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Running to technology

Agriculture.com Staff 02/18/2009 @ 1:57pm

Fourteen-year-old Jakob Wilson is a whiz when it comes to working with all the in-cab computer technology on his family's farm, his father, John, says with a chuckle.

But when it comes to using that kind of information technology to boost what he can get out of every acre on his farm, John's no slouch himself. "I run to it," he says of the latest developments in yield monitors, field mapping software, and other technology that makes its way into his crop management each year.

The Plain City, Ohio, farmer has been on the leading edge of crop data management and utilization since he started variable-rate applying lime six years ago. It's just one sector of crop technology he's using to maximize the crop output of every acre on his farm.

Now he's looking toward the 2009 crop year with ideas in mind to extend variable-rate management to every nutrient he applies to his 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans.

Wilson has vivid memories of a winter meeting he attended years ago when he first started thinking about variable-rate nutrient applications. From square one, he took an inherently different approach than other farmers in the room."Everybody wanted to know how much they were going to save," he says. "I didn't look at it that way. I looked at it in terms of how much it's going to make me -- not save me."

It did take some getting used to, though; he's not always been able to trim fertilizer usage. In fact, some years, he's ended up using more. But, the extra expense pays off, especially in years like 2008, when adverse conditions made it tough to raise a good crop. Despite drought conditions much of the summer, Wilson says his corn yields averaged in the 160-bushel-per-acre range, while his soybeans were in the mid-40s.

"You may spend more on fertilizer, but the advantage is putting it where it needs to be and getting a better return on that acre than putting more money in your pocket," Wilson says. "It's more about putting it where it needs to go rather than reaping the benefits."

Fourteen-year-old Jakob Wilson is a whiz when it comes to working with all the in-cab computer technology on his family's farm, his father, John, says with a chuckle.

This attention to what each acre needs is more important than the simple addition of new technology on the farm, says Travis Rowe, Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) and area sales manager for Champaign Landmark, Inc., in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Rowe, who's also an Agriculture Online Crop Tech Tour CCA correspondent, works closely with Wilson to ensure he puts the right technology to use in the right ways.

Through the technology he's employing on his farm, Wilson knows where the trouble spots are in his fields. And he knows exactly how much nutrients are needed in each spot. This data has proven valuable to his management, not only in the field but also once he gets to the bin. With such a firm grasp on these inputs on the front end, he's able to maximize his bin capacity and know almost exactly how much space he'll need once the crops are in.

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