Archive | January 2012

Settling into Kaolack

By Ryan Nickerson

Servi-Tech Agronomist 

Good day, everyone.

So far today has gone much better.  I have spent the day researching and developing materials to take with me to the field tomorrow.  I also got the opportunity to meet formally with the field staff.  I finally get to go interact with some of the local farmers tomorrow…finally.  I hope and pray that I am prepared enough and can live up to the expectations that have been placed on me.  That is what makes me nervous.  Before me there has been a vice-president from FMC and professors from UCLA and Wisconsin come talk to these people.  Now there is me.  There are some big shoes to fill, and I (no doubt) am starting to feel the pressure to perform.

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Welcome To Kaolack

By Ryan Nickerson

Servi-Tech Agronomist

KAOLACK, Senegal — Today we made the 3 hour drive from Dakar to Kaolack.  I got time to rest in the Hotel mid-day then spent late afternoon meeting the field office staff and starting to learn some of the basics about what I will be dealing with over here.  I will now go through what I learned as it applies to my specific objective of soil fertility.  Before this project started farmers would buy fertilizer from the market.  (I asked what type, a possible analysis, and none was given.)  I was told that this was NPK fertilizer and that is all they know.  I can see that a major issue is going to be to think qualitatively instead of quantitatively.

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Servi-Tech in Senegal Part 2

By Ryan Nickerson

Servi-Tech Agronomist

DAKAR, Senegal — I made it to Dakar.  Flights went well but once I landed, my escort who was supposed to pick me up wasn’t here.  I had about 20 African men trying to get inside my pockets and harrass me.  I found a police officer who let me use his cell phone to call Yagumer, my escort.  I was honestly scared there for a while; by myself in a foreign country and struggling to get ahold of my contact.

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Servi-Tech Senegal


I will be traveling on a volunteer mission trip to Senegal January 28 through Feb 11th.  From what I can gather it is a organic soil fertility mission, which organic or not, these areas which I will be visiting are so poor that they couldn’t afford conventional fertilizers even if they were available.

I will be visiting farms and those producers first-hand, conducting educational sessions one-on-one and in a group situation.  My challenge will be to analyze the soil in the field, and attempt to make recommendations, without the fundamental lab soil analysis.  I have tried to locate labs in Senegal, but most of them are governmental labs that are not for commercial/private use; much less someone over there that could interpret the analysis.

To my knowledge, I will be the “expert” and will be considered the go to person for questions these producers may have.

Follow Ryan’s journey at

So, what exactly IS precision agriculture?

This article originally appeared in the January 23, 2012 edition of the High Plains Journal. Find the full article here.

All of us in food production often throw out the term “precision agriculture,” yet I am not sure we know exactly what we speak of. Yes, of course it does include the eye in the sky steering our equipment but it is much bigger and deeper than that. My first trip of 2012 was to a Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed dairy meeting in the Wisconsin Dells, and one presentation hit me like a ton of bricks.

The presenter stated that the time of day you feed your cows could influence milk production by 20 percent. Yes, one particular dairy herd had a reduction in daily milk production by 20 percent on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Why? Simply because the weekend feeder was feeding the cows two hours earlier than the guy who fed during the week. Who would ever guess that a cow could be that regimented that messing with her precision would affect her production so much? Furthermore, who would ever guess that we could identify the problem and pin-point that simple solution? That is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to today’s “precision agriculture.”

Come to think of it, I believe this is a story that we need to share far and wide and use it to “brand” farmers today. It speaks to the overall efficiency that has been achieved in today’s conversion of natural resources into human consumable products.

Take the time to read the full article for some great information.

Awards and recognition

At the NAICC annual meeting at Reno, Nev., last week some Servi-Tech individuals played some key roles in the meeting.

  • Dave Green was awarded one of three crop consultants of the year, sponsored by BASF.
  • Bryan Boroughs moderated a corn discussion group and served on a water management panel discussion.
  • Andrew Vrbka moderated a soybean and a wheat discussion group.
  • Clark Poppert presented a portrait of a consultant and moderated a weed resistant management discussion group.
  • Fred Vocasek represented the American Society of Agronomy and the Certified Crop Advisor program at the Ag Pro Expo.
  • Orvin Bontrager fulfilled his final duties as past president of the executive board.

A record attendance of 635 independent crop consultants and researchers were at the meeting.

Congrats to Dave Green, right, who was awarded one of three crop consultants of the year, sponsored by BASF.

Water Security for Agriculture

Senior Lab Agronomist Fred Vocasek recently traveled to Baltimore last week and chaired a meeting of the ASA ‘Water Security for Agriculture’ Task Force.

From Fred:

“The Task Force heard presentations from officials of the NRCS, USDA-Economic Research Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the US-EPA.

“These officials discussed various policy issues regarding water quality, water use, and how they are impacted by production agriculture. On Tuesday, the Task Force began formulating actions to develop policy positions about water shortage, water excess, water quality, and the respective roles of agronomy and the agronomist. Water Security will be an ongoing effort by the Agronomy Society.”

Task Force members: Jim Gaffney (Biotech Affairs and Regulatory. Pioneer Hi-Bred Intl.), Bob Beck (Regional Agronomist, Winfield Solutions), Bill Heer (Agronomist, Kansas State University), Gary Peterson (Professor Emeritus, Colorado State University), and Karl Anderson (ASA Science Policy Office, Washington DC).

John Sadler (USDA-ARS Research Leader, Cropping Systems & Water Quality, University of Missouri), Bruce Knight (Strategic Conservation Solutions, Washington DC) and Neil Hansen (Professor of Agronomy, Colorado State University). Knight was Chief of the NRCS during the Bush administration.