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Shortening the crop tech learning curve

Agriculture.com Staff 05/08/2009 @ 12:23pm

While spring planting conditions have been far from ideal in the field this spring in many areas, some say that's not all bad.

Delays mean a little more free time than usual for farmers this time of year, and that's helping ease the learning curve for some new technology on the farm, say crop advisers and Agriculture Online Crop Tech Tour CCA Correspondents.

Agronomist and certified crop adviser (CCA) Jim Doolittle says the delays his area's farmers have faced this spring have given him time to work with farmers in "getting the bugs worked out" of new precision and data management tools like the AgLeader Insight monitors his company has added to its sprayers and customers' machines.

"The slow start to the season has been a small benefit to us. We've been taking the time getting the bugs worked out of the system during our fits and starts of spraying, and things are starting to click," says Doolittle, who's an agronomy production specialist with Cooperative Plus, Inc., in Genoa City, Wisconsin. "At the moment, we are just using the monitors for mapping and record-keeping. So far, it's been a big improvement over the hand-written forms we are accustomed to filling out."

Looking ahead, Doolittle adds the farmers in his area will likely look at adding swath control and autosteer to their equipment lineups after seeing the results from this spring's new technology.

Autosteer is one of the more popular technologies in the field this spring. That's true in Jack Bridgers' area of Mississippi. It's started there with farmers adding the technology to their sprayers, and is starting to branch out into other equipment, says Bridgers, a field representative for Jimmy Sanders, Inc., in Tchula, Mississippi.

"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 as well," Bridgers says. "Most of our other growers are going in that direction as they upgrade their equipment."

Other tools like yield monitors have become common in Bridgers' area. But, more importantly, farmers are starting to gather and utilize the data themselves.

"Satellite imagery, variable rate sampling and application, as well as yield monitoring, have really become popular in our area over the past few years," he says. "Most growers are using all or taking advantage of most of this technology."

As he looks ahead, Bridgers says economics will play a big role in how quick the adoption of additional technology comes. Some farmers are starting to back off bringing along some technology "because of the extra cost factors," he says. In other words, the understanding of the technology is starting to outpace its actual adoption in the field.

"Growers are not able to upgrade equipment as they would like and are being forced to cut corners to survive," Bridgers adds. "These guys are all accepting the new technology, but simple economics will determine just how fast and the degree of its use."

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