Crop Tech Tour: What worked in 2009
The 2009 crop year went down as a year of records -- record weather challenges, record lateness for planting and harvest, and despite it all, record crop sizes.
The record crop sizes are thanks, in large part, to the technology farmers are applying to their crops.
Here are 7 of the technology tools that helped farmers overcome Mother Nature's frequent tantrums to get the bins filled in 2009.
Rick Poole had a much easier planting season in 2009 than the year before. In 2008 his southeastern Arkansas fields were hammered by hard, untimely rains. But that didn't mean his planting window was widened, and he planted a lot more corn in 2009.
That put a premium on his planting time. He made the most of what he had, however, by bringing along GPS and RTK technology in all his machinery. This allowed him to be more precise in the field from day one, maximizing efficiency from planting to harvest.
"Now we are planting with GPS, rolling up with GPS, and we'll come back with our combine this year and cut with RTK," Poole says.
Even after planting, farmers used GPS guidance to move them through the field, unearthing efficiencies that Tad Keller of Lake Village, Arkansas, never thought possible before he added satellite-guided swath control to his sprayer.
"I turned my swath control system on. And when I got done with an 80-acre field, I sprayed the equivalent of 78.8 acres," Keller says. "I had very little overlap, and it was due to my swath control pro unit. There's no human on earth who can get that efficient. You get maximum use out of chemicals."
Rain delays also made for a tighter-than-normal planting window in the central Corn Belt last spring. Farmers like Jeff and Dave Overholt, who farm near Kouts, Indiana, didn't have the luxury of extra planting time. So precise planting helped them take advantage of the time they did have to plant.
"We use a lot of GreenStar parallel tracking. We concentrate on precision placement of the seed. I believe it's a very vital part of putting that seed in the ground," Jeff Overholt says. "It's not just about the right population; it's about the right placement."
And, the right placement is just what Kent Haring gets with his precision seed monitor when he plants corn and soybeans on his farm near Medaryville, Indiana. "This monitor senses seed skips and multiples, and it measures vacuum pressure on the planter. It also has global positioning system for our radar system," he says.
Farmers first started using autosteer in the Tchula, Mississippi, area just for their sprayers. That's changed, says area certified crop adviser Jack Bridgers.
"All of our key growers use autosteer for hipping and planting as well as for other implements. They use autosteer on their spray rigs and harvest equipment, too," Bridgers says. "Most of our other growers are going in that direction as they upgrade their equipment."