We would like to cultivate a culture of discussion

...with our agriconBLOG


18.10.2019 - Bodo Hanns (Send email to Bodo Hanns)

Precision in corn production

"As the sow, you shall reap." Who does not know the quotation of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero? A successful seed begins with the right choice of variety. Corn seed is always selected according to the production target and the respective site conditions.


Today, it is also technically possible to use differentiated seed maps to determine the seed strength for each sub-area of a field. In light locations, for example, lower seed thicknesses can be advantageous, and correspondingly higher seed thicknesses in heavy locations. Single grain seed drills then permit precise placement of the corn seed.


Current nitrogen uptake of corn - measured with the Yara N-Sensor ALS®


Seed maps help to optimize seed intensity

The seed maps can be created on the basis of data from a soil scanner as well as maps from the Reich-soil-estimation from 1934 or digital terrain models can also be used as a basis. Specialized companies can then use GIS programs to calculate corresponding seed maps. Which data source in combination with which strategy achieves the optimum, has not yet been sufficiently investigated.



Precise nutrient analysis for intelligent base fertilization

It is not by chance that basic fertilization bears its name, it is the basis for agricultural success. An under- or oversupply of the soil often has negative effects on the yield. Be it...

  • the pH value, which has a decisive influence on the plant availability of nutrients.
  • Phosphorus, which is of great importance for the development of seedlings and root growth.
  • Potassium, which is important for controlling the water balance and thus has a considerable influence on the drought stress tolerance of corn plants.

For an efficient basic fertilisation a clean data collection is necessary. The implementation is quite simple tho, but can be carried out more professionally and more quickly by specialised service providers than by the company's own employees.

The procedure begins with GPS-supported and thus high-quality and reproducible soil sampling. For the measurement of the fields a soil scanner is used again. This is a physical measuring system that determines soil differences non-destructively and objectively. The clay content of the soil has a significant influence.

The next step is intelligent soil sampling. Zones with light and heavy soils are combined to dynamic sampling grids. The result is exact information on the nutrient content of individual sub-areas.
In cloud-based data portals such as agriPORT, specific fertilisation planning can then be carried out.

P and K fertilization support yield effects

Corn reacts quite sensitively to low phosphorus and potash substances. That is why in fields with insufficiently available nutrient contents large yield losses can sometimes be observed. Table 1 shows the yield effects observed in field trials as a function of the initial supply. It determined the yield effects of P and K fertilization compared with the lack of fertilization.

Exploring new avenues with N-fertilization


Common practice for the N-fertilisation of corn is the single application of nitrogen via underfoot fertilisation for sowing or by means of liquid manure. Due to the comparatively late N requirement and the long growing season in spring and summer, corn can usually make good use of soil nitrogen. But corn plants also show early when the N-supply of the soil is not sufficient for good plant growth. This is exactly where variable N fertilisation can be applied: Instead of a single application, the fertiliser is split (see Fig. 1).



With this type of fertiliser, approx. 50% of the intended total amount of nitrogen is initially applied. Since a division of the application usually also has a positive effect on the N-efficiency, the remaining 50% can be reduced to up to 40%. This N administration is then applied in the 6- to 10-leaf stage and with the aid of the N-Sensor® on a site-specific basis. The sensor detects differences in plant growth based on the current N uptake of the crop. A stored agronomic control function is then used to fertilize as required. Weakerly developed stands with lower N uptake receive a higher, better developed stand with higher N uptake a lower N fertilisation quantity. Due to its oblique measurement, the N-Sensor® also records a representative measuring field in row crops.

The distribution of the N-quantity into two doses and the needs-based distribution in the maize field offers the following positive effects compared to the application of the entire N-quantity at one time:

  1. Yields can be increased.
  2. The crop has a more uniform dry matter content.
  3. N efficiency is increased and N balances are reduced.


Harvesters from outer space

Digital tools have recently made it possible to track the development of maize corn. The basis for this is the data from the Sentinel-2 satellites. This data is evaluated by an algorithm and provides information on the dry matter content of the plants. Once a pre-defined value has been reached, a harvest recommendation is issued via the farmer's smartphone, for example. The method is still  new on the market and has yet to prove its added value.

Laying it on the line


Is the use of digital processes worthwhile? This question can be answered by intelligent forage harvesters and combine harvesters equipped with the appropriate equipment. During the harvest, they produce yield maps that farmers can later evaluate in the office. This makes them an excellent tool for analysing weak points. In other words, a yield map is a virtual rear-view mirror.


Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to calculate the yield potential of individual sub-areas from the yield maps of past years. On the other hand, it is advisable to always measure the current demand (nitrogen, pesticides, etc.) of the crop with digital tools and to act accordingly.


Social acceptance as a positive side effect


Digital processes are key technologies for growing corn in a more resource-efficient way than before. With regard to the increasingly stringent requirements from Berlin and Brussels, N-efficiency must be sustainably increased. In addition to the resulting economic advantages, the agricultural sector can also achieve ecological benefits through precision farming.


Farms that are already investing in intelligent solutions can react quickly to changing political conditions in corn cultivation and thereby maintain their competitiveness.


The original article was published on the website praxisnah.de in October 2019.

Write the first comment on this article

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

Back to listview

Please select your language

We have noticed that you are visiting the website with a different language. Please select your preferred language.