Gary Kregel and his family have more than enough to do on their 2,100 acre dairy operation near Guttenberg, Iowa. Located near the Mississippi River, their fields are highly irregular in shape and range from highly erodible land to river bottoms.
What frustrates Kregel the most? Their precision farming equipment is producing some interesting data, but he simply doesn’t have the time or skills to digest it to fine tune the cropping operation that includes corn, soybeans, alfalfa, rye and various cover crops.
“Early on, we collected lots of data, but ended up doing nothing with it. We still don’t leverage the data enough,” Kregel says. “The dealer can do it, but we don’t get the information back the way we want it to be most helpful.
The farm predominantly relies on Ag Leader technology. Last year, they purchased the company’s SMS package and want to learn how to use it. Setting up zones for variable-rate fertilizer and planting ranks high on their to-do list.
“This will be the first cropping cycle to have a complete data set on our own computer with complete control and anytime access,” Kregel says. “We have last year’s yield data in there and after harvest, I hope to be able to get more information we can use.”
Their AGCO RoGator sprayer with a 100 foot boom uses an Integra monitor that’s also shared with the combine. For guidance, they use a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), but as time passes between applications, the A-B line drifts, and makes future application passes inaccurate.
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Kregel says they would also like nozzle-by-nozzle shutoff because the 20 foot auto shut-off system creates too much overlap in their odd-shaped fields.
"We go over each field with the sprayer up to 4 times a season, so we are seriously looking at revamping this sprayer for 10 foot section control or trade it,” he says. “If we trade it in, we will also get a system that uses a subscription signal for greater accuracy.”
Point of Pain: Elusive Accuracy
They have attempted to use a Norac boom control system, but Kregel says it struggled to maintain accuracy. “Our fields are far too hilly and uneven for it to be responsive enough to control a 100 foot boom. We hope the technology has improved enough to handle our terrain so that different systems can be combined into one monitor,” Kregel says. “We would prefer if there was only one monitor to watch in the cab.”
The same is true for their planter, a 30 inch, twin-row Great Plains model. They have different monitors that control planter components, auto-steering and record where hybrids are planted. The Kregels use OmniSTAR’s HP satellite signal to get within 3 to 4 inch accuracy for planting.
“We like the 30 inch twin rows because we get the benefit of 20 inch rows but can still use our 30 inch corn head and our custom silage chopper is set up for 30 inch rows, “Kregel says. “We regularly see a 10 to 15 bushel per acre yield increase from the twin rows, but unfortunately, we can’t set the planter up for variable down force control because there is no room with the twin-row configuration.
“It really comes down to setting this up for simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Any time our precision equipment dealer can make it simpler, we are interested,” he says.