You can invest in many farm tools that don’t necessarily boost profits. However, there are some winners out there that you can put money on and count on seeing that money come back to you. These are the tools to look out for, according to Dave Harms (owner of Crop Pro-Tech Crop Consulting Firm in Bloomington, IL) and Jess Lowenber-DeBoer (an extension agricultural economist from Purdue University).
These two experts picked out the tools from precision farming that are most sure to increase profits with soybean and corn crops.
- 1. Computer Queries: According to Harms, good crop production records on good software can save you money in management decisions. “The query ability can be useful if you have enough years of data,” he said. “For example, you can ask the computer which hybrids yielded best in high-fertility fields, in dry years or with a specific herbicide program. The adjustments you make from good record keeping and planning can add 2-4 bu. or more per acre to your bottom line each year.”
- 2. Auto-Guidance Equipment: “This technology allows farmers to cover fields faster and more accurately,” Harms said. “It eliminates overlaps, gaps and skips from any product that you apply.” This way, fertilizer is only used according to when and where (and how much) is needed. Time is money, and this technology saves both, said Lowenberg-DeBoer. How much you save depends on how big your farm is and what kind of equipment you’re using. In addition to saving money and time, auto-guidance equipment can boost a crop’s yield if the farmer uses it to reduce compaction issues by establish a controlled-traffic pattern or if the farmer uses it in a strip-tillage system. If auto-guidance equipment can’t fit in the budget, both men agreed that lightbars are good budge alternative.
- 3. Variable-Rate Technology (VRT): This technology is especially helpful to those in the eastern Corn Belt. This prescription can benefit pH levels which might be low or high in different areas of one field, Lowenberg-DeBower said. Sometimes VRT can help by applying phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) which may help the fertility of a field. For best result, VRT must be utilized in conjunction with management zones, not grid soil samples, Harms said. “If you base applications on point samples only, then your VRT applications can be off by as much as 10%,” he says. “You can correct that by pulling random samples based on soil types, which provides the greatest correlation to yield potential.”
- 4. Yield Maps: Just looking around your fields as you drive doesn’t provide much information, Lowenberg-DoBoer said. “The top use of the yield monitor would be to identify places that could benefit from drainage,” he says. “However, when tied to a yield map, yield monitor data can provide considerably more information that is useful for making management decisions. This could include comparing hybrid performance, fertility or weed control programs, tillage systems and fungicide or insecticide applications.”
- Sensor Technology: This scouting technology has the best potential to help farmers using a kind of remote sensing for many different growers. “If early season images show a problem, it can help with replant decisions,” Lowenberg-DeBoer added. “It can also help spot plugged irrigation nozzles.”
Sensors also help with grain bins, Harms said. “If you have grain storage, you should have moisture and temperature sensors placed throughout the system to help detect hot spots and spoilage,” he advised.