Ohio is home to many innovative soybean growers who are adopting technologies to farm more efficiently and get the most out of their inputs. Three of these local farmers shared which technologies they use and how they’ve benefitted their operations.
Kent is a seed dealer and crop insurance agent who also farms in northwestern Ohio. About three years ago, he started using prescriptions for fertilizer application.
“We’re placing nutrients exactly where they need to be which has allowed us to feel comfortable reducing the amount of nutrients we put down,” said Kent. “Fertilizer is placed right where the roots need it, so they can grab the nutrients more efficiently.”
He also uses prescriptions and soil maps for determining how much seed to place in each area of his fields.
“Based on soil types, our soil map helps us to identify thinner, poorer soils and know which ones can handle heavier populations,” said Kent. “We’re seeding more in the better soils and cutting back in those that don’t have quite the yield potential.”
Optimizing seed placement has been especially advantageous in helping him to manage input costs.
“With prescriptions, we put enough seed down that we’re optimizing yield potential but not putting down so much that we’re wasting money,” explained Kent. “The seed savings have been tremendous for us without losing any yields.”
Looking toward the future, Kent sees opportunity in driverless combines and grain carts. The advanced machinery would provide relief to the high cost and low supply of labor in the ag industry and reduce the substantial fatigue experienced at harvest.
Jan uses variable-rate technology to apply nutrients, minimize waste and save money on inputs. He also uses auto section control, which knows exactly where to plant or spray and prevents him from overlapping applications.
The AutoBoom® control Jan implemented on his sprayer also helps reduce misapplication. The hydraulic-powered system adjusts based on the sensor’s distance from the ground to maintain optimal height. This helps prevent drift, increases consistency of droplet size and prevents damage to crops and equipment.
Jan also uses technology from John Deere called Machine Sync, which allows multiple pieces of equipment to communicate with each other.
“Machine Sync is a grain cart control system that allows the combine to regulate where it’s dumping on the grain cart,”said Jan. “We’ve had it for about five years, and it has also made it possible for our two combines to share AB lines.”
While adopting new technologies like these, Jan faced a few challenges such as interference, loss of signal and the learning curve associated with adjusting to new equipment. However, the efficiencies gained have been well worth it.
“These technologies have helped us better manage our inputs and get more efficient with our fertilizer,” said Jan.
Nathan uses technologies such as autosteer, field mapping and precision 20/20 SeedSense Precision Planting monitors on his own farm, but he’s also involved in current software developments that will eventually benefit other Ohio growers.
With so many new technologies, farmers often have more data available to them than they know what to do with. Nathan serves on the board of advisors for Luckey Farmers Cooperative, which is helping their members tackle this challenge. They are developing software that will allow growers to submit, store and access soil sampling data and incorporate it with a more comprehensive system including planting and harvest data, yield maps, budgets and chemical programs to inform management decisions.
“Rather than look at our composite data from soil samples, we can grid sample the field and overlay that with yield maps,” said Nathan. “Then we can draw a variable-rate prescription map for fertilizer application.”
The program is still in beta but, once it launches, participating growers will be put on a three-year soil sampling rotation and have the opportunity to store and use data to develop custom farm strategies from the field to marketing.
“With all your data in the system, you already know what you’re going to spend up front in inputs and from there you know what your overhead costs are,” said Nathan. “The system will be able to draw you a roadmap to help you get to your grain contracting goals and, eventually, automatically contract grain for you.”