Keith Schlapkohl’s corn-growing philosophy turns it up a notch. While every farmer aims to beat the county bushel per acre average, he aims to blow it away by as much as 100 bushels per acre or more.
Schlapkohl also aims to raise crops, such as non-GMO corn and non-GMO seed soybeans, to fetch additional premiums with every bushel.
He and his father, Vernon, of K.V. Mud Creek Farms Inc., near Stockton, Iowa, farm nearly 1,000 acres made up of bottom ground as well as contoured fields that limit equipment to 30 foot widths. Schlapkohl also strip-tills continuous corn, which increases precision farming requirements to sub-inch accuracy.
“This isn’t horseshoes and hand grenades where close is close enough,” he says. “Where we farm, we are working terraces, contours and along creek beds. There are point and pinch rows and keeping the strip-till cart and the planter on the same 8 inch strip is a challenge.”
Schlapkohl found that they have to be within 6 miles of the base station for any semblance of accuracy. When they were using the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network signal, the base station was 18 miles away and because of that, they didn't have sub-inch accuracy. They’ve since switched to their own Ag Leader base station, which is much better, but falls off when they rely on its repeater.
“I have also found that we have better accuracy when I work the field in the same direction every time,” Schlapkohl says. “I wish the Ag Leader Integra units would allow us to record the direction we originally worked the field. That really helps us stay on the strip.”
Schlapkohl uses a 30 foot SoilWarrior strip-till rig, which allows him to put down three different fertilizer formulations based on a prescription based on soil type and yield goals.
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.
“We put down 80 pounds of the nitrogen we need this way at planting then follow with foliar applications as needed through the crop year, based on field scouting,” he says. “Our goal is to attain 250 bushels per acre with less than 100 pounds of appliced nitrogen in corn-on-corn.”
Points of Pain: Trouble with ‘Techno-Speak’
Schlapkohl downplays his technical ability and says he gets frustrated with precision farming technicians who fall into “techno-speak” while discussing and diagnosing equipment issues.
“I am 60 years old and my formal training with computers involved punch cards and programming, not joysticks,” he says. “Speak English to me.”
Schlapkohl also recommends building a network of experts. He relies on at least 3, some of whom are more than 300 miles away from his operation.
“No one dealer knows all the answers and I’ve got great help and advice by tapping into all my knowledge sources,” he says.
Schlapkohl would also like to see more in-field involvement with equipment design engineers. When I am planting, he’s often watching 3 different monitors in the cab. One simple change, he says, would be to make the large directional triangle on his monitor turn red, not green, when the auto-steer lock is not engaged.
Finally, Schapkohl looks forward to the coming Integra upgrade that will allow the unit to take advantage of auto drawbar steer to keep the strip-till cart and planter in line on the tilled strip.
“That will do much to keep the strip-till unit and the planter working in the same zone,” he says.