Foster Creek Conservation District presents a Precision Farming Workshop
By Adrienne Douke
The Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD) presented a Precision Farming Workshop, October 6, at the home of Doug and Michele Tanneberg. The event was organized by FCCD’s Assistant Manager, Amanda Ward. Amanda manages the District’s Direct Seed/Agricultural BMPs program, funded by grants from the WA Department of Ecology to provide cost share assistance to operators switching from conventional tillage to direct seed practices. Additional contributions for the workshop came from the Washington State Soil Health Committee, Washington State University Extension, Evergreen Implement, Odessa Trading Company/Weed-It and WA Grain Growers.
The workshop began at 9:30 a.m. with hot coffee, light refreshments and registration.
At 10 a.m. Tom Wells from Evergreen Implement gave a summary about the building blocks of precision farming. The workshops’ main topic of discussion was the farmer’s oldest nemesis: weeds.
“Weeds don’t know boundaries, and they compete with the crop for water, space, light, and nutrients, and the crop won’t reach its yield potential,” Dale Whaley, Washington State University Regional Extension Specialist said.
Speaker Ty Meyer, Spokane CD- Spokane’s Equipment Loan program explained the benefits of using low disturbance and precision equipment for Low till/No till farming.
Precision farming utilizes technology to assist the operator manage the land more precisely. Combined with direct seed, that reduces the number of tillage passes across the field, new spot-spray technologies minimize the volume of pesticides applied to the soil, selectively targeting instead of treating the whole field to eradicate weeds. With these new tools, the farmer attains optimal land stewardship, enhances soil health and decreases soil erosion.
Meyer was followed by Derek Shafer who explained the dynamics of precision farming in his operation in the Ritzville region.
A buffet style lunch featuring Chicken Alfredo, salad, rolls, and dessert catered by Jack’s Resort was served at 12:15 p.m. in the Tanneberg garage.
At 1:00 p.m. Jason Emerson from the Odessa Trading Company provided a demonstration of the Weed-it system. Emerson set the sprayers and drove around Tanneberg’s driveway, spot spraying weeds scattered on the gravel within several feet of each other. The marksmanship was 100%. ‘Weed-It’ is a system that applies precision farming to agriculture, taking weed eradication to the next level. This technology targets weeds down to the size of a dime with infrared sensors that detect the chlorophyll in the plant, and triggers the sprayer over each weed. The Weed-It self-calibrates 50 times per second and can save up to 95% of the chemical application, reducing overall agricultural pesticide use to promote environmental and soil health. “The Weed-It technology saves time, money, and protects soil health,” Whaley noted.
The demonstration was followed at 2.00 pm by Ian Burke, from WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Ian gave an overview of WSU’s Weed-It Test Plots, discussed other weed issues and took questions from producers.
Workshop participant Wade Troutman, whose family has farmed in Douglas County for generations, noted that new farming technologies have changed the agricultural landscape dramatically in the last ten years. “We have seen new innovations and technologies that have made it easier for us to farm vast tracts of land in the past 100 years, now agriculture is introducing technologies such as the Weed It to fine tune the weed eradication process.” With this technology, spraying the whole field will be a thing of the past. Spot spraying weeds will save on the pesticide bill, and will promote soil health, which is the gold standard in the agricultural community.
Owen Jorgensen, whose family has farmed in Douglas County for four generations noted that, “This spot weed sprayer is a no-brainer. Although an expensive initial outlay, it saves money on the pesticide bill in the long run. I like the idea.”
The Weed-It system is carried by the Odessa Trading Co. Sales and Service.
The workshop ended at 3:30 p.m.