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Costa Rican farmers adopting precision ag technology

by May 12, 2010International Perspectives

I successfully made it back from Italy after the delay due to the volcano eruption in Iceland, a mess I hope I don't have to deal with again.  With that behind me it is time to move on to Costa Rica where our new distributor Agricultura Cientifica is introducing Ag Leader products into the region.

Yield Monitors on JD Combines Rice in Costa Rica

Agricultura Cientifica started distributing Ag Leader products in Costa Rica in 2009. They started with a couple of yield monitors for a local rice grower and have since started to broaden their operation. “We decided to start with yield mapping rather than soil mapping because it makes sense to read the story of the field after harvest and it's easier for a farmer to understand field variability in a graphic way and to be able to identify the extent and magnitude of factors influencing yield,” says Jose Aguero, President of Agricultura Cientifica.  “We think soil mapping and variable rate fertilizer applications will be a natural consequence of farmers looking to improve their yields and expect it will start very soon. ” Just after one season Agricultura Cientifica has come to understand the value of yield monitoring.  They have noticed the following items in farmers' fields from analyzing the yield data:

  • Crop lodging in rice reduces yield 20-80%.
  • Weed spots reduced yield 20-30% in the rice fields.
  • Red rice spots reduce yields 30-40%.

Aguero states, “The yield variability range is so wide and we never noticed it before.  For example, we had an average yield of 6 tons/ha in one field, but the yield variability ranged from 1.7 tons/has up to 12.8 tons/ha.  Now we know we have a variability problem due to drainage, weeds and population and are beginning to work on it.”  Jose and the farmers feel that the yield monitors have been a great asset to their operations. “We think yield mapping is paying back in the first season, awakening farmers on the current issues limiting their yields.  Potential is there but they were unable to see it,” continues Aguero. The farmers in Costa Rica are also seeing the benefits of guidance and assisted-steering.  While the technology is not new to the region more farmers are adopting the technology. Aguero states, “The operator now spends 85% of their time paying attention to the control of implements and tractor performance rather than steering, making the operator more efficient.”  Aguero also commented that they are looking forward to auto-steer and already have customers interested in using the technology for bedding/furrowing and planting of sugarcane and pineapple.

Levees in Rice in Costa Rica

Another precision farming application Agricultura Cientifica uses in rice production is contour mapping for planning out levees.  They survey the field where the levees should be placed for optimum water flow and drainage, sort of like planning out tile lines in the Midwest.  Jose claims they have increased their productivity by 300% using this method. We will follow up with Jose again in the future to see how precision agriculture is used on the variety of crops grown in Costa Rica.  I hope to be able to share some interesting pictures of the sugarcane and pineapple fields.

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