Field Resolution; Farmer Resolution

Lon Bohn and Don Blaschko

It was the low corner of a good-sized field. Not especially steep, but certainly subject to erosion, and Lon Bohn liked what he was seeing. He took a few steps into the field and stuck his toe into the corn residue created at harvest a week earlier.

“We’ve had, what, five inches of rain in the past three days,” he asked out loud. “And we’ve got almost no runoff on our farm. On these kind of slopes, that’s amazing.”

For Lon and his partner and brother-in-law Don Blaschko, the fact that there was no muddy soup in that downhill corner represents a calculated, hard-fought victory over soil erosion.

“Slopes may get as high as 6 percent and so we have a challenge of erosion control, and our efforts are toward saving the soil and getting a better crop,” says Blaschko. It’s a victory that involves no-till, seed care, GPS, irrigation technology, guidance systems and nutrient management.

It’s also an example of how precision farming is, well, more precise. It’s not only local, with an individual farmer, field and zone, it’s hyper-local, down to an individual seed placed in a certain spot.

Research conducted by the PrecisionAg Institute has shown that more than 80 percent of those adopting precision tools are more profitable than those who don’t. But how they achieve that profitability is as different as the number of farmers involved. Precision management is about aligning resources, inputs and technology to be successful as you define success for your operation.

For Bohn and Blaschko at B&B Partners near Gibbon, NE, guidance systems, precision irrigation, seed placement and nutrient management all fit on top of a clear foundation of soil and water conservation.

“In order to keep the soil in place, we need to keep the residue and that’s what led us to no-till,” says Bohn. “And with the rolling fields we have, a guidance system is critical for us to make the most of our seed.”

A customized planter system minimizes skips and avoids soil crust that can hinder root growth. Water capacitance moisture probes make irrigation more precise. Nutrient management is geared to the terrain.

“The old rate controllers were basically a valve that you turned open and you were supposed to take off and go with your tractor and maintain that perfect speed,” Lon explains. “But on these hills you may gain half a mile an hour going down hill and going up you might lose one or two mile per hour,” he smiles. New equipment now matches the application to GPS, compensates for speed on-the-go and applies according to the nutrients prescribed.

Knowing how much precision technology to apply and plotting the point of diminishing return to data is also key to developing a workable management game plan. But first you must be clear about the business you are in.

At Stoy Farms that means a unique blend of talent, equipment and technology geared to optimize about 13,000 acres near the town of Ashley in northeast Indiana.

“We are in the business of producing commodities,” says Kevin Stoy. “We work to be clear about matching our system to economically producing as much grain as we can.”

For Kevin and his brothers Ken and Tom, precision technology must fit with that primary mission. The scale of the operation mean larger equipment to deal with the limitations presented by finite windows for planting and harvest. The Stoys, having started with GPS and yield monitors back in the mid-90s, have a level of experience that helps them iron out wrinkles and concentrate on only the data they need.

“We are going to take advantage of GPS, guidance and variable-rate technology,” says Stoy, “but we probably aren’t going to spend a lot of time breaking fields down into smaller and smaller sections.”

That approach contrasts a bit with Don Glenn’s. Don farms with his brother Brian near Hillsboro, AL, and it’s their intent to grow more without increasing the scale of their operation greatly.

“We’re running a three-year rotation,” explains Glenn. “We run a full-season corn crop, we follow that with canola, then double-crop soybeans, followed by wheat and double-crop soybeans. That gives us a five crop rotation over three years.”

This intensive system, he says, allows the Glenns to remain profitable while farming fewer acres than they might otherwise farm and spread out their cropping seasons to avoid pinch times for people or equipment. Educated as an accountant, Glenn says precision tools and good records are key to making progress under this kind of system. He’s not shy about posing difficult questions for himself and other growers.

“Do you know which crop is your most profitable crop?” he asks rhetorically. “Do you know which is your most profitable field? Do you know which field consistently loses you money?”

Glenn continues to refine his recordkeeping in a way that enables him to become more and more precise in optimizing his inputs. He says his area is highly variable in soil type, water holding capacity, and some rolling ground that’s highly erodible.

“In my view it’s foolish to treat the whole field the same way. We want to optimize our inputs for the productive capability of each part of the field. “Every dollar counts. We try to religiously track all of our costs, look at our return on our dollars. Precision farming, with its data logging capabilities, just fits right into that scenario.

“Not only can we get to a profit and loss look on a field level basis or a crop level basis, but we can even look at individual acres within those fields,” he explains. “We know what the cost was on each acre of ground and when we harvest, we know what the gross is and we can get a net income across the field.”

In Glenn’s system, the immediacy of the data also has value. While others may wait until harvest’s end to contemplate the next crop, Glenn is getting set to plant another one – maybe today, tomorrow or the next day.

“At times this year I was literally sitting at the edge of a field as soon as the combine finished, pulling yield maps off the combine and generating prescription maps for fertilizing the next crop,” he says. “Within 15 minutes after the time the combine left the field, I was spreading fertilizer based on those new yield maps.”

Leave a Reply

PrecisionAg Institute Stories
Industry NewsRaven, South Dakota State University Link Up: What You Need to Know
January 9, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon Raven and South Dakota State University (SDSU) held a press conference on the SDSU campus in Sioux Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteThe PrecisionAg Institute Partners
January 1, 2018
Learn more about the companies that have committed their corporate and financial support to the PrecisionAg Institute, an independent global forum dedicated to the sharing of precision agriculture practices, ideas, research, products, services and success stories. Read More
Excellence AwardsNominations Open For 2018 PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
November 8, 2017
The PrecisionAg Award of Excellence program sheds light on some of the most important people and programs that have helped agriculture realize the full benefits of technology to improve agronomy, efficiency, and stewardship in crop production. Read More
Trending Articles
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announces Pilot Program
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
India-Farm-Irrigation
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions than Traditional Tractors
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Latest News
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from…
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Vineyard
Specialty CropsMaximize the Benefit of New Farm Technology
February 21, 2018
We have access to technology and information as never before. Working with vineyards in Virginia, I see examples of growers Read More
Industry NewsCropMetrics Names New CEO
February 20, 2018
CropMetrics, a leader in smart irrigation services in the U.S., and developer of the Virtual Optimizer software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, has Read More
Joel-Greiner-Fybr
Specialty CropsHow Wireless Technology Found its Way to a Central Cali…
February 20, 2018
At first glance, the story of Fybr isn’t an unusual one: a technology company looks toward U.S. agriculture as a Read More
Farmers-on-tablet
AmericasAg Tech News: Mavrx Opens Satellite Platform to Entire …
February 20, 2018
The team at San Francisco, CA-based Mavrx has announced an initiative to increase access to advanced decision support tools in Read More
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announ…
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
Real-time-VRA-cotton
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors fo…
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Industry NewsUnderstory Patents Solid State Weather Sensor
February 16, 2018
Understory today announced that it received a patent for its mechanical strain-based weather sensor, a key component in its weather Read More
Retailer Grower
Business ManagementAgriculture and Technology: Industry Progress Lies in C…
February 16, 2018
Water is essential for agriculture. While this may seem obvious, nowhere is it more apparent than the Sonoran Desert of Read More
Agtegra_SDSU
Industry NewsAgtegra Cooperative Pledges $500,000 to SDSU Precision …
February 15, 2018
Agtegra Cooperative, Aberdeen, SD, today in Pierre announced a $500,000 donation to South Dakota State University for the Precision Agriculture Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementThe Importance of Teamwork for Successful Precision Ag …
February 15, 2018
Interdependency is defined as the quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. I’m not a huge sports Read More
Texas-and-Oklahoma-Panhandles-Google-Earth
Data ManagementAgriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Eco…
February 15, 2018
It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for Read More
Adapt-N VRT
Decision Support SoftwareDTN Partners with Adapt-N to Provide Weather and Nitrog…
February 14, 2018
DTN has announced a partnership today at the National Farm Machinery Show with Agronomic Technology Corp (ATC), a Yara International Read More
Corn close up
Imagery/SensingSyngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Provider FarmShots
February 14, 2018
Syngenta has acquired FarmShots, Inc., a North Carolina-based innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery that detects plant health by analyzing absorbed Read More
Pexels-Agriculture_Fields_Tractor_Precision_AG
Tools & Smart EquipmentMachine Learning: The Secret Sauce of Precision Agricul…
February 13, 2018
With the development of agricultural technologies, crop and plant diseases have been advancing as well, causing degradation of both quality Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Africa/Middle EastFarmers Edge Aligns with PartnerRE to Streamline Crop I…
February 13, 2018
Today Winnipeg-based FMIS giant Farmers Edge announced a partnership around crop insurance with Zurich-based PartnerRE. Although a bit short on Read More
Robotics Specialty Crops
AmericasHortau, Agrian Announce Strategic Partnership
February 12, 2018
Hortau today announced a strategic partnership with Agrian Inc. to deliver an expansive precision irrigation service for commercial agriculture. “With Read More
India-Farm-Irrigation
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield …
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More