Farmers Forum staff
Artificial intelligence has come to agronomy with the recent launch of ‘Norm,’ an “AI ag advisor,” introduced by U.S. based Farmers Business Network. Norm is a specialized version of the popular ChatGPT platform to help farmers and their agronomists with almost limitless agriculture, livestock and cropping questions.
ChatGPT is the headline-making “chatbot,” which is a fancy way of describing a highly-sophisticated software program that actually responds to user questions in a human-like way by spitting out answers on a screen at a rapid-fire pace. In fact, you can ask it to write a 1,000-word essay on just about anything and it will reply in under two minutes. Not surprisingly, university students love the program.
The custom ‘Norm’ version at the Farmers Business Network (FBN) website is specially trained and bolstered with reams of agricultural data that FBN has collected for years from the in-field precision technology of more than 55,000 member farmers in Canada and the U.S.
Norm is easy to access online; it’s free and easy to use. Type a question for Norm and you’ll often get a response within seconds. You can sign up for an account at www.fbn.com/norm .
FBN does hedge a little on Norm’s usefulness by reminding users that the whiz-bang technology is “an experiment” and “not intended for real agronomic guidance.”
So how good is Norm, really? We decided to quiz Norm and we asked Eastern Ontario Pioneer agronomist Paul Hermans to briefly assess the answers. A few of Norm’s responses include the caveat that “it’s always a good idea” to consult with an actual agronomist.
For his part, Hermans offers his own caveat that while agronomists usually share similar opinions, “Sometimes agronomists vary on what they would say with personal experiences.”
Q. What is the best time to check for soybean aphids in Grenville County?
Norm: The best time to check for aphids in Grenville County, Ontario, Canada is typically in mid-July to early August when soybeans are in the R1 to R5 growth stages. However, aphid populations can vary year to year and can be influenced by weather conditions.
Paul’s review: Overall good answer. I would also suggest soybeans get some control with seed treatments 45-60 days after planting. Place higher emphasis on first scouting fields planted without seed treatment.
Q. What is the demonstrated most profitable crop to grow in Ontario, Canada, over the last 10 years?
Norm: Based on data from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the most profitable crop to grow in Ontario, Canada, over the last 10 years has been soybeans. According to the ministry’s 2021 crop budget, soybeans have a net return of $327 per acre, which is higher than any other crop in the province. However, it’s important to note that profitability can vary depending on factors such as weather, market demand, and individual farm management practices.
Paul’s review: Good answer. I would have to review data sets and see if correct. Each grower will have their own profitability based on many factors.
Q. Which crop pests are most likely to be a problem this growing season in Eastern Ontario?
Norm: The crop pests that are most likely to be a problem in Eastern Ontario this growing season can vary depending on factors such as weather conditions, crop type, and management practices. However, some of the most common pests that farmers in the region may encounter include:
- Corn rootworm: This pest can cause significant damage to corn crops by feeding on the roots and reducing plant growth and yield.
- Soybean aphid: This pest can cause significant yield losses in soybean crops by feeding on the plant’s sap and transmitting viruses.
- Western bean cutworm: This pest can cause significant damage to corn crops by feeding on the ears and reducing yield.
- Cabbage seedpod weevil: This pest can cause significant damage to canola crops by feeding on the buds and flowers and reducing yield.
It’s important to monitor your crops regularly for signs of pest damage … Additionally, implementing integrated pest management practices can help to reduce the risk of pest damage and improve overall crop health and yield.
Paul’s review: For corn rootworm in Eastern Ontario, we very rarely have issues with good crop rotation and the use of triple stack hybrids that have BT traits for control. I agree on soybean aphids and wester bean cutworm. WBC is on the rise in the area. Although WBC usually does not cause much economic loss it can affect grain quality more so. This can be detrimental for hog producers feeding on farm grain.
Q. Do you see any elevated risks for any of the crops grown in Eastern Ontario this year?
Norm: Based on the information provided, there don’t appear to be any elevated risks for crops grown in Eastern Ontario this year. Soil moisture and temperature are within normal ranges, and the weather forecast suggests generally favorable conditions for crop growth. However, it’s important to monitor crop health and yield throughout the growing season … Additionally, implementing best management practices can help to optimize crop yield and profitability.
Paul’s review: Not much to say here other than every year has it challenges at different times of the year depending on growing conditions/mother nature. Having and following solid management plans helps adjust to these challenges.
Q. How much do corn roots grow in early stages of development?
Norm: Corn roots can grow up to 2 inches deep in the early stages of development. However, it’s important to note that root growth can vary depending on factors such as soil type, moisture, and temperature. Monitoring soil conditions and implementing best management practices can help to optimize root growth and overall crop health.
Paul’s review: Early on a corn plant can grow up to 2.75 inches per leaf in the vegetative stages.
Q. What is an optimal corn stand in terms of plants per acre for Eastern Ontario?
Norm: The optimal corn stand in terms of plants per acre for Eastern Ontario can vary depending on factors such as soil type, moisture, and management practices. However, a common recommendation is to aim for a final stand of around 28,000 to 32,000 plants per acre. This can help to optimize yield potential while also minimizing the risk of lodging and other issues … Additionally, implementing best management practices can help to optimize crop yield and profitability.
Paul’s review: Final stands of 28K-34K plants per acre depending on soil type, hybrid, water holding capacity and overall yield for a given crop zone. The price of seed and market value are also key factors used to determine seeding rates and final plant stands. Having uniform stands is important as well.