Industry Update

Published in the December 2010 Issue Published online: Dec 09, 2010
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The CropLogic potato calculator will help meet demands of food companies and customers who want fries and chips produced in a sustainable way. Growers using the calculator find it an excellent tool for optimizing fertility and irrigation.

The online calculator shows how inputs to a crop, like nitrogen and water, will affect yields and maturity dates. It is proving popular with growers who simulate different crop management decisions to find what works best for their fields.

The updated "Version 3" has been in use this season and is a significant improvement following development to accommodate customer feedback. It is fine-tuned for use in North America and is based on a crop physiology model and a soil model developed by scientists from the New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research.

Pascal Bolduc, an agronomist with Friehe Farms, which is contracted to Simplot and McCain Foods, has been using the CropLogic product for the past four seasons for crops grown in Washington State. He says the calculator showed Friehe Farms is making sound decisions about when to apply fertilizers and irrigate crops.

"I think we're pretty much top-of-the-game when it comes to growing potatoes and the calculator tells us this," he says. "At first we were a little scared by the calculator and what it might mean, but it has given us a total validity that we are good stewards and we are not wasting nitrogen."

Bolduc says he uses the calculator each week to find out if appropriate crop management decisions were made.

"It's fun to play with the calculator. Once or twice a year we adjust the nitrogen and water applications to find out how that might affect the yield. We have changed when and how much fertilizer we apply and made savings for use elsewhere on the farm."

Also finding it a useful tool are Ryan Cranney, one of the owners at Cranney Farms in Idaho, and Charlie Higgins, Director Research & Development for three farms contracted to Frito-Lay.

Cranney has been using the CropLogic calculator for three years and likes the idea of showing efficient potato production, particularly with the management of nitrogen in the soil. He values what he has learned about his crops and the relationship between the root zone depth, the water-holding capacity and how that relates to nitrogen needs and yield.

This past season, Higgins used the calculator for crops at Walther Farms in Michigan and Navajo Mesa Farms in New Mexico. He has previously used it at Heartland Farms in Wisconsin. He says the calculator confirms sound management of the crops that have been grown profitably for the past 10 years. The future value, he says, will be finding out how we need to change management of some of the new varieties that the farms are being asked to grow.

CropLogic senior agronomist Jamie Barker is working with growers to help them get the best from the calculator. He says this season they are enjoying the automatic entry of rain and irrigation data for crops, which has been made possible with a telemetry system that transmits crop water inputs directly to the program.

Growers are sent weekly reports about their crops and are able to make sound decisions based on changes of weather and how the potato plants are developing. Jamie Barker says growers like having this information available and being able to make accurate assessments about crop production.