Why Local Help Is Still Important In Precision Agriculture

Farmer Brad Hagen inspects cover crops
Minnesota Farmer Brad Hagen has partnered with the local cooperative, Central Valley Coop, and its full-service precision ag program Central Advantage GS, for more than a decade. Here Hagen is inspecting a field planted with cover crops.

Just south of the Twin Cities — a stone’s throw from the Iowa border — on about 1,400 acres of land situated somewhere along the I-35 corridor between rural hamlets Albert Lea and Owatonna, lies grower and early precision agriculture adopter Brad Hagen’s corn, soybean, peas, and hog operation.

Hagen has been immersed in the world of yield monitors and NDVI sensors for about 15 years now, and having built up a significant bank of historical yield data on his operation, he is now seeing some of the benefits that come with such a long-running dedication to data collection.

“It’s so valuable to be able to go back 10 years and look at different trends — like whether a certain area of the field has more yield potential based on potassium (K) applications — just stuff like that,” said Hagen recently during a break from his fall post-harvest duties. “It helps us to manage every acre to max productivity and maximize potential profits.”

Hagen has partnered with the local cooperative, Central Valley Coop, and its full-service precision ag program Central Advantage GS, since basically its beginning 12 years ago. He says the program has probably made the most significant impact thus far in his nutrient management efforts on farm. Hagen’s farm lies within the Minnesota River watershed, and several recreational lakes are located nearby, so keeping the nitrates that he applies to his corn and soybeans in place is vitally important.

“The newest thing they (Central Advantage GS) have been doing is where they go in during the spring and soil test to see where we are with available N, then they map that out in grids and write a variable-rate prescription,” says Hagen. “Then I’ll typically VR sidedress during the season to add what’s removed.”

Like many growers, Hagen was initially skeptical to abandon the flat-rate N applications that had seemingly been working just fine for years. It took a bit of self-evaluation for him to realize the program worked.

“At first I was very skeptical, so I ran a lot of tests myself where I’d do the variable-rate recommendation on so many acres, but then on a few acres I’d do what I thought was right based on my knowledge of the farm, rainfall, what the corn looked like,” recalls Hagen. “And basically every time it made me look like a fool, so finally I said well I think I ought to just stick with the prescription from here on out.

“And off course you have the financial and environmental incentives,” he adds. “Since you’re only putting on what you need where you need it.”

Another area that data has played a big role for Hagen is in his work with cover crops.

“As you know we use quite a bit of cover crops in Minnesota and with the Central Advantage program I can try all kinds of different blends and they track the data on all the different blends and where they are planted, then they compare one mix versus the others and get a standard deviation; it helps identify what we’re doing right and what we need to work on with those cover crops.”

Hagen — who has yet to embrace drone technology for his imaging needs but says he’s considering it in the coming years — sees uncertainty in where precision ag is headed, just as others have told PrecisionAg.com in recent months.

“It’s hard to say where things will be in five or 10 years, every year you’re moving in leaps and bounds,” he says. “What I think will stay the same is, you’re always going to need to have service and local knowledge behind all the data stuff, so you know if it’s giving you the wrong answers.

“And you’ve got to have a team that understands you’re equipment and how to keep it working. You’re always going to need that support from local people.”

Hagen’s Trusted Advisor

Ashley Schmeling grew up on a corn and bean farm in tiny Blooming Prairie, MN, and has now been a precision ag specialist with Central Advantage GS (Owatonna, MN) for about five years now. During that time she has been Hagen’s main liaison on all things precision while otherwise managing about 40,000 acres annually.

Ashley Schmeling Central Advantage
Ashley Schmeling, Central Advantage GS

Schmeling says the size and scope of Hagen’s data storage might be the largest of any Central Advantage GS customer, and being that he’s in his 12th growing season in the program and they grid soil sample once every four years, he’s on his third cycle with grid soil sampling when most are still on their first or second cycles. That enormous data bank gives Hagen a leg up on less-endowed growers.

“Brad, he’s just a very smart man. You can tell that he likes to think about different practices and other things and then go out and test them on his farm,” says Schmeling. “He’s really good about looking at year-to-year comparisons and five year trends.”

Central Advantage GS offers the Premier Crop Systems platform for data analysis and management zone setup. Schmeling says Hagen, who deploys a Precision Planting monitor in his combine and planter, uses the data platform to anonymously benchmark his operation against others in the immediate area.

“A lot of guys today are asking for that (benchmarking) and want to see that data and how they stack up,” she says.

Currently, Schmeling is working with Hagen on a few projects, most notably a variable-rate planting soybeans project using Hagen’s vast stores of historical yield and cation exchange capacity (a numeric value that reflects the total amount of exchangeable cations a specific soil can hold, relating directly to nutrient-holding capacity) data, as well as other factors such as organic matter and elevation.

“I think another thing that Brad would tell you is we’ve improved the fertility of his land pretty well,” Schmeling adds. “His first year in the program, where his organic matter was and where it has gone and continues to go up, I think he sees the pay off in that investment in his land and his soil health.”

Another thing about Hagen that makes for success in his data collection efforts is sheer power of will.

“Brad especially, if something isn’t looking right or he can tell something’s off, he’s going to be calling us, for sure,” says Schmeling. “During this past planting there were a couple times where something wasn’t quite looking right on his monitor and he shut it right down and called us.

“That’s a good mind-set for growers to have. You can tell that he wants to see the data collected right and know that it’s accurate just as badly as we do.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business Stories
Buhler Versatile HQ cab
BusinessThe State Of Precision Ag In 2016
December 7, 2016
There’s no denying that precision technologies and practices are more vibrant than ever. Elsewhere on this site, you will find Read More
BusinessFarmobile Details New AGCO Distribution Deal
December 6, 2016
Farmobile today announced a strategic partnership with AGCO, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. The agreement will allow Read More
DataSentera Honored With Startup Award Of 2016 By Minnesota High Tech Association
December 1, 2016
The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) recently recognized Sentera as the 2016 Tekne Startup Award recipient. The MHTA Tekne Awards Read More
Fall corn
BusinessInsecticide of the Future? Robotic Tanks With Lasers to Kill Pests
November 22, 2016
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Trending Articles
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To Enhance VRT Programs
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Kinze 4900 Multi-Hybrid Concept Planter
Business ManagementKinze Fights Deere, Feds To Block Release Of Trade Secrets
November 22, 2016
An antitrust lawsuit intended to block a small-scale deal between agricultural giants John Deere and Monsanto is putting an Iowa Read More
BusinessClimate Corp. Acquires European FMIS Company
November 21, 2016
Today, The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of VitalFields, a European farm management software company Read More
USDA UAV
Hort TechHigh-Tech Agriculture Continues To Reap Rewards For Farmers
November 11, 2016
Just like a smartphone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology — known as precision agriculture — Read More
BusinessTrimble Launches New FMIS Platform
November 7, 2016
Trimble announced today that it is consolidating three of its agriculture software products — Connected Farm, Farm Works Software and Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower Groups Encourage Implementation Of AgGateway’s ADAPT For Precision Ag
November 2, 2016
A dozen leading U.S. grower organizations are hailing the collaborative efforts that led to the new AgGateway ADAPT framework for Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Business ManagementForecasting Precision Ag: 4 Challenges, Opportunities F…
December 7, 2016
Opportunities and challenges. They are the yin and yang of the business world. It could easily be argued that, out Read More
GVM E-Series cab
Ag Tech GlobalGlobalization And Precision Agriculture
December 7, 2016
Globalization has taken on a negative connotation in some circles in the U.S. in recent months. The lightning rod for Read More
Buhler Versatile HQ cab
BusinessThe State Of Precision Ag In 2016
December 7, 2016
There’s no denying that precision technologies and practices are more vibrant than ever. Elsewhere on this site, you will find Read More
BusinessFarmobile Details New AGCO Distribution Deal
December 6, 2016
Farmobile today announced a strategic partnership with AGCO, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. The agreement will allow Read More
Hort TechSol Chip Launches Autonomous, Wireless Solar Tag for Sm…
December 6, 2016
Sol Chip, a provider of Internet of Things (IoT) systems and energy harvesting solutions, today announced the introduction of its Read More
TechnologyAgGateway Announces 2017 Board Of Directors And Leaders…
December 2, 2016
AgGateway has announced its leadership for the coming year, including the directors of its new Strategic Board and Operational Board, Read More
DataSentera Honored With Startup Award Of 2016 By Minnesota…
December 1, 2016
The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) recently recognized Sentera as the 2016 Tekne Startup Award recipient. The MHTA Tekne Awards Read More
AGCO AgControl
TechnologyPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
December 1, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To En…
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Fall corn
BusinessInsecticide of the Future? Robotic Tanks With Lasers to…
November 22, 2016
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Topcon X30 Console in cab
Sensors/IoTIoT The Focus Of New Topcon Partnership
November 22, 2016
Topcon Agriculture and SDF plan to enter into a non-exclusive long-term partnership agreement. This latest arrangement of Topcon with a Read More
Kinze 4900 Multi-Hybrid Concept Planter
Business ManagementKinze Fights Deere, Feds To Block Release Of Trade Secr…
November 22, 2016
An antitrust lawsuit intended to block a small-scale deal between agricultural giants John Deere and Monsanto is putting an Iowa Read More
BusinessClimate Corp. Acquires European FMIS Company
November 21, 2016
Today, The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of VitalFields, a European farm management software company Read More
BusinessFarmobile Releases Mobile Data Visualization Dashboard
November 17, 2016
Farmobile today announced an EFR Dashboard, a real-time dashboard that helps farmers visualize their field data and derive insights to Read More
Southern States
Best PracticesSouthern States: 5 Tips for Variable-Rate Seeding Succe…
November 15, 2016
Success comes from taking advantage of every opportunity you can. One technique used in precision farming, called variable rate seeding, Read More
USDA UAV
Hort TechHigh-Tech Agriculture Continues To Reap Rewards For Far…
November 11, 2016
Just like a smartphone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology — known as precision agriculture — Read More
THRIVE
BusinessCall For Ag Tech Startups: Apply To THRIVE’s Open…
November 10, 2016
THRIVE is looking for high growth ag tech companies with an in-market solution that are positioned to scale. The top 50 Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere Launching New Operations Center Apps, Mappin…
November 10, 2016
In an effort to enhance the functionality, ease-of-use and overall value of John Deere Operations Center to producers, John Deere Read More