Nearly a dozen years ago, Eric Orem and his wife, Brandi, moved back home to lease and farm 2,400 acres. Today, their operation has grown to 5,000 acres of dryland winter wheat.
Because Orem is 100% no-till/direct seed, he does a lot of spraying. Like many farmers, he began dabbling in precision ag when he invested in a lightbar.
“In the spring of 2005, I bought the Outback S for $2,600,” he recalls. “I started doing some of my own spraying and wanted to reduce overlap.”
Since that time, he's upgraded his equipment dramatically. To date, his technology investments total $45,000.
“I have autopilot in both the Quadtrac 450 and the Challenger 75C,” he says. “I run the Trimble 500 and FM1000 monitors. I also have autoboom on both sprayers, and I am currently installing yield mapping and monitoring in my John Deere 9660 combine.”
Biggest bang for buck
As Orem has implemented various technologies, he says the biggest bang for his buck came through a combination of three pieces.
“I feel I've gotten the biggest return by combining autopilot, autoboom, and the FM1000 on the 75C Challenger for spraying,” he says. “I have about $25,000 invested in this system.”
When he went to this system, he cut overlap from around 15% to around 3%.
“Last year's chemical bills were about $110,000,” he notes. “If I calculate that amount on a 12% savings, I reduced my bill by $13,200 in just one year. That does not include fuel savings from no overlap and reduced passes, and less operator fatigue. With little to no overlap, it's better for the soil, the environment, and ultimately, the crop.”
While he's seen substantial reward, technology also comes with challenges.
“Dirt and dust have been issues,” he says. “And like home computers, it seems the day you buy a system or component for your system it is outdated or the software is outdated and it does not communicate with the previous operating software. Or you update to run your new yield monitor/mapping, and when you hook back up to the sprayer, the software does not communicate because the sprayer component is now outdated.”
Admittedly, electronics can be overwhelming, but the savings he has seen are significant. He says having a local representative to help is also valuable.
“Amanda Whitman is my local dealer representative from Morrow County Grain Growers,” he says. “She offers options on different systems and gives support to help operate and troubleshoot problems. She also gives me options for updating my systems and software.”
Orem is not done yet.
“I am working on updating the system on an air drill so I can do field prescriptions,” he explains. “I will use soil maps and yield maps along with soil tests to form a prescription for a given field. This will automatically change seed and fertilizer rates as I cross the field. This will allow me to get the most out of every part of the field, while limiting the risk of overfertilization.”