors to put in place especially on the granular side to know exactly across the machine the uniformity that's going to give us granularity that I think you're looking for to be able to overlay with your yield map and other data layers spatially and it won't be until we do that in my opinion that we can look at response curves in a lot of cases, because again we can be off by a hundred pounds sometime on a coverage map in an area on average across the whole thing. It's okay, it's you know 200 pounds per acre but in some cases I could be off you know quite a bit 50 to 100 pounds in some conditions and so I might be using 200 pounds of perceived applied product. In reality, I might only have a hundred you know if it was some nitrogen or had some nitrogen in there that's going to be a big significant treatment difference for you. So, I think when we get some of these improved technologies too, that takes us to the next level for what I consider are as applied fertility maps. You're going to be able to do a much more improved analysis both from the farmer perspective but also for us that really interested in research and all with our ultimate goal is can we ever get to a point of going suitably row by row or small area by small area to see some response and start to build those response curves that I think you were alluding to earlier, Samantha. We just can't do that today because of the I don't want to say inaccurate it's just there's just not the resolution to do some of the analysis. I always frame up and you guys probably get tired of me so I always talk about today and you're I know you've got some growers I know some of the growers in Nebraska that have all the technology if you're doing a high speed planter regardless if you're on a high speed or not I would argue with you almost know where every seed was planted in the field. That's pretty high resolution regardless that's a 12 row 24, 36 plus row planter. But, we don't have anything to be able to overlay across that that relates to fertility to understand well I know what got planted. I can use a drone today to do my stand counts across that planter and know that well hey I had maybe some issues or I didn't get a good enough emergence in this area. But, I don't have anything on the fertility side to add into that analysis at a fairly high scale or a high resolution. Does that make sense on that?

Samantha: Yes it does yes yeah. It'll be interesting how we're going to get to that point where we do have higher resolution. So you mentioned earlier the two bins for dry fertilizer, so kind of speaking along those lines you know are we going to get to the point where planters have two separate fertilizer products that can be applied at different rates for starter or we've talked about machines that have both anhydrous and liquid fertilizer and that they're applying at different rates. How are those being developed are we going to see more of that in the future?

John: So, yes from a planter perspective you can put very simply a starter package on plus an infrared and put stuff in and furrow whether that's fertility to if you want to do some of the other biologicals is another piece that people are really interested in on that. So, being able to do multiple fertility products to multiple sources for sure we can do that on planters today and do that pretty effectively. And, I would state that if you want to spend the money you could do that on a row by row basis very very easily but it's going to cost you money that's probably the big hurdle on that front for that. On these other machines whether it's dry or liquid anhydrous or something like that, currently when we look at the if you want to call them strip till we call them zone till type implements where you're kind of doing a you know eight foot or eight inch by three inch depth kind of zone and you're putting fertilizer in that in some fashion. Yes you can do that and do different sources all in one pass no doubt about it. And so, I'm just saying about three companies off top my head they all have the capacity to run multiple sources on one implement and do that all in one pass. But, I think that's where we're at in some cases where research is going to have to determine the real value on some of that. For us, placing nutrients below the soils subsurface is an environmental value in our neck of the woods. Everyone says that if we get our nutrients, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil that greatly reduces the opportunity for that to leave the field. And so, that's kind of does that translate to profitability I would argue yes if it's done properly and we have some knowledge to supplement in there to understand how we need to be doing that. But, maybe for others it's more just to be able to kind of the right to farm right environmentally it's keeping people off my back. And, I'm able to do what I want to do in some cases. So, but yes we can do multiple products, multiple sources on liquid anhydrous and and dry today it's becoming the technology's there. I guess I'm saying and companies have the solutions.

Samantha: So, what should farmers be thinking about right now what would advice do you have that to them for like planning out the next year?

John: Well, I'm gonna say if your growers are like ours they've probably already got quite a bit of fertilizer purchased and if not quite a bit of their seed and seed packages that go on top of that purchased. But, I think going into the first year as it relates to fertility management you know I think making sure you review your plan or plans if you're doing variable rate-making sure those are intact. They're sound agronomically as well and I guess I would throw in that the challenge becomes is when when can I execute those and if I get a spring, late winter and early spring that's pretty wet all sudden you know do I need to make adjustments, plan in terms of what I want to actually apply when and that's a big challenge. I mean we've had to change some sources here in the last few years in Ohio. But, my point in all that as we go into January and February is hey I got to plan and play I know what my costs are hopefully. They've you know what your costs are but have a plan B in mind especially given if you guys are like us with some of these spring rains you know if I've got to adjust things and maybe put a little bit more down on my planter or I got to do a little bit more in-season application. I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as it's done with the right source and the timing. But, I think plan a when I'm going into the season thinking I want to do and have all that cost estimates laid out but have a plan B back in my back pocket and be able to just give some of the spring conditions that we're encountering these days.

Samantha: Thank you to Dr. John Fulton for joining us today on the FarmBits podcast. As you heard, he has expansive knowledge in fertilizer and manure application technology and also how to utilize data layers for informed nutrient and lime prescriptions.
Jackson: I think my favorite parts of this episode were Dr. Fulton's discussion of some of the new variable rate application technologies. For example, on dry spreaders and how we don't yet have a good way of measuring as applied rates at a high resolution. So, we're thinking less than the 90 foot or 120 foot boom especially with those machines. I also thought it was pretty cool to hear John say that we're at a point now where we could actually be applying four or more variable rate prescriptions at one time, particularly with the planter between variable rate seedings and nutrients and everything in between in response to that spatial variability out there in the field.
Samantha: Absolutely, and for me I liked his comments on how with many of these technologies they show an obvious benefit to the environment, but we also have to find a way to show the value to a producer and on many cases such as in lime, phosphorus and potassium the return to the producer's bottom line is already there in most situations. I also liked his point about having a backup plan for fertilizer application timing but then being sure to adjust your source to that timing to have the best outcome.
Jackson: Absolutely and having a plan B is never a bad idea, so that wraps up our soil spatial variability series. We'd like for you to tune in next week as we get started on another digital ag topic here on FarmBits. Thank you for taking the time to join us today on the FarmBits podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts to be informed about the latest content each week.
Samantha: We welcome your feedback, so if you have comments or questions for us please reach out to us over email, on twitter or in the review section of your favorite podcast platform. Our contact information can also be found in the show notes.
Jackson: We would like to thank Nebraska Extension for their support of this podcast and their commitment to providing high quality informational material to members of the agricultural community in Nebraska and beyond.
Samantha: The opinions expressed by the hosts and guests on this podcast are solely their own and do not reflect the views of Nebraska extension or the University of Nebraska -Lincoln. We look forward to you joining us next week for another episode of FarmBits.

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