Pursuing progress with precision tools
David Condon knows that precision technology considered cutting-edge five years ago is nearly obsolete today. Condon, who farms 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat near Creighton, has steadily added to his precision tool inventory over the past seven years.
John Pavlik, a local crop consultant, handles soil sampling, fertility and crop scouting for Condon. Initially, Condon also worked with consultants at Central Valley Ag at Brunswick, who installed the yield monitor for Condon back in 2003 and used the memory card from it to complete yield mapping for his farm, based on geo-referenced data on crop yield.
In 2004, he enlisted another local consultant, Mark Pavlik, to integrate Farm Works software into his system, so he could develop his own yield maps.
At a glance
• This Creighton farmer began using precision agriculture tools in 2003.
• He uses Ag Leader hardware, Farm Works software and two monitors.
• Good tech support, training help farmers integrate precision tools.
“There is a bit of a learning curve. I took advantage of training sessions that were offered,” Condon says about utilizing software applications. “The biggest challenge is to keep your field records recorded in the program throughout the season, rather than putting it off and trying to remember what you did three or four months ago.”
Variable seeding rates
Using hardware from Ag Leader Technology, supported through the Brunswick CVA, he purchased a hydraulic drive for his 16-row planter utilizing variable-rate seeding control and an autoswath feature that automatically shuts down the left or right sides of the planter according to field maps.
“Even in square fields, the automatic shutoff is very useful,” says Condon. “The monitor knows what part of the field has been planted, and there is no overlap coming in or out of end rows.”
Varying the seeding rate allows Condon to plant lower seed populations over his dryland hills and higher populations in the fertile lowlands, placing seed where it is most likely to boost yield.
In 2008, Condon purchased a different monitor that included satellite-based auto-guidance capability. By the following year, he was equipped to shut down two rows at a time on his planter. He also began working to monitor the rate of his starter fertilizer and spraying applications. Using detailed yield maps, Condon can quickly identify tiny spots within a field where yield numbers are off, so he can follow up with soil sampling to diagnose problems almost to the row.
Just last season, Condon purchased an additional monitor so he could use one monitor with the planter and the second with the sprayer at the same time.
“It can be overwhelming to some people,” Mark Pavlik says. “It’s good to have some computer basics.”“I know that for some of the practices it would be tough to find hard data to say that they have paid off, but as a whole, it has definitely improved our bottom line,” says Condon.
He says technology such as autosteering for his tractor has its place, because it reduces mistakes with large equipment and allows less experienced tractor drivers, like Condon’s teenage son, to operate safely and accurately without any skips or overlap, saving time and fuel.
“Precision practices move so fast,” Condon says. Every year he looks at new ways to adopt strategies and tools to improve the system.
“You have to be willing to put the work into it to get the basics down, but once you start using it, you get on to it,” says Mark Pavlik.
This article published in the February, 2011 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.