Deeper rooting corn and reduced fertilizer usage where the main goals when Floyd Koerner III and his father, Floyd Jr., made the switch from no-till to strip-till in 2004. It was also an opportunity for them to start variable-rate application of their spring potash, potassium and nitrogen.
The Koerners use a Trimble FmX integrated display to manage auto-steer for their strip-till tractor and communicate the prescription fertilizer map to the Raven 440 rate controller.
“Variable rate technology hasn’t created as much savings as strip-till [banding cut fertilizer costs by 40% as compared to broadcast applications], but it has reallocated nutrients to where they’re needed to be for us to maximize yield,” Koerner says. “We have reduced the overall amount of phosphorus purchased with variable rate applications.”
Prescription maps are created using data from a Loup 8000i yield monitor and data from zone soil sampling. Koerner also uses his Trimble system to track inputs so he has “as-applied” maps from his strip-till rig and sprayer passes.
Point of Pain: Setup and File Transfer
Compiling data for his records and for creating prescription maps is the most common hurdle Koerner has to navigate. He imports data into his Farm Works software from his yield monitor, strip till rig, sprayer and from soil tests. It’s then used for tracking total pounds of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium applied per acre through his NRCS conservation programs, accounting, tracking production, tracking inputs and creating maps.
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.
“On a scale of 0 to 10, the problems are at a seven,” he says. “Most of the systems I use are all written on different platforms. Importing information can be very time consuming.”
While there isn’t an easy solution for farmers or dealers on this front, at least there is an opportunity for education when purchasing precision equipment. Farmers not willing to make the time commitment needed for juggling multiple formats may need to opt for more compatible systems. Or, dealers may offer additional tech support for data manipulation.
A less common, but no less frustrating problem for Koerner, is installing precision equipment. Dealer install wasn’t an option when Koerner got his first variable rate system, so he did it himself. With one install already under his belt, he decided to once again tackle the job when it was time to upgrade to his new Trimble system.
“The cables and wiring were where I had the most issues,” he says. “I had trouble getting all the components to talk to one another.”
As a result, he put in more than one call to his dealer’s tech support hotline. This, however, is a struggle that Koerner feels is worthwhile in the long run.
“When you install the system yourself, you’re more familiar with it when you have to troubleshoot in the field,” Koerner says. “I think it’s important to be involved in the install process.”
Encouraging farmers to actively participate in or at least observe the install process could save dealers multiple trips to the field throughout the lifetime of the technology. Growers, such as Koerner, who have a better understanding of what part names are and where they fit in could potentially be talked through more complex problems over the phone. And tech support can reach a lot more producers with a phone than they can in a truck.
Koerner is an active user of tech support numbers and is grateful that his local Trimble dealer and Loup tech support are available on weekends and 24/7 during busy times.
“Planting and harvest are short windows,” he says. “When there’s a glitch I want to be able to talk to someone quick.”