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What technology's worked this year?

Geneseo, Illinois, farmer Tom Loitz talks about some of the crop production technology that worked out well for him this year.

What a year it's been for U.S. corn and soybean farmers. From the deep South to the northern Corn Belt, Mother Nature dished up moisture extremes from 500-year flooding to severe drought.

This threw the '08 crop off schedule from day-one in some areas. Farmers are still playing catch-up with a late-maturing crop. But, as combines get into the fields, yields and bushel totals will serve as the final verdict for how new technology performed in the field.

So, what's worked? That's what the Crop Tech Tour is finding out this week, as the fall 'I-Tour' shows what farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana have gleaned from the new technology employed in their fields this year.

Tom Loitz of Geneseo, Illinois, says his new strip-till system combined with row shut-offs on his planter showed strong payback when he entered the field to begin harvest recently.

"As I got out there this fall and opened up some fields, could really tell the difference with the row shutoffs versus last year when didn't have them. The overlap wasn't there, and you could really tell the difference. I think it's a nice benefit," he says, adding that the auto-steer system he's used for the last four years is possibly "the greatest thing ever" in how it reduces his fatigue while running in the field.

Getting the most out of fertilizer -- the input that's seen the sharpest price increases this year -- has also been high on farmers' lists. Dustin Marolf, who farms with his father Jerry near Moscow, Iowa, works with a strip-till system in 20-inch rows. When starting out chisel-plowing corn acres, then going in with strip tillage, the younger Marolf says the plants are better able to reach the more precisely placed fertilizer.

"We pulled in after it was chiseled, and those fields are far superior because of fertilizer placements," he says. "Those plants are able to utilize that fertilizer better."

Dustin Marolf of Moscow, Iowa, describes his farm's unique strip-till system and talks about some of the results they've seen with the system this year.

In the end, much of the technology used in the field this year has been to counteract the curveballs Mother Nature's thrown at farmers. Steve Clementz, a precision ag adviser and farmer near Geneseo, Illinois, says things like precise sprayer swath control and auto-steer have helped farmers make up time that was lost because of poor early-season conditions that delayed planting. Also, tools like Deere's RowSense will help farmers pick downed corn, which became an issue after a severe wind storm hit Clementz' area earlier this summer.

"RowSense takes the stress out of combining leaned-over corn," he says.

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