Focus on Precision Technology That Pays at 2019 MSU Agriculture Innovation Day on July 26

Producers can learn to use technology that increases their farm’s bottom line through data-based decisions and planning.

Farmer using tablet in corn field.

The 2019 Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day will take place on July 26 at MSU Farms in Lansing, Michigan. With a theme of “Focus on Precision Technology That Pays,” experts will detail how implementing technology that aids in decision-making can improve yields, increase profit margins and reduce environmental impacts.

This educational field day will discuss tools and techniques that will help farmers make data-based decisions that can improve their farm’s efficiencies and showcase how data collected from various points of production agriculture come together as important components in the smart use of technology.

“Today’s farmers are inundated with data and information, which makes determining what to do on the farm difficult.” said Ron Bates, director of agriculture and agribusiness for MSU Extension. “This field day puts farmers in front of leading experts, the latest research and practical demonstrations. Speakers will discuss strategies that can help farmers improve their bottom line, better protect the environment and address changing market demands.”

The free event, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., features nine field-based sessions focused on specific technological aids that will assist producers in making farm technology goals:

Smart Ag: Where Is It Going? This session explores the definition of “Smart Ag” and how every session featured during the 2019 Agriculture Innovation Day represents important components of smart technology use in production agriculture. Participants will learn how smart agriculture can improve production, boost the farm’s bottom line and help protect the environment. Farmers will leave with a better understanding of what components of Smart Ag are right for their farming operations.

There's an Ag App for That. With thousands of apps available for mobile devices that help manage nearly every aspect of an agricultural operation, farmers want to know which ones are worth their time. Presenters will share recommendations on several useful, free apps as well as fee-based ones available for both iOS and Android devices, and see a real-time demonstration of a field-based application.

Precision Soil Sampling: Every Farm Needs It! This session explores proper technology and protocol of soil sampling fields for precision agriculture. Participants will learn how accurate soil sampling and GPS equipment aid in assessing soil fertility levels, how grid size affects fertility maps and how fertility management zones help farmers follow soil fertility plans that allow for precise variable rate applications of nutrients.

Remote Sensing to Develop a Prescription Map. Having timely aerial images from drones can help in day-to-day management decisions. However, the real opportunity with drones is to use multispectral images coupled with analytics to develop comprehensive prescriptions. Using images from drones, historical field yield maps and modeling can lead to broad-based prescriptions for seeding, fertilizer applications and more. Bruno Basso from MSU will show participants how all this comes together for use on the farm.

Planter Calibration: Seed Placement Pays. While advances in planter technology have given producers tools to improve seed placement, management is still key. This session looks at seed placement, discusses the fate of seeds not planted uniformly and presents steps producers can take to improve placement, yield and the bottom line. Participants will be able to see the impact of plant spacing on crops recently emerging following wheat and crops planted in the spring.

The Art and Science of Variable Rate Seeding. Precision GPS systems and variable rate seeding (VRS) planters give growers access to more data than ever before, but knowing which data is needed to maximize profitability can be confusing. Participants will learn how to evaluate various data layers, exploring which data layers should be used to create prescriptions. Presenters will give live on-screen demonstrations creating management zones using various commercially available platforms and later show the results as they walk field demo plots planted to variable and fixed seeding rates to evaluate agronomic response to seeding rates.

Yield Monitor Data and Proper Calibration. When yield monitor data is used to make management decisions, it is critical to identify high- and low-yielding areas of each field. Determining yield rates is not possible without proper calibration of the mass flow sensor, moisture sensor, distance measurement and vibration calibration of a yield monitor. Presenters will demonstrate how yield monitors work and how to use them for developing accurate yield maps, especially when using them for variable rate nutrient application, creation of management zones and other uses. Participants will learn how to calibrate a monitor at four flow rates and how improper calibration could over- or under-estimate yield.

Feeding Crops with Sensor-Based Variable Rate Nitrogen Technology. Variable Rate Nitrogen Application (VRA-N) is a management approach for applying the correct amount of nitrogen in the right place based on spatial variability across the field. Real-time sensor-based VRA-N adjusts the application rate on the go, based on reflected light from crop foliage at sidedress time. Presenters will evaluate and compare the economics and effectiveness of on-farm, real-time VRA-N with single-rate applications based on grid soil sampling, crop yield potential, pre-sidedress nitrogen test (PSNT) results, in-field chlorophyll readings and other best practices. Participants will have an opportunity to interact with the VRA technology, learn about the economics and accuracy of VRA-N versus single-rate applications, and take home practical recommendations for implementing VRA-N technologies.

Using the Michigan EnviroImpact Tool when Applying Manure. Manure is a good source of nutrients for crops and it is important for farms to focus on ways to reuse this valuable resource for crop production. With better planning of manure nutrient applications, farmers can protect the environment and reduce the use of commercial fertilizers while saving money. The Michigan EnviroImpact tool shows daily runoff risk across Michigan using National Weather Service data about precipitation, soil moisture, temperature and landscape characteristics. Presenters will discuss how the tool works and how farmers can use this information as a decision-support tool to effectively plan manure application.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day is an annual event focusing on in-depth education on critical topics. The event rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Precision Technology That Pays takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 26 at MSU Farms, 3750 N. College Rd., Lansing, MI 48910. The event features how implementing technology that aids in decision-making can improve yields, increase profit margins and reduce environmental impacts on today’s farms. The event has been approved for Restricted Use Pesticide credits (8 credits) and approved Certified Crop Advisor continuing education units in nutrient management (1), soil and water management (0.5), crop management (1) and precision ag (2) are also available. For detailed session descriptions, visit or contact Ron Bates at Registration is available at

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