For Brent Michael and the rest of the team at Windy Lane Farms, the goal is to maximize production on every acre. And they rely on a bevy of precision technology to accomplish that feat.
A Precision Planting 20/20 SeedSense monitor controls variable rate seeding, kicks automatic row clutches off and on, controls down force on the row units and monitors performance of their 24-row John Deere planter. An Ag Leader system is used to control in-furrow 10-34-0 and 2-by-2 placement of 28% and a John Deere monitor handles auto-steer.
“We’ve varied seed populations for four years now. There are so many soil types and conditions that I think it really pays off,” Michael says. “But we don’t have a single square field. If we overplant by even just 1% when planting a few thousand acres, the overage can add up to a whole field of wasted seed. Row clutches save us that seed cost.”
Precision doesn’t stop at planting. Windy Lane Farms does all of their own fertilizer applications, relying on the John Deere 2630 monitor to control variable rate sidedress application according to population, soil organic matter and yield potential. Auto-steer and swath control on the sprayer also saves money by reducing overlap, avoiding waste and crop injury.
Also top-of-mind is getting an accurately placed row. Planting with a 24-row planter and harvesting with a 16-row combine means nothing matches up.
“It’s important from a harvestability standpoint to have the correct row width, which can be a challenge even with RTK guidance due to implement drift,” Michael says.
John Deere iGuide with a globe on the planter has helped in the past with the tractor compensating for the planter’s actual position. In 2013, however, Windy Lane Farms will upgrade to iSteer, which will actually steer the planter itself for even more accurate row placement.
Point of Pain: Signal Availability
“Even with RTK and hooking up with multiple towers we still have issues getting connected to the satellites, which can leave you sitting in the field,” Michael says. “We’ve been told that it’s solar flares or reception, but it doesn’t really matter. The fact is we can’t work and use our prescription maps without those connections.”
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.
Windy Lane Farms has considered going to cellular signals, but still wishes the precision technology equipment had more backups to keep them up and running in the field.
Other frustrations have come from failed program updates.
“Sometimes I think the companies send out updates before they’re ready and then we have to uninstall them and put the last update back on, which takes time,” he says.
Dealers could help in this situation by vetting updates before making their customers aware that an update is needed.
Another concern for Michael is that his dealers aren’t staying ahead of the technology curve both in supply and service.
“Dealers need to have the ability to keep us up and going with the latest technology,” Michael says. “We were among the first to get into precision technology in the area and it was hard to find dealers that knew what they were talking about to get problems solved. Instead, we would end up calling tech support directly and it was always a struggle to get an English-speaking support person.”