Foster Creek Conservation District hosts precision farming workshop

By Adrienne Douke
Empire Press Correspondent

Mansfield area farmers watch a demonstration by Jason Emerson from Odessa Trading Company on the WEEDit weed eradication system. (Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke)

The Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD) presented a precision farming workshop Oct. 6.

The event, held at the home of Doug and Michele Tanneberg, was organized by FCCD’s Assistant Manager Amanda Ward.

Ward manages the district’s Direct Seed/Agricultural Best Management Practices program, funded by grants from the state Department of Ecology to provide cost share assistance to operators switching from conventional tillage to direct seed practices. Additional support for the workshop came from the Washington State Soil Health Committee, Washington State University Extension, Evergreen Implement, Odessa Trading Company/WEEDit and Central Washington Grain Growers.

Tom Wells from Evergreen Implement started the workshop by giving a summary about the building blocks of precision farming. The workshop’s 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, WSU Extension specialist said.

Ty Meyer, ag manager of the Spokane Conservation District, explained the benefits of using low disturbance and precision equipment for low-till/no-till farming.

Precision farming utilizes technology to assist the operator in managing the land more precisely. Combined with direct seeding 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 at his Ritzville-area operation.

Following lunch, Jason Emerson from Odessa Trading Company provided a demonstration of the WEEDit system.

Emerson set sprayers and drove around Tanneberg’s driveway, spot spraying weeds scattered on the gravel within several feet of each other. The accuracy was 100 percent. WEEDit is a system that applies precision to farming, 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. WEEDit self-calibrates 50 times per second and can save up to 95 percent of the chemical application, reducing overall agricultural pesticide use to promote environmental and soil health.

“The WEEDit technology saves time, money and protects soil health,” Whaley noted.

The demonstration was followed by a talk from Ian Burke, from WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Burke gave an overview of WSU’s WEEDit 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 10 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 WEEDit to fine-tune the weed eradication process.”

Owen Jorgensen, whose family has farmed in Douglas County for four generations said, “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 WEEDit system is carried by the Odessa Trading Company.