A new app backed by AGvisorPRO CEO and Co-Founder Rob Saik promises to give no-tillers confidence in their decision-making by tapping into a number of experts. “You can read publications like No-Till Farmer, you can go to conferences, you can go to field days and you can work hard to build your network of advisors,” says Saik. “It might be that the best advice you need for your farm can come from experts that are states or even countries away.”
If Saik’s name is familiar to you, he spoke at the 2020 National No-Tillage Conference in St. Louis. He’s also been involved in Agri-Trend and Dot technology prior to their acquisitions by Trimble and Raven.
Saik says the new AGvisorPRO will help find these experts. AGvisorPRO is an iOS or Android App that connects farmers to a network of agronomists, industry experts, retailers, manufacturers, researchers and government staffers. Those “seeking” agriculture advice are connected to trusted experts who can help answer your questions.
How It Works
1. Farmers download the app (fewer than 3 minutes).
2. Enter 1 of the 4 “rooms” -- Plants, Equipment, Livestock and Business Management. Within the rooms are sub-categories such as soils, fertilizer, crop protection, etc.
3. Go to “ask a question” and type out your issue along with attached pictures and/or videos. These are then submitted anonymously along with your geo-reference. “The AGvisorPRO algorithm takes your question and matches it to its independent and company experts who have domain expertise in this area of interest,” he says.
3. They respond back to you via text chat. Farmers can check out their credentials and can choose to chat (message), immediately schedule a session by examining their calendar, or hit “connect” and instantaneously be connected via audio or video.
A ‘Test-Drive’ Question from No-Till Farmer
Unbeknownst to the company, we tried it out ourselves with an anonymous question below. A bit of a softball question, but one that gets asked frequently. The question was immediately sent to 197 registered users, and we received 4 replies in the app, 3 of them arriving overnight. Two responses came from the Dakotas, another from Australia and the fourth was a soil scientist from our area who offered to discuss the question personally via chat.
Here’s the question posed, and the responses that were received.
What are the main things to be asking before making a change to no-till for corn and soybeans? What problems should be anticipated and how should they be addressed in the first year?
Fertility: Starting no-till will mean cooler soil when planting corn. Cooler soils will mean waiting longer than you are used to for 50-degree soils to start planting.
Phosphate and zinc starters are more important with cooler soils, because P availability is relatively low in colder soils (not fully available from soil until you are 75F range). Because you would likely use more P means Zn is important…too much P inhibits Zn uptake and vice-versa, so you want to apply them together for proper balance.
With no-tillage, to accelerate mineralization usually requires more nitrogen in general to achieve the same yields as before -- initially that is. Once you are in a true no-till system for 5-7 years, you will find the opposite to be true where you can use less nitrogen to achieve the same yields. But it takes time to get there.
So, fertility-wise, to start no-till is almost a nitrogen penalty, but once you have full nutrient cycling from residue breakdown/mineralization from no soil disturbance, it will be a nitrogen credit
Weeds: Weeds will evolve too, with no fall tillage you will notice more winter annual weeds like marestail/horseweed, shepherd’s purse, green flower pepper weed, etc. Every region has different winter annuals, but they will likely be new ones you don’t normally deal with. Generally, they aren’t hard to manage; you just want to apply herbicide in the fall to manage those weeds best.
Cover Crops: These have multiple purposes; moisture management, increased biodiversity to speed up that 5-7 year “no-till” penalty when you start no till, and even for weed management. Lots of different reasons for them depending on your area and needs.
Equipment: Residue management at harvest will be important; a good straw spreader for soybean residue is important to evenly spread the chaff/straw as much as possible. Chopping corn heads make too much matted residue and cause soils to hold too much moisture and usually don’t warm up as fast. Using rollers on corn heads that leave corn stalks intact and as vertical as possible usually makes planting into that residue much easier the following season.
Lots of variables, but hopefully this gives you a few things to think about. -- Kyle Okke, Agronomist for Winfield United, N.D.
Here are what I would consider the "Big 3:
1. Residue Management. Make sure your planter is set up for keeping residue out of the row, especially for corn
2. Fertility Management. Specifically, N in corn - first year no-till (and honestly the first 3-ish years) requires an extra 30-ish units of N
3. Weed Control. You won't have a tillage pass for early season weed control, so your weed spectrum will change. Be prepared for more winter annual and perennial weed species early in the season --Brad Farrell, South Dakota
Reliance on herbicides particularly glyphosate and to ensure your system delivers stable humus creation to make the natural nutrient cycles and moisture creating biota work for you --Tony Matchett, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
No-Till Farmer’s Review
It’s an interesting system and Saik tells us that one of the key areas his group identified in its value study was around sustainability, which he noted includes no-till, cover crops and strip-till. No money was exchanged in the exercise above, but the system highlights the opportunities for ag experts to monetize their knowledge through the system so the expectation will be there. The FAQs cites three levels of expertise, on which the rate is calculated. The rates charged to farmers appear very modest, from $30-$60 for 10-minute intervals.
A few other thoughts on the app:
1. Not surprisingly, the tool has a decidedly Western Canadian orientation currently. Most if not all of the 54 Tech Direct Companies (providing free expertise) are Canadian. Saik is encouraging more widespread participation. Later this month, he’s delivering a webinar to farm equipment dealers via our Precision Farming Dealer (link to www.precisionfarmingdealer.com) magazine to offer his system as a solution to the void left by Agri-Sync when John Deere announced it would no longer offer the service to non-Deere dealers.
2. Responses are correlated to the demographics of the registrants. For instance, another question was aimed at experts associated with tillage about their reasons for continuing with tillage vs. no-till. The message was sent to 74, and drew only 1 reply, who indicated that no-till was not economical for him. “Problems establishing and terminating cover crops and increased soil compaction were all issues.”
3. The depth and detail of the app’s future rooms will likely be directed by those who sign up in the months ahead. The more no-tillers are involved, the more likely the tool will evolve to best provide those answers and with more direct categories. At minimum, the free service may be a quick way to take the temperature from others on a question and with more of barrier to entry than what is commonly seen on industry message boards. And at the current rates, a $30 charge for 10 minutes of quick expertise on a new problem is a great investment.
3. No-tillers and others with specialized knowledge are invited to apply as experts through a 7-minute application. The site says that certified experts can “uber-ize” their knowledge and wisdom without stretching themselves. Participating experts are compensated at the end of each month via wire transfer. Many of the regular National No-Tillage Conference attendees would likely be sought-after experts, and could benefit from both sides of the app.
Interested growers and/or “experts” can download the app through the app store or at www.agvisorpro.com. For those of you who give it a test drive, let us know what you think of it in the comment field below.