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Precision tech can help make better cropping decisions

TAGS: Crops
Holscher family
PRECISION PLANNERS: Precision agriculture technology has been a staple on the Holscher farm since 1996. From left are: Chelsea, Levi, Kara Beth, Kathy, Larry, Lance and Short Holscher.
Information on rainfall and crop growth can improve management now and next year.

It’s been more than a generation since farmers first heard the phrase “precision farming” and began experimenting with yield monitors and GPS correction signals. Lightbars and hard-to-see monochrome screens have given way to autosteer and color screens for both hand-held and in-the-cab monitors.

Larry Holscher, Vincennes, begin experimenting with precision agriculture more than 20 years ago. His children were still in elementary school or not even in school at the time. They’ve grown up knowing nothing but precision agriculture. But the technology they use today as active players in the farming operation is far different than what Larry and his dad, Charles “Short” Holscher, first tried.

“Precision technology is a big part of what we do today,” Larry says. “It helps make our crop operation more efficient.”

Real-time information
“One thing I like is that we can get real-time analytics on our crops and crop operations,” says Levi, one of the sons who farms with Larry and his wife, Kathy. “It helps us know what we’ve done and what’s going on in the field.”

Lance, another son, adds, “The information we collect all season long helps us make better decisions. It’s really helpful when it comes time to choose hybrids and varieties for the next season. We have accurate information on how various hybrids and varieties performed in the previous year or years, and in which fields they were planted in, and even on what type of soils.”   

One new technology the Holschers tried in 2016 was Climate FieldView. This software and crop service has many moving parts. One thing it does is give an estimate of how much rain fell in each field during a rain event. With fields spread out and in different places, it helps if you can know roughly how much rain has been received at each location.

Various attempts have been made to do this through analytics and algorithms based on weather patterns instead of actual rain gauge reports in the past. Some were more accurate than others. Some of the services first offered for this purpose no longer exist.

“We feel like the rain reports were fairly accurate last year,” Lance says. “When we checked actual rain gauges, the reports that came on our computer were pretty accurate in most cases.”

Data for decisions
The Holschers also used hardware and software linked off the Climate FieldView system in their planter tractors, sprayer and combine last year. It’s one of the ways they get more information so they can make better decisions.

The Holschers vary fertilizer rates depending upon nutrients most needed in fields. They also vary seeding rates when necessary. Having accurate records of past planting, spraying and harvesting operations helps them fine-tune such things as seeding rates.

The Holschers recently erected three turkey barns. “We hope to have enough turkey litter in the future to cover about 700 acres per year,” Levi says.

Their goal is to use precision technology to determine where and how much turkey litter to spread, as well.   

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