Mike Bland has been around the block a few times with precision farming equipment. More than a decade ago, he and his father, who is now mostly retired, started with a John Deere Brown Box for guidance, then upgraded to a GreenStar 2 controller and they now run with a GS3 unit.
The Blands rely heavily on RTK accuracy to keep them within 1 inch of the strip-till zone they set up on ground going into corn on their 2,000 acre operation near Bethany, Ill. They also use the technology to precisely plant no-till soybeans.
“In strip-till, it’s imperative to be on top of the strip. We spend the extra money for the RTK signal because it makes it easier to plant and it has very good repeatability,” Bland says. “It greatly reduces overlap and it’s less tiring, so I can work more hours in a day.”
On corn ground, their first pass is with either a Red Bull or a Thurston Mfg./Blu-Jet strip-till bar with a Montag dry fertilizer tank. The GS3 controller variable-rate applies phosphorus and potassium in the strips, which the Blands typically build in fall.
For planting, they use a John Deere 1770 planter outfitted with Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense seed meters and RowFlow hydraulic drives to variable-rate seed.
“We also have AirForce pneumatic down-pressure units and I have added FieldView this year, which allows me to make field maps on my iPad,” Bland says. “This was the first year that we sidedressed variable-rate nitrogen either as 32% or as anhydrous.”
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.
Bland also does his own spraying, using RTK on their John Deere 4730 to control the 7 sections on the 100 foot boom. At harvest, Bland uses a Deere 9770 combine outfitted with a Precision Planting YieldSense monitor.
Point of Pain: After Sale Expectations
Having evolved his guidance and variable-rate technology throughout the years, Bland relies on his equipment dealer to set-up and explain the benefits of each system, before making a purchase.
While he’s had success sticking with certain brands of precision products, Bland places a premium on dealer support.
“Our decision on which brand of precision farming equipment we were going to purchase was driven by serviceability,” he says. “The equipment technician available to us must be knowledgeable.”
Overall, Bland has been satisfied with the technical support he receives from his precision specialist, but he expects his dealer to be there after the sale for support.
“When we use something for 2 weeks in the fall and a few weeks in the spring, it takes some time to get familiarized with it,” Bland says. “It’s just like helping my 14 year old with math. I haven’t used those skills in awhile, so it takes some brushing up.
“The key thing is support from the dealer. They have to get you going, and then keep you going if you have a problem.”