On a typical fall day in the Imperial Valley of California, Curtis Pate scouts lettuce seedlings, takes a look at sugar beet and alfalfa acreage, shifts his attention to citrus trees, and ends up looking at potato fields. “And that’s just one day,” says the owner of Agtegrity Agronomy Consulting. “I cover a lot of ground.”
Based in Yuma, Ariz., Agtegrity offers fertility and pest management services to customers ranging from California’s Coachella Valley through eastern Arizona, concentrating on Yuma and the Imperial Valley. Pate consults on roughly 10,000 acres of crops, with office assistance from his wife, Andrea. The diversity keeps him going.
“My largest client is 6,000 acres and my smallest is a nine-acre banana grower,” says Pate, who spent 21 years with Helena Chemical Co. in sales and management. “I thrive on variety.”
Considering he’s in a year-round cropping climate, Pate works with roughly 50 crops each year. They include all types of fresh market citrus — lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit, as well as silage and sweet corn, barley, wheat, alfalfa, bermudagrass for both hay and seed, all types of melons, table grapes and potatoes.
“We average two-and-a-half crops per year, though some land actually produces three crops,” Pate notes. “It’s a lot different than the straight row crops I worked with in the Midwest for Helena. We don’t really have an off season!”
It Begins with Soil Management
Agtegrity’s services begin with soil mapping to determine soil type and salinity variations throughout customer fields. Pate then pulls soil samples to provide accurate recommendations. His services also include scouting, soil moisture monitoring, tissue testing, and pest and disease monitoring, as well as imagery. But soil work is the basis for his program.
“If you correctly manage soil cations — magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium — you’ll be able to bring soil into the best range it can achieve,” he adds. “When I make soil fertility recommendations they run the gamut from calcium sources to boron levels, not just N-P-K.”
Precision agriculture comes into play wherever possible. Pate uses MapShots AgStudio® software to manage his customers’ precision ag databases. “I like the way soil sampling zones lay out in the AgStudio map app,” he explains. “When I get my soil test results back from the lab, they come right into AgStudio.”
Pate can also import geo-tagged imagery into AgStudio databases. “I’ve been using drone imagery for the past two years, trying to grasp its commercial applications,” he continues. “With AgStudio, I can easily overlay imagery into a soil map to identify stressed areas. Then I can show my growers how to manage that stress. In our desert regions, the primary cause of stress is often salinity”
Viewing Data in the Field
Some of Agtegrity’s higher service customers are using AgStudio SELECT, a web-based browser version of AgStudio software. It provides mobile access to data in the field, allowing customers to view all their precision ag layers of information on tablet devices.
“If something is causing stress to a crop, my goal is to identify and mitigate that stress,” explains Pate. “With SELECT on my iPad, I can see myself moving through the field. As I enter weak zones, I view them from the imagery, so I can accurately go to areas that need troubleshooting.”
Though not all of Agtegrity’s customers participate in precision agriculture, it’s becoming more and more common, particularly with the larger row-crop operations.
“At this point, I’ve got to provide some type of precision ag offerings to my customers or simply get left in the dust,” adds Pate. “AgStudio drives my effectiveness with grower’s operations. It becomes very tangible when they can see the challenges in a concrete, online format. And they just as easily can see how I’m providing solutions to those challenges.”
With the diverse number and types of crops Pate manages, he’s happy to have a go-to system for managing databases. “Six months from now, I’ll be handling an entirely different mix of crops,” he adds. “Each one of them has its own issues — I really enjoy the challenge.”
Curtis Pate, owner, Agtegrity Agronomy Consulting, Yuma, AZ.