How I apply experience from my ag-tech career to the family farm
November 1, 2023
Since I started my career years ago in agriculture technology, I have been slowly implementing new ideas on our family farm. The hands-on experience and products I’ve been exposed to fill my head with ideas that I’m eager to try for myself. Once I see a successful product or practice working in the industry, I’m ready to put it to work.
One of the first practices I wanted to execute was a strip-till corn program with the tools that I learned from my time as an AMS technician at a John Deere dealership. RTK guidance has played a major role in this. In the fall we make a tillage pass with a strip-till bar to apply NH3 and in the spring we plant on top of those strips using the same RTK guidance line. This allows the crop to easily find the nutrients in the soil as soon as it’s planted. Most of our RTK lines were created over 10 years ago and we’re still able to reuse them today.
Another big part of my experience is collecting and managing planting and harvest data. Because of the ability to collect data, we have utilized prescription planting for many years now. Our goal is to manage the soil and crop on a per-need basis, instead of treating the whole field the same. This is done by using harvest data, soil samples, and soil zone maps from the past three years to build a portfolio for each field. As a result, we can tailor the planting rates and fertilizer applications to match the variability across our ground. For example, one of our fields has 6-8 different soil types so our seeding rates can vary from 100k to 150k seeds per acre, per soil zone. That’s pushing rates lower than my grandpa would have approved of, but we now know that we can do more with less.
I now focus on planting technology and have implemented many of the products I sell on our equipment. My corn planter easily has the most technology on the farm. I rebuilt it to include products from Precision Planting that give me extra control from the cab and show me data as I’m planting so I can make better decisions in real-time. I added electric drive, automatic hydraulic downforce, SpeedTubes for high-speed planting and vApplyHD liquid fertilizer application on every row. I also utilize SmartFirmers, which tell me soil temperature, seed available moisture, CEC, organic matter and uniform furrow while planting.
This data allows me to have visibility in the seed trench and make on-the-fly decisions. Each row is independently working to do the best job it can do. To me, the planter pass is the most important pass of the year. But that only holds true if the strip-till pass was applied appropriately in advance.
Variable rate fertilizer is yet another practice we have implemented on the farm, thanks to the technology products that allow for a row-by-row application approach. After the crops are harvested, we know the yields produced and tailor our fertilizer maps so we only put the product where the field truly needs it. This saves us application time and product costs, all while being better stewards of the land.