Long relying on yield monitors, grain cart scales and visual cues such as angled row ends when planting crops, in 2011 Calmer invested in Case IH WAAS Accuguide auto-steer.
“On our commercial farm I’ve noticed that there is a lot less operator fatigue and I’m able to pay closer attention to planter function,” he says.
But where auto-steer really shines is in streamlining his field plots. Calmer is a big believer in on-farm testing and says it’s the most valuable use of his time.
“I’ve learned some things that were worth $50,000 to me, making the time I spent on on-farm research worth about $2,500 per hour,” Calmer says. “It doesn’t take much expertise to put out plots and farmers can test on a much larger scale than universities or seed companies, making the data far more accurate.”
How auto-steer helps is if Calmer is putting out four replications of three different populations he is able to set the planter for one of the population settings and seed all four replications. He simply plants the first pass, moves over two planter widths as shown on the auto-steer monitor and plants the next replication. Then, he can come back with the second and third planter settings and fill in the spaces he left in the field.
“It allows me to set the planter once and do multiple replications instead of having to reset the planter with every pass,” he says.
His research has shown him that 15-inch rows are ideal for corn and soybeans and that seed companies typically recommend 2,000-4,000 more corn seeds per acre than necessary and nearly double the correct population for soybeans.
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“Farmers need to prove populations and other inputs out on their own acres and with the technologies available to us today there is no reason not to do on-farm trials,” he says.
Point of Pain: WAAS Line Drift
One problem that Calmer had using his WAAS guided system to create replicated plots was line drift.
“If I’m doing a plot that is replicated four times, by the time I run through with the first planter setting the satellite moves and my line has drifted slightly off,” he says.
This isn’t typically a problem in his commercial fields as he make passes back to back, not giving the satellite time to shift. He can correct the problem by positioning the tractor in line for the next set of replicated settings and then recalibrating the GPS to his location.
“I could upgrade to an RTK system, but it would be nice to have some sort of warning built in rather than just knowing myself that I need to synch up the auto-steer,” he says.