Mike Shuter and his sons are no strangers to variable-rate fertilization. Twenty years ago, they began to manually vary rates on high vs. low ground using Rawson drives on their dry fertilizer spreader.

Today, they apply fertilizer following maps created by their agronomist and sidedress 28% nitrogen based on readings taken by their Ag Leader OptRx sensors attached to their 60 foot sidedress attachment that they built for their Miller Nitro 4275 self-propelled sprayer. They’ve also built an attachment that replaces the sprayer boom with a variable-rate air seeder so they can seed cover crops over maturing crops.

Over the years, the Shuters have modified equipment to fit their no-till corn and strip-till soybean system. Most recently, they built a new strip-till unit that can apply phosphorous, potash and micronutrients based on their agronomist’s maps. It’s a 24-row machine featuring Orthman Mfg. units mounted on a Misenhelder bar followed by a Salford three-hopper cart.

The Shuters pull the rig with a John Deere 8360 RT tractor with the fertilizer rate and steering controlled by an Ag Leader Integra display.

“We’ve had a little trouble getting the micronutrients to flow properly,” Shuter says. “The micronutrients are fine and tend to cake and plug, so we need to find a solution there,” he says.

They upgraded from an Insight display to the Integra unit this year, using a NovAtel Flexpak6 RTK base station to produce a real-time kinematic (RTK) signal to maintain sub-inch accuracy.

Their 24-row Deere 1770 NT planter has also been modified extensively. They use Precision Planting electric drives with a 20/20 Seed Sense Down Force system to vary fertilizer and seeding rates; row units feature Martin row cleaners and Yetter fertilizer coulters.

Point of Pain: Parts and Service Availability

Although the system performed satisfactorily in 2014, Shuters are contemplating changes, some of which are being influenced by their precision farming equipment dealer’s response to parts and service needs.

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.

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“We are thinking about removing the Down Force system because it cost us our first day of planting this year,” Shuter says. “It had an electrical issue and we needed to change out a module and wiring harness, but the dealer didn’t have one in stock and had to find one, so we had to wait to get running in the field.”

Conversely, Shuter says their Ag Leader dealer is more equipment-focused and its service is much more responsive. “We call them and within 20 minutes, they are here,” he says. “A dealer that has parts and service ready to go makes a big difference.”

Shuter says the auto-steer system needs a bit more calibration to follow field contours spot-on, but thinks the Integra unit’s more intuitive calibration program will make that simple.

“The unit tells us what we must do; it’s pretty much automatic,” he says. “Every new display has features that take some training, and our Ag Leader dealer is always available to help us understand it. It’s an important factor to have the right people available at the right time to help get issues resolved.”

The Shuters are marrying data from the Precision Planting equipment with Ag Leader’s system so it can be used with Easy Suite for mapping.

“We also want to be able to import the data in AgStudio, which we are upgrading to,” he says. “We want to take that data and overlay it with satellite images every 48 hours using AgStudio so we can better analyze our fields during the growing season. Easy Suite helps us move data between computers.”

“Finding someone who can talk across brands is hard to find and once you find them, they are invaluable.”

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