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Farm help wanted: Technical expertise required

JACKSON, Mississippi (Agriculture Online) -- Aside from delayed planting, acreage switches and a shortage of soybean seed availability, the recurring theme of the Crop Tech Tour in the South is that higher technology is requiring higher educated farm help.

With tractors equipped with auto-steer, flow control sprayers and planter programs, RTK receivers and other monitors, having an educated technician is vital.

Mark Harris, a Mississippi State University graduate, along with his dad Buck Harris, farms over 3,500 acres in the Mississippi Delta. The Harris' have adopted computerized techniques to tractors to become more efficient.

"When I go through the field, I'm pretty calibrated," Harris says. I don't worry about calibrating the sprayer for this product and then doing it again for another product. I punch the data into the computer and it regulates the flow."

Harris adds, "To run planter monitors, flow controls, to set my field parameters and boundaries, I need to have a laptop in the tractor cab."

Harris says it's crucial to have someone on the farm that can get the technical information, can handle it, and keep the equipment running.

"If your set up for high technology, but the computer isn't working that equates to downtime," Harris says. "Once I got it figured out, I can teach our hired hands. But, someone has to know the technical side of this equipment."

Hank Kelly, Holmes County, Mississippi corn/cotton/soybean/wheat producer, managing 8,000 acres for Jones Planting Co., says three of his farmhands have college educations.

"We've upgraded our operation with remote imagery, variable rate lime applications, and anything to help keep costs under control," Kelly says. We've helped our labor force by getting better qualified and motivated people."

If they can handle the job and take care of the expensive equipment, Kelly doesn't mind paying them, he says.

"There is a lot of computer work anymore with this variable rate equipment. We've saved money and increased our yields with it," Kelly says. "And we're looking at some other stuff that's out there."

Also on the Crop Tech Tour, I ran into other producers that claim higher educated help on their farms.

In Rankin County, Mississippi, Lee Thrash, a Delta State University graduate with outside agricultural interest is working alongside his father.

Tony King worked as a highly technical employee for a large aerospace engineer company before deciding to return home to the family farm in central Mississippi.

Though it's not a secret and the trend well underway, today's farming operations require some level of technical expertise.

JACKSON, Mississippi (Agriculture Online) -- Aside from delayed planting, acreage switches and a shortage of soybean seed availability, the recurring theme of the Crop Tech Tour in the South is that higher technology is requiring higher educated farm help.

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