Jacob Bolson works full time in agriculture and leverages that training and experience with Knutson Family Farms, which is operated by his in-laws near Hubbard, Iowa.
Bolson admits it’s a smaller farm by today’s standards. But it’s also very involved with organic farming practices, raising corn, soybeans, oats, rye and alfalfa hay. He’s also trying to improve those practices with precision farming techniques.
“People stereotype organic farming as a bit archaic, but our vision is to take it to Organic 2.0,” he says.
That vision for the future means they want to leverage precision farming practices to micro-manage tillage and weed control operations, even using enhanced blind cultivation, which is a tillage pass for weed control before crop emergence.
They presently use a rainbow of precision farming brands on older generation equipment. The tractor for planting uses RTK while the other systems rely on Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS).
“We used precision farming tools from Raven, Topcon, Ag Leader and Reichhardt Electronic Innovations and are investigating the addition of some John Deere GreenStar solutions. They are not the latest generation of equipment,” Bolson says. “Most of what we use we have sourced from someone else who is upgrading their system.”
This is the third year they have used RTK guidance on their planter, and look forward to using it to fine tune tillage passes in the future. Bolson says they’ve learned a lot about RTK while planting in the last 3 years.
Their long-term vision is to have hands-free cultivation.
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’ll drive the tractor, but the implement will sense weeds and do selective tillage, weed flaming, biological herbicides or heated foam to take out weeds,” Bolson says. “It could even be ground up corn cobs that sandblast the weeds, or water jets that selectively eliminate weeds.”
Point of Pain: Understanding Organic Support
While Bolson and the Knutsons have a vision, their journey to achieve that vision is long and sometimes frustrating.
“With organic farming, we do way too much tillage,” Bolson says “We will look for ways to reduce tillage, but we need it for weed control.”
He also says specialty crop farmer needs can be different, especially when the value of the crop can be substantially more than conventional crops.
“We see precision farming dealers who sell at 20% below their competitors, only to find they don’t provide back-end support,” Bolson says. “We have been very fortunate with our dealer support. Dealers should make no excuses for charging for that expertise. I realize it costs money to have the staff, expertise and parts when we need them.”
Bolson would also like to have the opportunity to go to more precision field days and seminars, especially in the winter months so they can learn more about what’s available.
“I don’t think dealers use the downtime in winter enough to familiarize farmers with the equipment,” he says.
Getting support, especially in the spring and fall, it could be easier if farmers and dealers relied more on photos and text messages instead of tying each other up on the telephone, Bolson believes.
“I have been able to get great support just by texting and using photo texts. It allows everyone to multi-task more efficiently,” he says.
Finally, Bolson would like release notes for equipment software or other upgrades to be more available. He would also like automatic system backups programmed into software updates.
“It’s a simple programming thing and it assures we won’t lose our data or lines,” he says “Make these upgrades more transparent, and don’t make me go to the dealer to get them.”