Tech does more than reduce overlap
Using trigonometry, ag engineers can pencil out the value of overlapping inputs.
However, Champaign farmer John Reifsteck sees this as one portion of the payback puzzle. Digging a little deeper, Reifsteck asks, “How much is a good decision worth?”
• Technology allows farmers to be better managers.
• Autosteer eases planting stress, especially in years like 2009.
• Before purchasing, do a little research.
Case in point: Each year Reifsteck plants about 10 hybrids, four of which are typically brand-new numbers. In one field, two hybrids outperformed a third by 40 bushels. “With my yield data results, I can be pretty confident when I drop a number because of performance,” he adds.
More yield knowledge
Reifsteck first got into the tech game in 1994, when he bought a yield monitor. “Up until that point, we were guessing in terms of what was happening with yields,” he adds.
Most folks have seen the phenomenon where a plant looks great, but come harvest, it doesn’t produce as much grain. Before the yield monitor, it was tough to pinpoint these hybrids.
Today, Reifsteck’s planter is equipped with autosteer and auto row shut-off, both of which run on a real-time kinematic, or RTK, network. Once he finishes planting and applying fertilizer, he moves the unit to his combine.
Thus, when a lower yield number pops up on the screen, he can instantly call up the hybrid number and population rate. This year, a lot of wet spots contributed to lower yields. Reifsteck says being able to see drainage issues is another management tool. With this information, he’s able to make better investment decisions for the following year.
“If you buy the technology and you don’t make any management changes, you’re spending your money for no long-term benefit,” he adds.
Last year, Decatur farmer Tom Fiesler did something he’s never done before: He planted in the dark. “I didn’t use any of my row markers all planting season. It was great,” he adds.
A couple of years ago, Fiesler began noticing some of his neighbors were planting straighter rows than he was. After asking around, he learned they were using autosteer technology. He took the plunge in 2009 and loved it.
First off, it was a great year to invest. With an extremely rainy spring, planting at night wasn’t a novelty, it was a necessity. Fiesler also remembers how nice it was to come home at night. “You weren’t so frazzled from watching markers all day,” he adds.
In addition, he was able to pay a lot more attention to what was going on behind him.
“When you have autosteer doing the driving, you can take more time to verify your equipment is working correctly,” Fiesler notes. “If there is a problem, you’ll catch it a lot earlier.”
This year, Fiesler will use the system to apply preplant anhydrous ammonia. Even though he hasn’t invested in auto row shut-offs, he expects to lower overlap on the parallel passes.
For those looking to jump into the tech game, Reifsteck has a few purchase tips. First and foremost, check the coverage in your area. He says multiple RTK base stations in the area will provide a nice overlap, ensuring a more reliable signal.
Next, go with a company that has a local dealer and can provide timely service. While dealers are a good place to ask questions, Reifsteck reminds folks to ask their neighbors. Candid responses from someone who has the system are worth a lot.
Very few folks will jump in and purchase every bit of technology for every implement. Thus, Reifsteck stresses the importance of researching the potential for upgrades.
This article published in the January, 2010 edition of PRAIRIE FARMER.