Corn has the potential to yield 500 bushels per acre. But according to the USDA, the average corn yield lands short at 158. With an estimated 27% global population growth by 2050, the increasing demand will not be met.
Farmer-entrepreneur Gregg Sauder, founder and former CEO of Precision Planting, recently launched a new company — Yield360 — which offers a system that focuses beyond benchmarked yield goals to yield potential, creating opportunities to capture yield beyond traditional forecasts.
Factors seemingly outside a farmer’s control can limit crop yield potential. The Yield360 system helps farmers take control of these limiting factors and capture yield potential through a from-the-roots-up systems approach. The current industry trend uses big data to improve yields, but these concepts do not deliver answers for an individual farmer based on the facts in each unique field. Developed by farmers, engineers and agronomists, Yield360 uses firsthand knowledge of the challenges of managing acres of crops and finds answers based on actual experience, paired with analytical models.
“The plants are always telling us what they need,” Sauder said. “The system allows the farmer to listen to the crop, interpret the message and then take action. It also allows farmers to listen to the whole environment, which is both above and below the soil — visible and invisible.”
The Yield360 system’s approach combines insights from near data from the farmer’s own field tests and precipitation and far data from sample field analysis and historic weather patterns, providing a field-specific prescription for each farm.
“The tools connect farmers with what is happening in their fields by sensing the soil conditions, deciding what actions to take to ensure optimal care of the land and crops by integrating live data from the fields, and applying the unique prescription of nutrients and crop protection. It is a system that uses Sense-Decide-Apply as the key principles,” Sauder said.
The initial launch of the Yield360 system is built with the acquisition of 360 COMMANDER, 360 SoilSCAN, 360 Y-Drop and 360 UnderCOVER, with more in the pipeline.
The core of the system begins with 360 COMMANDER. This is the decision-aide tool that was developed in 2008 by Daryl Starr, a farmer and agronomic specialist, and brought to market in 2012. Owned by Yield360, it is currently used by farmers on 1.5 million acres in 17 states. Starr, now a part of the Yield360 team, leads the continued development of the 360 COMMANDER.
Formerly known as Optimizer, 360 COMMANDER gives customized information based on variables such as soil content, seed selected, and daily local weather that has occurred and is forecasted. Integrated with 360 COMMANDER is Yield Solver, which monitors local environmental field changes hourly, and runs possible combinations of environment, seed, nitrogen and irrigation rates for optimal field-specific yield.
360 COMMANDER then provides decision-making guidance, such as variable-seed prescriptions, variable-nitrogen prescriptions, and variable-rate and scheduling plans for both sub-drip and pivot irrigation. These prescriptions help counteract the plant’s stress points that are limiting yield.
Another key to the Sense-Decide-Apply system is the ability to know the nutrient needs of the plant. Yield360 sought out and purchased 360 SoilSCAN, a mobile soil test, which provides a detailed analysis of nutrients in the soil, featuring in-field nitrate readings in five minutes and a customized variable-rate prescription for nitrogen, water, phosphorus and ammonia. Developed by Rhett and Stacy Schildroth, engineers from Iowa, the tool feeds information into the 360 COMMANDER, helping farmers utilize critical field conditions influencing decision-making for each field.
In order to take action on the information provided by 360 COMMANDER and 360 SoilSCAN, the company has acquired an innovative application system. 360 Y-Drop was developed by an Iowa farmer to help deliver nitrogen to the base of the stalk. It also allows for a much longer window of time for treatment and can be used in plants as large as six feet.
“This tool is a game changer for capturing more yield,” said farmer Jim Hedges, director of sales at Yield360. “It is making a major impact on my farm, allowing me to know specifically what to apply and when. With 360 Y-Drop, I am applying at a time during the growing season that I have never before been able to apply. This is exciting to see the impact.”
Teamed with 360 Y-Drop, 360 UnderCOVER is a multi-directional spray applicator that is able to deliver fungicides, insecticides and nutrition products for inner canopy coverage for a wider window of crop applications. It mounts to the 360 Y-Drop and glides under the plant. The ability to maneuver through tall plants and direct the spray around all areas of the plant extends application window.
“These tools make a major impact on overall crop health management,” said Ron Lloyd, farmer and leader of agronomic research at Yield360. “We aren’t limited to spraying over the top of the crop with sprayers or planes. We can get right into the key parts of the plants and much deeper into the growing season to help capture that high end yield.”
“Yield360 is building a comprehensive set of tools designed to equip farmers with information and products that give them control,” Sauder said.