Ohio Farmer Gets Big Value From Precision Program

Ohio grower Michael Scherger (left) with his local Sunrise Co-op agronomy representative Mike Burkholder.
Ohio grower Michael Scherger (left) with his local Sunrise Co-op agronomy representative Mike Burkholder.

Michael Scherger, of Scherger Farms, Inc., began collecting yield data in 2002, when he and his partners first purchased monitors for their corn, soybean and wheat combines. The fifth-generation northwest OH grower initially adopted precision ag to make seeding decisions for the farm’s 5,000 acres, but has embraced it for much, much more during the past 13 years.

“From straight grid sampling, we’ve evolved to making variable rate potash and MAP prescriptions and now variable rate seeding,” says Scherger, who farms with his father Patrick and brothers-in-law Brian Brickner and Nick Kelbley. “Precision farming has definitely decreased our input costs, particularly for seed and fertility.”

Just as importantly, precision ag has helped Scherger expand a sideline tiling business he offers for area growers. “We can take yield maps and show the benefits of tiled ground to potential customers,” he adds. “In addition, we can show cash renters or landlords how tile can improve the productivity of their soils in a big way.”

When corn was $6 a bushel, Scherger showed his landlords they could pay for the tile in a matter of five years. “On our personal ground, we’ve increased productivity from 40 to 80 bushels in a two-year span,” he adds. “Without precision ag technology, this would be hard to prove.”

A Good Team: Sunrise and MapShots

Though Scherger works with Sunrise Co-op to handle his precision ag data, he has used MapShots software in his operation as well. Now that MapShots AgStudio PRO platform is available, Sunrise collects and stores data for Scherger and both can easily access the information online. His agronomy representative, Mike Burkholder, contacts the farm at least once a week during the growing season, but they also view data remotely, whenever necessary.

“I used to collect information and store it for my growers to help me sell seed,” explains Burkholder, who started with Sunrise eight years ago. “But having that information in AgStudio, I’m able to use the multi-aerial views and the analysis tools to work up zones and recommendations that we’d never dreamed of doing before. It’s put my growers about three years ahead of the curve.”

Burkholder works directly with AgStudio on about 20,000 acres of farmland in northern OH. He uses the platform for variable rate seeding, fertility, nitrogen and, soon, micronutrient recommendations. “With AgStudio, our growers don’t have to make decisions while driving the planters or tractors – they can make them in the winter by looking on the computer,” he notes. “We can vary it down to a 30 x 30 foot section. It’s not practical to go much smaller. We figure half a planter is a good grid size.”

Monitoring Data to Cut Costs

Scherger selects soybean varieties by conducting on-farm test plots and monitoring yield data. He generally grows Asgrow, Croplan and NK varieties, cutting seeding costs and maintaining yield goals by following precision ag prescriptions.

“I have AgStudio Select on my iPad so I can share data with my landlords and cash renters,” says Scherger. “My landlords are all very hands-on and know their farms well. They like to be included in production decisions — and the maps help me show them how I’m managing their acreage.”

He also uses AgStudio to fill outmpaperwork for the next Farm Bill. “AgStudio is a lot more farmer-friendly and easy to navigate than our previous platform,” he notes. “Sharing data with Sunrise is a big benefit – we can look at the same data but never leave our own offices. ”

Recently, Scherger visited the State House in Columbus and used his precision ag data to demonstrate to legislators how farmers are helping to combat the Lake Erie algae bloom.

“I used AgStudio to show we have filter strips along our creeks and have taken steps for the last six years to grid our acres and follow phosphorus prescriptions,” he adds. “It really helps us tell our story.”

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