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What are your crop technology priorities?

Agriculture.com Staff 03/31/2010 @ 1:47pm

The list of technology tools for the farm isn't getting any shorter. You may already have GPS guidance, but do you have the latest variable rate controls for seed and chemical? If so, do you have the latest software for writing prescriptions for your inputs yourself? You get the drift...there's a lot to keep up with out there.

All these tools can improve your efficiency and streamline your field operations. But, they're not always cheap. If your technology budget's a little on the tight side and you can't dive in all at once, but you want to stay up with the latest tools, how do you know where to start?

For Martin, it's always been a matter of "what pays off the quickest." His family started with a focus on seed technology, then moved to yield monitors and mapping, then to satellite guidance for seed and input controls. It's not just about tacking on the next new tool to come along. It's part of a larger plan.

"I prioritized it what I was going to do first, then moved on from there," he says. "Make sure you find a system you're comfortable with and one you can add on to later so everything gels together."

Martin's technology, now and moving forward, is closely tied to his bottom line. He knows exactly what each tool can mean to his profitability, and that's what guides what he adopts.

"Seed technology allows us to raise continuous corn by using a wide variety of tillage practices. That can provide us a 30- to 50-bushel-per-acre advantage. That adds up to about 150,000 bushels per year," he says. "With corn at $4 [per bushel], that equals about $600,000."

Martin is adding strip tillage this year. It's another tool for which he's carefully penciled out the financial effects on his farm. "I think it eliminates 2 or 3 tillage applications. That saves roughly 1,500 hours of labor per year on our farm," he says. "That works out to an average fuel savings of 3.5 gallons per acre, which saves us about 19,000 gallons of fuel for the year."

Scaling up technology like this takes a keen eye on not only the balance sheet, but also the crops in the ground. In Martin's case, his adoption of strip till for this year's crop, when combined with previously adopted RTK guidance technology, will help him make sure he maximizes the productivity of his soils.

"Our multi-year use of RTK allows strips to go between old rows every year. RTK allows for more uniform emergence by staying on strips more consistently," he says. "If 1 plant in every 17 feet of row emerges 3 days late, that can rob 7 bushels per acre from the yield potential."

Looking ahead, Martin says autosteer, which he says was initially "at the bottom of my list," will be the next technology he adds. "I'm looking down the road for our operation," he adds.

The list of technology tools for the farm isn't getting any shorter. You may already have GPS guidance, but do you have the latest variable rate controls for seed and chemical? If so, do you have the latest software for writing prescriptions for your inputs yourself? You get the drift...there's a lot to keep up with out there.

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