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Corn+Soybean Digest

Precision Thinking

Ken Greene doesn't like lazy assets. Having swapped out a few “lazy” plows, a soil finisher and disks in favor of a Hiniker strip-till tool, he turned his attention to the cab.

The Durand, IL, grower installed an Ag Leader Insight display with multiple product functionality and Trimble's RTK (real-time kinematic) Auto pilot in two tractors, gaining precision farming capabilities throughout the growing season. He can map hybrid/variety planting, spraying and harvest, and tailor prescription fertilizer and chemical applications on his 1,300 acres.

His John Deere 8110 uses Trimble's RTK AutoPilot and Ag Leader's Insight to guide and record his strip-till field passes. On his fall passes, he uses the Insight to manually or variably apply his anhydrous and liquid phosphorus application.

Greene has strip-tilled for 10 years. “We estimate that it saves us 25% on primary and secondary tillage including fuel, power and equipment,” he says. “There are probably some fertilizer savings, too, by putting the fertilizer right where it is needed the most.”

In the spring, he plugs his Insight into a three-drive Rawson hydraulic drive for recording seed varieties and varying field population rates. To give the seed a head start, he applies pop-up 10-34-0 as needed.

While Greene is planting, his nephew Brett Proctor uses another Insight monitor with Direct Command on a 90-ft. pull-behind sprayer to apply pre-emerge herbicide. It automatically turns each boom section on and off as it reaches a field boundary or already-sprayed area. The Insight logs spray conditions and amounts and manages chemical inventories. Geo-referenced maps reconcile the what, when, where and how of each field operation.

After Greene finishes planting corn, he uses the same twin-row planter for his beans. A drill speeds up the bean planting. Proctor's spray tractor uses the same Insight to record bean varieties as he plants.

At harvest, Greene's Insight collects yield data to facilitate next year's hybrid/variety selection and fertilizer recommendations.

Each field in Greene's gently rolling northern Illinois ground requires different management and agronomic approaches. His precision-ag technology stands to deliver many details on what is paying off the best and where. For example, better records help him manage glyphosate resistance.

“Most farmers don't realize how much money they are losing because they didn't tile the wet spot,” says Greene's son Rick, who manages the precision-agriculture function for a regional supply cooperative. “They overlapped their spray boom by 10%, they forgot that weed spot or they didn't select the best-suited variety for the next year. The yield monitor can quantify all that and then some.”

Efficiency gains also come in more conventional categories than technology. “Ken is doing the things that we associate with farms having lower machinery costs: getting rid of equipment that is not used heavily and really using the equipment that remains,” says Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois Extension farm management specialist. “Using the same equipment to plant corn and soybeans also saves on power costs. He is cutting power cost by 25% by going to strip-tillage compared to the typical tillage system used on Illinois farms.”


“A yield monitor empowers each farmer to be an experimenter,” says Ken Greene, Durand, IL. “You can identify everything down to the inch with real-time kinematic (RTK). Picking and choosing varieties and hybrids are what have put the most money on my bottom line, and that is how precision-ag technologies pay for themselves on my farm.

“Today's GPS technology makes on-farm trials easier to do well. Technology's ability to record time and place of applications makes disciplined use of side-by-side comparison strips fairly easy,” Greene says. “I think it's valid to have many repetitions at many locations where there are different soil types and different climactic, varietal and timing applications.”

Greene was a nitrogen cooperator with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign comparing rates of 200, 150, 100, 50 and 0 lbs./acre with three repetitions across the field.

“A few bushels here and a few bushels there add up to real money. Even small advantages to certain products or management practices make a difference with today's prices,” he says.

“Greene and farmers like him will be the future in farming with farmers decisions based on data obtained on their own land,” says University of Minnesota Farm Management Professor Kent Olson.

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