The award recognizes farmers and their fertilizer dealer for their efforts to use the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.
Although they are leaders in judicious fertilizer application, George Brand, who farms with his son, David, near Waterloo, Ind., says they have plenty of opportunity to fine-tune fertility with advances in precision farming equipment.
For the last 8 years, Brand’s agronomists have conducted tissue and soil analysis on a grid, then use the results to variable-rate apply fertilizer.
The Brands operate a 400-head milking operation with an additional 500 head of young cattle and farm 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa in northeastern Indiana. Farming in the St. Joseph River Watershed, which drains into Lake Erie, algae blooms there have created a heightened awareness of fertilizer use in the region.
“Managing fertility is good business and good for the environment,” Brand says. “With variable-rate fertilizer applications and no-till planting with variable seeding rates, we are seeing input costs dropping from $20-$100 per acre and our yields are as good or even better than before.”
They have variable-rate fertilizer applied by The Andersons, their fertilizer dealer, which also applies herbicides for them. A cousin also custom-applies crop chemicals as well. With 900 head of dairy stock, the Brands judiciously apply the manure and supplement fertilizer applications based on soil and tissue tests.
“Where we sidedress nitrogen, it’s applied on a field-by-field basis, but we are looking to variable-rate sidedress based on the grid results,” Brand says. “Precision farming equipment allows us to not be wasteful, but not cut an area short of what it needs to produce as much as it’s able. It helps us achieve the best cost-benefit available.”
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.
The Brands plant corn with a 16-row Case IH 1250 planter using a Case IH AFS Pro 700 monitor to control seeding rate. They don’t use auto-steer or variable-rate their starter fertilizer, but Brands says they plan to add these tools in the near future.
Point of Pain: Right Planter, Wrong Monitor
The Brands upgraded to the 1250 planter in last year, but in the process, lost valuable planting time during the already cool, delayed spring because the planter and tractor monitor wouldn’t work together.
“It took the dealer about a week to figure it out. We couldn’t even get the planter to unfold,” Brand says. “It turned out that somewhere between another branch and our dealer’s branch, the monitor was switched out with another one.
“It was a simple mistake, but it took a long time for our dealer to figure out what happened. When they did, it was a pretty easy hardware fix, but we lost valuable planting time.”
The Brands say regional training events have helped make their ongoing adoption of precision farming technology increasingly easier.
“We find the regional workshops quickly get us up to speed on the precision farming equipment,” Brand says. “They go into much more detail than a dealer can do with us one-on-one, especially when we are looking or buying new equipment.”