Grower Profile: The Mitchell Farm, Part V

Clay Mitchell

Iowa farmer Clay Mitchell continued down the logical path toward greater efficiency, accuracy, and automation in 2007.

When we first visited Clay back in 2003, he was already three years into using a real-time kinematic (RTK), sub-inch accuracy GPS system, which has been the basis for most of his farming practice improvements through the years. Two years ago he embraced strip intercropping, the practice of planting alternating rows of two different crops in the same field. The pinpoint accuracy of RTK, along with proper hybrid/variety selection, allowed Mitchell to plant, treat, and harvest the crop without a loss in efficiency or yield.

Last year, Clay fully employed section control for spray applications. Not satisfied merely with section control, Mitchell customized the sprayer boom to provide control at the individual nozzle level. In 2007, the headline news for Mitchell is row-by-row planter control.

Clay became aware of the technology late last year — a clutch developed by an Ames, IA company called Tru Count (see sidebar for more about the company). Tru Count was finishing development on the planter clutch, which has the capability of turning sections of the planter on and off based on GPS data, and was completing successful wide-scale testing when Mitchell had company reps out to work on his planters.

“Our planter has all the technology now,” says Mitchell. “The machine has RTK implement steering, and every row has a clutch that is RTK controlled.”
The Tru Count planter clutch has burst onto the scene as few things do in agriculture, leading to wide-ranging partnerships with most of the top line OEMs. For Mitchell, this has meant that the technology is quickly integrating into a lot of what he was already using in terms of precision equipment.

“We are controlling the planter clutches through our Trimble FieldManager display, so on this one display we can do automatic steering for the tractor, automatic steering for the planter, and coverage mapping in addition to automatic planter row control,” explains Mitchell. “And, because of the new Trimble-DICKEY-john partnership, we can put the planter monitor on that same screen.”

Only a couple of years ago, when Mitchell added implement steering on the planter for the first time, the planter cab was sporting six monitors. “Now, we’re down to one,” he says.

“It’s A Big Deal”

The sloppiness of planter control is one of those issues that most growers have accepted as a reality of the operation. It’s this factor that makes planter row control easy to value out.

“We have 35 miles of boundaries around our waterways, essentially 100 acres worth of land, so simply not planting those acres saves $3,500,” he explains. “And then everywhere we would normally have overlap — on headlands or at the end of the field — if we improve planting we improve yield. With corn it is very consistent that we get only about half the yield we would look for.”

Mitchell says that it took looking at aerial imagery to see how much overlap they were getting, which he says amounted to about 1% of his acres. “Now when we get to waterways and headlands, the planter shuts off right away, we’re not planting five feet into them,” he notes. I am harvesting right now, and I can tell you it really matters.”

Normally, everywhere there was planter overlap Mitchell has to slow down the machine to a crawl , and sometimes get out and push the corn that gets hung up in the combine into the machine. “Every farmer knows what happens when you get lodging due to double planting,” he says. “It completely stops you in your tracks” it’s the difference between being able to stay in your machine, and having to get out.”

Mitchell speaks with amazement that such a relatively simple addition to his planter has made such a big difference this year. But with the cost of seed continuing to go up and up with the number of traits and stacks being packed into varieties and hybrids, it’s really a no-brainer.

“You make big assumptions about overlap when you calculate the benefit of automatic spray control, but with seed, you can basically calculate down to the penny how much you are saving by avoiding overlap. Growers are recognizing that it’s a big deal.”

For 2008, rumor has it that Clay Mitchell will be working on improving the accuracy of his fertilizer applications. Should be interesting …

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of PrecisionAg Special Reports.

Leave a Reply

PrecisionAg Institute Stories
PrecisionAg InstitutePrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper Library
March 14, 2018
Welcome to the PrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper library! Here you will find free whitepapers and case studies from the PrecisionAg Institute Partners Read More
Figure 3 Brazil crop aerial view
PrecisionAg InstituteRaven Establishes Latin America Headquarters in Brazil
March 6, 2018
Raven Industries, a global leader in precision agriculture technologies, has announced its expansion into Brazil with the opening of a Read More
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
Trending Articles
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportunities
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key to Transforming Global Agriculture
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
InfoAg ConferenceThe InfoAg Conference Offers Early Bird Registration Discount
May 24, 2018
Since 1995, The InfoAg Conference has been the premier event for discussion and advancement of precision agriculture. The event, organized Read More
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Continuing Education for Retail Dealerships
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
EventsForum Calling All Innovators of Agriculture Technology
May 2, 2018
The challenges that come with feeding the world continue to grow. Luckily, so do advances in information technology that are Read More
Latest News
DronesNew York Apple Orchard Claims World First in Pollinatio…
June 18, 2018
Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette, NY, is the first orchard in the world to use drones to pollinate Read More
Farmer with iPad
Decision Support SoftwareAgrian Enhances Field Scouting App
June 18, 2018
Agrian has added a new feature to its robust field scouting app – a pest trap counting solution. The new Read More
AmericasMFA Precision Head Talks Precision Ag, Cover Crops at 2…
June 18, 2018
Although implicit to anyone that spends a good chunk of their career in agriculture, the link between advanced precision technology Read More
Iron Man
UncategorizedAgFunder News: Forget Self-Driving Tractors; Agricultur…
June 18, 2018
Marvel’s Iron Man suit might seem an unlikely source of inspiration for growers, writes Joseph Byrum on Once the Read More
Data ManagementRemote Soil-Sensed Management Zones Help Increase Crop …
June 18, 2018
Accurate prescription maps are essential for effective variable rate technology (VRT) fertilizer application. Grid soil sampling is frequently used to Read More
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportu…
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Business Management3 Questions to Ask When Looking for Your First Job in P…
June 18, 2018
Let me begin this column by extending my congratulations to all of my fellow students who have just graduated – Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversStine Seed Plunks Down $5 Million on Smart Ag’s D…
June 14, 2018
Stine Seed Farm has invested $5 million in Smart Ag Inc., an Iowa technology firm that has developed a full Read More
AmericasIndigo Touts ‘New Approach to Agricultural R&…
June 13, 2018
Indigo, the Boston-based microbial crop technology startup that has raised more than $400 million, announced it is expanding its research Read More
Ag Drone
EventsAgTech Conference of the South Dedicated to Innovation,…
June 12, 2018
Join current and emerging agtech business leaders and investors at the AgTech Conference of the South, a premiere conference dedicated Read More
Munckhof Machinefabriek equipment
EuropeEurope: Precision Farming at Heart of Munckhof Deal
June 11, 2018
One of Europe’s oldest suppliers of machinery used in fruit production, the Dutch firm Munckhof Machinefabriek, has been purchased by Read More
Australia/New ZealandCrunching the Ag-Tech Numbers Saves Time for Australian…
June 5, 2018
Time management is key on the Walker family’s farm, where a mix between cropping, commercial sheep and two studs means Read More
AmericasDroneShow Highlights UAV Technology in Latin America
June 4, 2018
Editor’s note: The DroneShow Latin America is an annual trade fair hosted by MundoGEO, a media and communications company founded Read More
Imagery/SensingImagery in Agriculture: Time for a Reality Check
June 4, 2018
Where do I begin….I’ve been dealing with imagery in agriculture since I was 10 when my dad started Satshot. At Read More
AmericasNAAA Issues Drone Pilot Reminder: Watch Out For Aerial …
May 31, 2018
With more than 1 million UAVs registered with the FAA, it is vitally important for UAV operators to be aware Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key t…
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
CROO Robotics’ automated strawberry harvester
Specialty Fruit Growers, It’s Time to Mechani…
May 30, 2018
If you’re into conspiracies, you might be interested to know that I have stumbled onto a doozy. And it looks Read More
Service ProvidersDeere Launches Bale Mobile App with Hay and Forage Yiel…
May 30, 2018
John Deere introduces its Bale Mobile app to help hay and forage producers get detailed information, improve efficiency, identify bale Read More