Big Ideas Inside

This Winter issue is easily the most enjoyable of the quarterly PrecisionAg Special Reports we put out every year. I like it because we continue to learn from and build on our experiences with an interesting and highly motivated group of agriculture professionals who never seem to stop pushing the envelope on what they do with technology in their operations. And it never fails to surprise me, at least a little.

Iowa grower Clay Mitchell once again is incorporating a new technology into his operation — implement steering. He’s sunk an incredible amount of time and energy into ensuring that it will actually work for him. While this sounds like common sense, it is amazing how many dollars have been invested in precision agriculture more on the hope that something will work, rather than actual evidence that it does work. Mitchell was able to harvest corn this season using a real-time kinematic (RTK) steering system attached to a steerable implement, an activity that supports his work in strip-till and intercropping and makes his farm operation more efficient and profitable.

Clay can’t really surprise me at this point, but Tim Sharp’s new focus on developing agronomic practices for growing sweet sorghum to produce ethanol certainly was. With his cotton project on a longer term development track, it made sense to look for a project with immediate possibilities, and this particular ethanol production vision certainly has potential.

Finally, there’s Tim Norris, who left his precision agriculture manager job at an Ohio cooperative to start his own private agronomy consulting business and ended up building a RTK tower network along the way. I got a chance to catch up with him in person in October, and it looks like it’s going to be a real success.

One thing that struck me in visiting Norris and some of his clients is how much stewardship these products and services still require to be truly successful. Tim spent the last hour of our visit trying to figure out why the RTK signal was having problems, a service that provides no small amount of value to busy growers trying to hustle through fall work while the sun is high and the rain’s not falling.

As Joe Russo says in the closing editorial, and I’m seconding here, there’s no dismissing the importance of expertise and good, dedicated people on the front lines of a precision agriculture program. This factor will either allow you to soar, or tie your program fast.

And one final note. While this is the last print issue you will receive from us in 2006, it doesn’t mean we’re “going dark” by any means. Every other month you can receive PrecisionAg e-News, a twice-monthly summary of top precision news and analysis by the editors of PrecisionAg Special Reports. You can sign up by visiting www.precisionag.com and clicking on the e-news icon.

OK, one more thing. All the best to you and yours for a happy and joyous holiday season!

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