John Deere planter
DEPTH CONTROL: New automatic down-force control on planter is one new precision farming technology that pays immediate dividends.

3 ways precision ag technology can pay in lean years

Crop Notes: Using precision farming technology to manage depth, guide ditching equipment and scout for Goss’s wilt can show immediate returns.

By Kyle Kremer, CCA

I’ve never heard a farmer proclaim, “Man, I wish I could go back to the days before autosteer.” Similarly, I have never witnessed someone profess their desire to relive the time when 100-bushel corn was something to be jovial about. To conjure such a thought would be similar to wishing away running water.

Running water, or modern plumbing technology, is extremely convenient; it’s also a lot of other things. Plumbed running water provides higher efficiency in the home, it provides sustenance in areas that would otherwise be desolate, it can be leveraged to increase productivity in business applications, and it can even be used to harness energy. The theme here is that running water, like other technologies, provides an immense return on the investment it took to move it. Modern farm technologies are no different.

In the last several years I have worked with growers to increase productivity through operation efficiency. With all the innovative technology that has become available, affordable and incredibly useful in the last decade, it is no surprise that a large part of the focus in increasing production has been founded in these innovations.

For example, in the last two years I have had more conversations with growers about planting depth that I can count. Field observations at planting, through the growing season, and especially in the combine, paint an undeniable picture identifying the yield robbing nature of inconsistent planting depth on corn.

Nearly each time I affirm planting depth is an issue with a grower I hear, “I don’t understand how that can be. I set the planter depth at 2 inches at the beginning of the season.” To that, I remind farmers to think of a boat on a body of water. When the boat hits a wave of any size, the boat bounces in the opposite direction from the wave. The exact same reaction occurs with a planter in a field. The aggressiveness of this reaction is largely determined by the angle at which the soil was worked in relation to your planting direction.

So, what’s the fix? First, adjust the direction of tillage to match the direction of planting. Second, invest in planter depth technologies that will adjust the downward pressure on the fly. The row unit technologies not only account for undulation in the field, but they also avoid compacting soil caused by too much downward pressure. 

Another technology that is worth its weight in gold on farms that deal with excess water is ditching software. One of my clients claims that advanced ditching software is one of the best investments he’s ever made. It has allowed him to produce a crop on many acres that, for decades, suffered from flooding. How many acres on your farm haven’t been producing for you due to water management issues? Are you actively making strides to increase production on those acres?

Ever wonder if or when Goss’s wilt will affect your farm and start taking money out of your pocket? If you had a drone and all you ever used that drone for was to scout for Goss’s wilt, it would likely pay for itself with the first field you fly. Often, the aggressiveness of Goss’s wilt cannot be calculated from the road or the combine. You simply cannot see the entire field from the cab. And, by the time corn is ready to harvest, plants are dead, hiding the telltale signs of Goss’s wilt.

Simply doing a 10-minute flight with a drone in July, August and September can effectively determine the presence and severity of Goss’s wilt. Having this knowledge can affect your seed-buying decisions next year by selecting hybrids with good tolerance to Goss’s wilt.

In great times and lean times, the significance of making smart decisions for the farm remains the same. Being sound in the fundamentals, maintaining a flexible mindset, welcoming change, understanding how to invest resources objectively, and most importantly, not playing a victim are what separates folks who thrive from those that fade.

I subscribe to the concept that production-based businesses cannot save their way to prosperity. If you reminisce on what it took for your farm to get to where it is today, you would be able to come up with a lengthy list of improvements. Think about it for a few minutes and ask yourself, “Aren’t you glad you invested in precision ag technology?”

Kremer is a certified crop adviser with Peterson Farms Seed. Contact him at 866-481-7476 or [email protected].

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