Steve Berning has spent quite a bit of time researching precision farming equipment. On his 1,700 acre operation in Warrensville, Ill., using a mix of technology and brands helps maintain accuracy for strip-till and variable-rate fertilizer application.
“I recommend farmers look closely at what each system offers and how easy it is to use,” he says. “With some research, it’s easy to see that some brands of precision farming equipment aren’t quite up to what I need on my farm.”
As sole proprietor of Galusha Farms LLC, farming corn, soybeans and hay, Berning works closely with the National Resources Conservation Service to follow the Conservation Stewardship Program and minimize soil erosion and nutrient loss.
“We are strip-tilling our corn and we need precision to stay on the row, so we use an RTK signal with all of our equipment,” he says.
Berning makes his strip-till pass with a 12 row SoilWarrior by Environmental Tillage Systems, pulled by a New Holland T9 series tractor. He uses an Ag Leader Integra monitor in the tractor cab to get its GPS location signal from a MyWayRTK cellular signal. The Integra monitor also uses an Ag Leader ParaDyme antenna receiver for an even more exact field location.
“We traded up to a new DigiModem cellular GPS signal unit last year because we were having too many dropped signals,” Berning says. “With the better signal from the new modem, we have much less downtime.”
Berning applies a variable-rate of phosphorous and potassium in the fall with the strip-till rig, outfitted with a 30 inch diameter rolling coulter. “It’s a cog wheel and it has a blower that injects the dry fertilizer into the ground,” he says.
What Farmers Want From You is a series of farmer profiles that examine the scope of precision farming tools individual farmers are using on their operation, along with the frustrations that can occur with adopting new technology and how dealers can alleviate those "points of pain" for farm customers. For the latest additions to the series, visit our What Farmers Want From You feed.
“That keeps the fertilizer from running off the top of the soil and into our rivers and streams. We can adjust the depth and can place it as deep as we want.”
In the spring, Berning makes another pass, applying nitrogen as a straight rate on a field-by-field basis as well as other crop nutrient additives.
He uses another tractor to pull the 24-row John Deere 1770 NT planter that’s controlled by a Precision Planting 20/20 system. The tractor’s navigation and the planter run off of different systems, but use the same signal, which works well, Berning says.
He uses a combination of service providers to develop variable-rate maps for potassium and phosphorous application and seeding rates, even on soybeans.
“I work with my fertilizer supplier to develop most maps, but I am also looking at DuPont’s Encirca View and Monsanto’s Climate Pro programs,” Berning says. “Last year was the first time I looked at both services but it’s too early to see any correlation or to judge which one is better than the other.”
Point of Pain: On-Farm Support and Service
In the 4 years that Berning has used precision steering equipment, he’s enjoyed primarily stellar dealer support. In most cases, he’s been able to address issues over the phone and get back running quickly.
“I do have my dealer install the equipment,” Berning says. “I am good with the mechanical side of equipment, but am less comfortable with the electronic side, so I want to make sure it’s done correctly.”
However, Berning isn’t as comfortable paying for the drive time it takes for his precision specialist to get to the farm, which is located a couple hours away.
“I really don’t like paying the mileage to get the on-farm help,” he says. “That’s why I look closely at the quality of the phone support.
“In almost all cases, we’ve been able to solve issues that way. We are technically competent, so we can talk through most everything on the phone.”