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Precision Ag Technology Funding Available.

Recently, the NRCS announced its support and funding of precision agriculture technology in 2008. Based on the NRCS document, AgFleet® and HighQ appear to meet the criteria for funding.

In order to be eligible for 2008 EQIP funding, your State NRCS Conservationist must allocate FY08 EQIP funds for this cause by October 11, 2008.

Contact your State Agronomist, State Technical Committee, or State Conservationist ASAP to potentially allow EQIP dollars to fund AgFleet® and HighQ® in 2008.

For more details regarding the program and necessary actions, please click here.

For an example of the Maryland precision ag fund allocation for 2008, please click here.

To view the NRCS Technical Note, please access the document within the following website:

http://directives.sc.egov.usda.gov/media/pdf/tn_agro_1_a.pdf

USDA NRCS Precision Agriculture

NRCS has published "Precision Agriculture: NRCS Support for Emerging Technologies" (1) as an Agronomy Technical Note (No. 1) to provide to NRCS field people "basic information about precision agriculture, what aspects of precision agriculture can provide environmental benefits, and a process for including precision agriculture in the planning process to address resource concerns." (2)

In the note, precision agriculture is defined as: a management system that is information and technology based, is site specific and uses one or more of the following sources of data: soils, crops, nutrients, pests, moisture, or yield, for optimum profitability, sustainability, and protection of the environment. (passages in italics from the Technical Note)

AgFleet® certainly meets NRCS' definition.

However, this does not mean that a given state will automatically adopt or fund any precision agricultural practices under FY08 EQIP.

Starting Point - Farmers

First, the process approach NRCS directs to farmers.

Environmental concerns: NRCS' role in precision agriculture

The most appropriate role for NRCS in precision agriculture seems to be to encourage techniques that address an environmental issue. However, to achieve a positive impact on the environment, the use of precision agriculture needs to be part of a system that is developed specifically to address a resource concern. To be effective, the entire system needs to be implemented, not just a few random precision agriculture techniques.

Step 1: Identify a resource concern for which precision agriculture techniques can have a positive impact.

AgFleet® clients: Target soil quality, or surface water and ground water quality as resource concerns, even be specific to certain parishes or sub-watersheds.

The building blocks of a precision agriculture system

The starting point for developing a precision agriculture plan may be different depending upon the results a farmer is trying to achieve. However, in general, to be successful with precision agriculture from both an economic perspective and environmental perspective, a farmer should have the following basic components:

  • background data
  • a record keeping system
  • analysis and decision making process
  • specialized implementation equipment
  • evaluation and revision

* Requirement - a record keeping system: Determine if the farmer has an appropriate method to keep track of geospatial data. The farmer needs to develop or acquire a recordkeeping system or hire a consultant to organize data so that it can be analyzed.

* Requirement - analysis and decision making process: HighQ®

Starting Point - Political Process

Second, the AgFleet® client must take actions within the political process to have EQIP funds available to your farmers.

1. The NRCS State Conservationist must establish precision agriculture as addressing a state priority resource concern; adopt specific precision agriculture practices to be available for producer contracts; establish incentive payment rates for those practices; and allocate FY08 EQIP funds to enter into producer contracts. Note: allocation of funds to precision agriculture practices (or "integrated crop management systems") is key; if ICMS applications have to be ranked for funding against animal waste facilities, ICMS never gets funded. The State Conservationist may be best accessed by first obtaining support of the State Agronomist or through your state association's representative on the State Technical Committee.

Precision Ag Diagram

2. The language that has been adopted in Maryland (FY07) was:

Commercial Fertilizer Based Operations

checkbox Utilize a GPS and yield monitoring system to collect field-specific crop data, and a software/record keeping system that analyzes that data. Utilize this analysis to adjust within field inputs, including variable rate fertilizer, lime, and/or variable rate planting.

This system involves the development and use of an extensive record keeping system of crop management and yield data inputs using GPS technology to ensure the most efficient production is achieved. GPS/record keeping is done with commercial software. There are numerous software programs on the market that a program participant may use.

3. Technical Assistance: I prefer bundling technical assistance to farmers into the incentive payment (vs. $3 per acre incentive payment to farmers + $5 per acre technical assistance payment to the Technical Service Provider). Client needs to decide upfront what to ask for.

(1) http://directives.sc.egov.usda.gov/media/pdf/tn_agro_1_a.pdf

(2) NRCS Directive, 8/3/07, Clark

Maryland EQIP - Tiered Nutrient Management System Checklist - 2008

Participant Name: _______________________ No./Tract No.: __________________________

NRCS in Maryland wants to reward producers who implement nutrient management techniques that go beyond the minimum requirements of the Nutrient Management standard (590). For all advanced technology, the participant must have a current nutrient management plan developed by a certified nutrient management consultant and implemented in accordance with Maryland State law. The plan must also meet the minimum requirements of the Maryland NRCS 590 Nutrient Management standard and will be reviewed annually by a certified nutrient management planner.

Producer will implement Nutrient Management Practices on the same acres throughout the contract period, meaning the producer will enroll a specific field(s) and nutrient management practices chosen will occur only on the selected acres in the contract. Nutrient management practices will not follow a specific crop across tracts and fields.

Incentive Payment: For all advanced technology listed, payment will be made according to guidance below:

For producers implementing nutrient management without pest management, incentives for all three years will be paid in year 1. For contracts with both nutrient and pest management, all incentives for pest management will be paid in year 1 and all incentives for nutrient management will be paid in year 2. Although incentives have been paid in year 1 or 2, the producer is required to implement contracted practices for the adoption period of three years.

Tier I

Producer will choose practices he/she would like to implement as per crop rotation. Producers are not eligible for payments for practices or activities that they (or persons working for them) have already implemented on fields proposed for enrollment.

Check (checkmark) the practices for which the producer is requesting EQIP incentive payments. Producers may not transition from Tier I to Tier II technology in successive years. Nutrient Management incentive payments are limited to no more than three years of a contract. Depending on crop rotation, the producer may select different practices depending on the crop being grown.

Tier I - Basic Nutrient Management

checkbox Tier I $3/ac X 3 years @ _______ acres
checkbox ($500.00 payment to offset additional cost of service for farms 100 tillable acres or less)

The producer must implement at least one (maximum three) of the following per selected
field/crop:

A. Soil/Tissue Sampling (testing must be implemented according to results)

checkbox Tissue testing
  Leaf testing during the growing season to assess nutrient levels in the plant. Test is used to determine whether nutrient levels are adequate or additional nutrients are needed. Test must be implemented according to results. Crops: All crops
checkbox Soil N (Nitrate) test
  End-of-season test of cornstalk NO3-N to indicate the supply of N relative to the needs of the plant sampled. Describes a measurement of N sufficiency during the period after a tissue sample is taken. Described in terms of being inadequate, optimal or excessive. Note: Fields which test in excessive Maryland EQIP - Tiered Nutrient Management System Checklist - 2008 category (greater than 2001 ppm N), should be followed by planting a cover crop. Suggest this technology be used in conjunction with PSNT (Pre-Sidedress Nitrogen Test) Crops: Corn
checkbox Chlorophyll meter test
  Leaf testing during the growing season to assess nitrogen levels in the plant. Test is used to determine whether nitrogen levels are adequate or if additional nitrogen is needed. Test must be implemented according to results.Crops: Corn, Small grain
checkbox PSNT if manure is used or field has high organic soils
  The PSNT is a 1-foot soil test that examines the nitrate in the soil. The test reveals the amount of nitrogen present in the field. This translates into a nitrogen application rate. It reveals how much nitrogen the legume plowdown and/or manure application contributed to the total soil N. This can be used to determine how much additional N (if any) is needed to grow the crop to maturity. Suggest this technology be used in conjunction with Soil N (Nitrate) Test. Crops: Corn

B. Nutrient Application Timing

checkbox Injection of side dress application of nitrogen on corn
  Injection of side dress application of nitrogen on corn to minimize nitrogen losses to the atmosphere (volatilization). Crops: Corn, sorghum

C. Forms of Nitrogen Applied

checkbox Utilize Slow or Controlled Release Nitrogen
  Slow or controlled-release and stabilized fertilizers are fertilizers which contain plant nutrients in a form that either delay the availability for plant nutrient uptake; or is available to the plant at significantly longer periods of time. Crops: All crops
checkbox Use of Urease Inhibitor
  Urease Inhibitors delay the enzymatic oxidation of urea fertilizes which minimizes ammonia volatilization. Crops: All crops

D.Additional Manure Based Practices

checkbox Manure Injection (or Vertical Tillage) in No-Till Crop Systems
  Injection of manure on no-till systems or the use of a vertical tillage implement (such as Turbo-Tiller) to minimize nitrogen losses to the atmosphere (volatilization). Crops: All crops
checkbox Manure incorporation within 24 hours
  Reduces ammonia losses due to volatilization. Ammonia losses from surface applied manure can be very high if not incorporation is within 24 hours of application, depending on application day and weather. Use of vertical tillage(such as Turbo-Tiller) is accepted in all cropping systems. Crops: All crops
checkbox Manure application setbacks from sensitive areas
  Sensitive areas include wellheads, streams, wetlands, and other areas that are sensitive to nutrient inputs. Setbacks are areas in which manure is not applied. Buffers are setbacks that are managed with herbaceous and/or woody vegetation to help minimize movement of nutrients and sediments into surface waters. Setbacks around wellheads will help reduce the potential for groundwater contamination by nutrients in manure. Crops: All crops
  Setbacks Based on Method of Application  
Type of Sensitive
Setback Area
Surface Application Surface Incorporation
within 24 Hours
Direct Inject Notes
Perennial/Intermittent
Stream or Ditch;
Wetland; Pond or Lake
100 ft, or use a minimum 35 ft vegetated buffer strip adjacent to waterbody 50 ft, or use a minimum 35 ft vegetated buffer strip adjacent to waterbody 35 ft  
Grassed Waterway 35 ft 15 ft None  
Private Well and Spring 100 ft 50 ft 35 ft  
Public Well 200 ft 100 ft 50 ft  
Public Drinking Water
Surface Intake
200 ft 100 ft 50 ft  
Sinkhole 200 ft upslope 100 ft upslope 50 ft upslope  
Residence/Business 100 ft 50 ft 25 ft 200 feet suggested

Tier II

Check (checkmark) the practices for which the producer is requesting EQIP incentive payments. Producers are not eligible for payments for practices or activities that they (or persons working for them) have already implemented on fields proposed for enrollment.

Excluding Manure Based Operations, the producer must meet the requirements of Tier I to be eligible for Tier II. Meaning to qualify, the applicant is implementing either the basic [in a format that meets MDA/State Regulation Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) requirements] or a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) based on NRCS standards, and is implementing at least one of the management practices listed for Tier I.

Tier II (A) - Enhanced Nutrient Management - Nutrient Application Efficiency

Geo-referenced Light Bar
Geo-referenced Light Bar to help improve efficiency, overlaps and skips in the application of nutrients. Crops: All crops
checkbox Tier II (A) - Geo-referenced Light Bar $2,500.00 1X flat rate payment
checkbox Calibration of Manure Spreader $300.00 1X flat rate payment
  Manure spreaders can apply manure at varying rates depending on many factors such as speed, gearbox setting, discharge opening, etc... By measuring the application rate and uniformity of manure spreading, a farmer can be sure of the amount of manure nutrients applied to the crop. There are two approved methods for manure spreader calibration. Load area and weight area calibration. Producer must consult with local extension agent or private consultant familiar with manure calibration. Documentation of calibration is required. Crops: All crops

Tier II (B) - Enhanced Nutrient Management - Precision Agriculture

Precision Agriculture is used to improve the agronomic, environmental and economical perspective of crop management from in-field variability. This management requires the use of a GPS (Global Positioning System) and information management tools such as GIS (Geographic Information System) to assess management information and understand variations. There are numerous software programs on the market that a program participant may use.

Precision Agricultural includes all of the following:

  • Precision soil sampling (grid) or "smart sampling"
  • Variable rate nutrient application using GPS software.
  • Utilize GPS/record keeping/yield monitor using GPS/GIS software.
checkbox Tier II (B) - Precision Agriculture $11/ac X 3 years @ _______ acres

Tier II (C) - Enhanced Nutrient Management - Decision Support System

Commercial Fertilizer Based Operations

Utilize a GPS and yield monitoring system to collect field-specific crop data, and a software/record keeping system that analyzes that data. Utilize this analysis to adjust field inputs, which may include variable rate fertilizer, lime, and/or variable rate planting.

This system involves the development and use of an extensive record keeping system of crop management and yield data inputs using GPS technology to ensure the most efficient production is achieved. GPS/record keeping is done with commercial software. There are numerous software programs on the market that a program participant may use.

checkbox Tier II (C) - Comm. Fertilizer Operations $15/ac X 3 years @ _______ acres

Manure Based Operations

Utilize an extensive manure management system to best utilize available nutrients to reduce energy costs, increase profitability, maximize nutrient efficiency and improve environmental impacts.

Producer must implement all of the following:

  1. Producer must enroll all crops in the crop rotation where manure is utilized: i.e. corn, soybeans, small grain, alfalfa, or mixed hay.
  2. Manure shall be analyzed at least annually for a minimum of three consecutive years: i.e. the length of the contract.
  3. Manure spreader(s) must be calibrated according to University of Maryland guidelines by local extension or private consultant familiar with calibration techniques.
  4. End-of-the-season cornstalk N and PSNT testing to be performed each year with results of test implemented for three consecutive years, ie. the length of the contract.
  5. When tillage can be performed, surface applications of manure... shall be incorporated into the soil within 24 hours after application. Use of vertical tillage is approved for incorporation of manure.
  6. Nutrients shall not be applied to frozen, snow-covered or saturated soil if the potential risk of runoff exists.
  7. The annual application rate of nitrogen may not exceed the estimated removal in harvested plant biomass during the year of application and the application rate of phosphorous may not exceed the estimated removal in the harvested plant biomass for the crop rotation.
  8. Manure application setbacks from sensitive areas must be implemented.
checkbox Tier II (C) - Manure Based Operations $12/ac X 3 years @ _______ acres

Producer Certification

I understand that I am not eligible for EQIP payments for practices or activities that I (or persons working for me) have already implemented on acreage proposed for enrollment.

I certify that the above "checked" (checkmark) incentive practices are not currently used on the acreage that I want to enroll in EQIP. I also certify that I have a current Nutrient Management Plan developed by a certified nutrient management consultant and implemented in accordance with Maryland State law.

Producer Name: _____________________________________________
Producer Signature: _____________________________________ Date: _________________

File the completed checklist in the producer's case file.

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