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Discussion Starter #1
So what is everyone using these days to develop VRA maps?

For the past several years I've been using a older version of Farm Works. All I'm doing with it is taking may past yield data, normalizing that data to get an multi-year average yield map, and then creating application maps from that. The version of Farm Works I'm using is 5+ years old, and I've never really liked how it works. I was wondering what other growers are using to generate their VRA maps. I'm not well informed of what is out there, I'm kinda hoping there is some open-source software solution available.
 

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There definitely isn't any open source turn-key solution for analyzing the data and creating the maps. But there are bits and pieces of what we would need out there. QGIS would form the basis of such a solution. I have no doubt that someone who knows QGIS very well could do everything you describe and create VBA maps that could be imported, provided the ag computers could import shapefiles.

Each company implements their own data silos with proprietary formats, and that makes data interchange very hard by design. I'm sure these formats could be reverse-engineered by someone a lot smarter than me. Too bad we can't attract the interest of computer hackers across the globe, but unlike Linux or even Arduino communities, we're a pretty small group and tractors are a bit expensive to buy to play with!

It's not cheap software but everyone I know that does their own maps uses SMS from Ag Leader. SMS can natively read and write the proprietary data formats of trimble, deere, and others.
 

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Thanks for the input torriem.

Looks like Ag Leader offers a demo version of SMS. I may play around with it and see how I like it. If it works well for me it would probably be a worthwhile investment. I use VRA on pretty much all my acres.
 

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We used a prescription developed by Decisive Farming on about 75% of a half section field this past spring to develop some experience with the product technology mostly, and to observe the results. All of the decisions were made in advance, when we got to that field about a week into seeding all I had to do was plug a data stick into the X30 drill monitor/controller and make some on screen choices.

In this case we’re using sectional control on a Bourgault 7950 with two different blends as well as the seed all in prescribed variability. This company has a very long field biomass history derived from a library of crop biomass data recorded by satellite.

Whether it’s right or wrong, we chose to try to achieve the best ROA by maintaining our baseline seed and fertility rates across the field with ever more inputs then added as the average biomass history increased on the more productive zones of the field. Outlying trends on bad years are tossed out of the average.

I only had to do a brief FaceTime call with the rep while we sorted out a couple of settings I had in our unit that were preventing communication. For a couple of hours I thought the lag time was perhaps too long while watching the on screen rates, then I realized by the meter RPMs that the rate variability was instant, I just have a slow buffer set so the digital rate per acre values shown on screen are calm and pleasant to view with multi second averaging.

https://decisivefarming.com/my-farm-manager-software-application/

The monitor looks like this when seeding the way I have it set up when in prescription mode with this company. I really like it, but I’m not ready to talk about the return on investment into the service and extra seed and fertilizer for a few years. I just don’t know yet. This is not a video only a screen shot. I can’t remember how many zone types we had, I believe it was 3 or 4 types but there were many in the field, likely ranging between 1 to 10 acres each in size?

https://www.thecombineforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=155549&stc=1&d=1574627008
 

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It's also worth noting that Climate Fieldview lets you make prescriptions, so if you're giving your data and money to them, then you already have access to mapping and VBA prescription making. In the demo I saw, a guy used an iPad to create a quick prescription, marking out areas, etc.
 

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Thanks for the input torriem.

Looks like Ag Leader offers a demo version of SMS. I may play around with it and see how I like it. If it works well for me it would probably be a worthwhile investment. I use VRA on pretty much all my acres.
I used farm works years ago. Switched to Ag Leader. Much more user friendly. However in order to create multi year averages you'll need to get Advanced as Basic doesn't have that option. I've considered trying Deere's operations center but I'm not sure they are up to par.
 

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Seen a quick demo of Trimble software. They have a desktop, online and mobile program. Can all work together. Can do quit a bit with the program.
 

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I've used a few different software programs and I think it is best to work with the software you are comfortable with and go to a good VR service provider to get the original zone maps made for the land. Good zone maps change very little from year to year unless there are big management or climatic changes that cause soil properties to change, mainly salinity. Once you have the zone map then it is just a matter of entering new rates each year.


I have used Farmers Edge, Decisive Farming and CropPro(SWAT Maps) to map fields over the years. There are others out there too but these are the ones I am experienced with. Farmers Edge and Decisive use satellite imagery to zone. The zones are ranked by productivity from poorest to best then target yields set and fertilizer rates decided. Crop Pro uses their SWAT box to measure the EC of the soil and they use that along with RTK elevation data to build a map that models soil properties and topography. I think these maps best represent the field. Poor producing areas are separated into high and dry or low and saline unlike with imagery.


Once you have really good representative maps, the rest becomes a lot easier.
 

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I have been using CropPro so far and their maps have explained a lot of the enigma areas in the fields. Working on the prescription side of things is quite interesting to get into. Lots to figure out



This is the NH3 VR file.


 

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My neighbor does VR fertilizer across his farm (he's a very large operator). He and his agronomist create their own maps based on their own knowledge of the topography, and based on yield data.

Most of us have a pretty good working knowledge of our fields. We know where the really good spots are, and where the poor spots are and often we have an idea of why.

The question is, what to do in those spots. Do we cut back inputs on the spots that never produce, or do we boost inputs thinking that will somehow increase productivity. I tend to the former viewpoint. For the good spots, how much increase in inputs will pay off? It's hard to know and I get different answers depending on who I talk to.

VR seeding and fertilizer rates is only of marginal value on my farm. Variable irrigation rates on the other hand, will probably get me the best return if I could stomach the up-front initial cost.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
.....The question is, what to do in those spots. Do we cut back inputs on the spots that never produce, or do we boost inputs thinking that will somehow increase productivity. I tend to the former viewpoint. For the good spots, how much increase in inputs will pay off? It's hard to know and I get different answers depending on who I talk to....
This has always been the big question for me as well. So far I've the same as you, my higher productivity spots get more fertilizer and my lower productivity spots get less. I think the key to knowing what to do is knowing the reason why a spot has higher or lower productivity. In my area we are pretty much always moisture limited, the lower producing areas predominantly spots with shallow soil that can't retain any moisture, so in my case putting less input there makes a lot more sense.

The harder question for me is what to do with the seed rate. For my spring crops I've mostly been doing the same thing as what I've done with fertilizer and increased the seed rate in the high productivity areas and decreased it in the low areas. For winter wheat though I've been considering reducing it in the high productivity areas, the reason being those spots have good seed zone moisture and I usually get a higher emergence rate and faster emergence, there is also plenty of time for the plants to put out lots of tillers so more plants per square foot isn't needed. I'm not sure that's the right way to think about it though.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I downloaded a trial of SMS, so far I like it. It definitely is able to do some things with generating VRA maps that I can't do with Farm Works. I guess I have to see how much it costs now, they don't post any prices on their website so I really have no idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
It really bugs me how these companies won't list prices and force you to deal with a dealer. I found one dealer that sells licenses online[1], and SMS Basic is $1200 CAD. SMS Advanced is $3400 CAD. Crazy high prices for software.

[1] https://gis4ag.com/collections/ag-leader-sms-software
Thanks for the link! Its good to get an idea of the prices.

While I like SMS so far, and what it can do over Farm Works is worth something to me, I don't think I want to spend that kind of money. Oh well.
 

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I've use FarmWorks now Trimbles TAS for sometime now to do VRA on my fertilizers but I use grid samples for data instead of yields maps. IMO, using yields maps for prescription map generation is missing part of the picture, you don't know whats in your soil. I don't have a lot of variation in my soil types so I don't do VRA seeding. But since I started VRA fertilizing, I have seen my yield maps become more even. Low yielding spots in fields have now become productive because of VRA fertilizing. If you don't grid sample your soil, you don't know what is missing.


More nitrogen isn't always the answer to low yielding spots. I was shocked when I looked at my first grid samples at the wide swings in phosphorus within all of my fields.


Is there better software out there, I honestly don't know. I also use the accounting in the TAS so everything ties together for me.
 
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