Jeff Miller’s previous career as a software programmer at a banking institution set him up well for his position as an employee at Whispering Oats Farms operated by Ken (Otis) Newman near Elkhorn, Wis.
They conventional-till and no-till corn and no-till soybeans and the farm’s entry into precision farming was with a Precision Planting system.
“The installation of the system went very well, even though we run ’80s and ’90s-era equipment and we couldn’t cost-justify retrofitting the tractors with auto-steering,” Miller says.
The planter is controlled by a SeedSense 20/20 field monitor and FieldView on an iPad. The row units are equipped with eSet seed meters, CleanSweep row cleaners and AirForce downforce controls.
Entering into the fifth year of being able to compare planting data and yields, Miller is anxious to dig even deeper into the data to reveal other opportunities for improvement.
“The more data we have and the ability to monitor it in real-time means if there is a problem, it can get fixed and the results will be immediate,” he says. “Other factors, such as low areas in the field can’t be easily fixed, but it’s easier to decide if it’s caused by a plugged tile or if it makes sense to add more tile.”
Miller says they are gaining so much by analyzing the data, but one frustration is there isn’t enough of it.
“We only get a chance at this once a year,” he says. “We run two different brands of soil finishers, and our yield analysis is showing one soil finisher is producing better results than the other one. That kind of insight is very helpful to the operation.”
Point of Pain: Easily Identifying Technical Difficulties
Miller analyzes the planting and harvest data using Case IH Advanced Farming System (AFS) software, but can make real-time analysis with FieldView Plus software on the iPad that has turned up some interesting things.
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.
“Last year, we dug deeper into the data and realized that, while the monitor was reporting that 9 of the 12 rows were achieving 98% accuracy, the outer 3 rows were hitting only 80%.”
Miller checked with his precision dealer and sought online support that gave him clues as to where to look for problems. When Newman mentioned that the outer three rows were damaged when the folding planter for transport hit the tractor tire, Miller was able to piece together a solution to the issue.
“We think the repair wasn’t completed correctly, throwing all of the units out of adjustment, not just the damaged units,” he says. “But the ‘fixed’ units were actually doing a better job of seed spacing and depth control. We couldn’t spot that without the precision farming equipment.”
After 1 year of having the planter correctly place seed across all 12 rows, Miller says they have seen yields increase by as much as 20%.
“Our planter will happily put seed into the ground each season and our yields will continue to remain in the average category,” he says. “But when precision technology products can monitor 20-plus metrics in real-time, it’s easier to identify problems as they happen.
“We can make sure every seed planted is given the maximum opportunity to produce the maximum sized ear of corn possible.”