March 25, 2016
These brief flirts with planting weather intertwined with flurries and frost can end anytime.
Granted, it is still March. Yet, who isn’t itching to be outside sowing a new crop?
Maybe it’s a good thing, though, the weather has been so variable because it makes pause and pay attention to what still needs to be done, such as planter prep, and checking and updating all those monitors and software programs.
Refresher course. Farmers learn the latest from Precision Planting at a training session near Hancock.
I sat in on a class this week offered for farmers who have Precision Planting 20/20 monitors. About 75+ farmers were there, getting training offered by Precision Ag 360 in Hancock. Company president Adam Bjerketvedt and his business partners sponsored a full day of quality instruction that covered everything from the basics for the newcomers to advanced training for those who had experience with 20/20. Before training began with a Precision Ag rep, the crowd had a chance to learn about two products and services that Bjerketvedt will be evaluating over the coming season: AquaSpy and Farmers Business Network.
AquaSpy is a soil moisture monitoring system that tracks water, nutrients and temperature, using a 4-foot long tube with 12 sensors every four inches, and collects real-time data. You set the tube in the ground underneath your irrigation pivot. The crop grows around the tube, allowing the sensors to measure moisture in the active root zone. Readings are taken every 15 minutes and you see results on your cell phone and computer.
“We don’t predict how much moisture to put on, we let the crop do that,” said Stephen Quinlin, vice president of sales and management. “The biggest thing is to get water into the zone when the crop needs it."
Qinlin said company research shows a 10% to 40% increase in yields when water is applied at the right time. To use the system, Quinlin told the farmers to operate their irrigation systems like they normally would and to watch the probes and data, then set irrigation schedules.
AquaSpy is only available through dealers. Cost per kit is $700 plus an annual data management fee of $595.
Farmer Business Network is an independent national farmer-to-farmer agronomic network, with members mostly in the Upper Midwest and Corn Belt. Total, the company has 36 million data acres thus far enrolled.
Dan Hawkins, who is based in Alexandria, gave the presentation. He said FBN is compatible with any system and that all submitted data is anonymous.
“We are asking farmers to join and contribute data to the network,” Hawkins said. “We create an account for you and then you learn [from FBN analytics] what you have. We benchmark your data and you can see how you stack up… We promise to simplify, organize and analyze your data.”
To get started, FBN suggests submitting one year of harvest files and one year of planting files. To get the best analytics, farmers should submit data on yields (files and scales tickets), planting, soil testing, input invoices, crop scouting records and other pertinent data. The more data, the better the analysis. Benchmarks are given within a 25-mile radius of a farm or field.
“Our farmers are finding that FBN’s most valuable tool is ‘Seed Finder,’” he said. You can pull up real-world performance data and see, for example, optimal seeding rate.
“We have data from 26,300 acres in Minnesota alone,” he said.
Cost for FBN is a flat rate of $500 per year.
“Our goal is to grow the network to benefit you in an anonymous way,” Hawkins added.
After getting these interesting updates on new technology, farmers at the training session then settled into learning how to update and use their 20/20 planting monitors. Jason Portner with Precision Planting covered this extensive material.
It never ceases to amaze me how detailed and accurate agronomic practices are today. In a world where too many consumers believe that chemicals and nutrients are loaded onto fields to produce crops, I wish non-farmers had access or interest in hearing portions of that morning's presentations. After the first ten minutes, I am sure they would have been amazed at what they heard—the technicality of it all, the precision, the incredible amounts of data to consider.
This is today's agriculture.
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