May. 31, 2016
Southern States, a Richmond, Va.,-based farm supply and service cooperative has more than 200,000 farmer-members and is one of the nation's largest agricultural cooperatives. It's approach to helping farmers is a three-tier program that provides options at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels to accommodate its customers at whichever level of adoption they are using. The three packages are named Discover, Evaluation and Analysis.
At the entry-level option, Discovery allows farmers to "dip a toe" into the precision ag sector. It’s a season-long program designed for producers who want to learn how agronomy technology can help provide information to make better crop management decisions. A combination of soil and tissue samples show what is happening in the field and enables Southern States to work with growers to improve performance.
During the growing season, an agronomist completes in-field observations to identify differences in soil type, compaction, water-holding capacity, etc., that may be impacting yield.
In-season tissue samples are also taken at points corresponding to the initial soil samples that give a better understanding of the nutrients available to the crop, and if there are any deficiencies.
The Evaluation program is a longer-term, more refined approach that establishes a baseline for crop management programs and systematically monitors and evaluates crop progress throughout the growing season. The two-to-three year package starts with two-and-a-half acre soil samples in year one and adds in-season satellite imagery to the Discovery program services.
Years two and three rely upon production sampling that includes soil sampling, in-season tissue sampling and visual evaluation of three specific points within 50-acre zones to spot-check and evaluate nutrient levels and ensure fertility recommendations are accomplishing the desired goals.
The cooperative's most advanced package combines the Discovery and Analysis programs and adds compaction samples and more data to the mix. This intense management program adds a postseason evaluation that includes performance outlined by seed variety, crop protection treatments and soil type. Southern States also processes as-applied data, which enables the customer to have a digitized record-keeping of any and all applications of seed, nutrients, and crop protection products.
All three packages begin with a preseason evaluation and planning by geo-referencing soil samples to determine the right nutrient plan for the field to maximize potential from the beginning. Once the season starts, a Southern States Agronomist completes on-site analysis, including tissue samples and in-season soil samples to verify crop health, respond to current conditions, and determine if other factors are limiting the potential yield of the crop.
A postseason evaluation uses yield data and maps that show the final production results.
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