Jamie Blythe, who farms with her parents, Betty and Jim, and her sister, Ellen Fennel, operate a diversified cropping operation on 3,500 acres near Courtland, Ala. Blythe finds precision agricultural equipment helps them be more judicious and accurate in their crop inputs, achieving near 200 bushel per acre corn, 100-plus bushel wheat, 50 bushel soybean and 2-bales per acre cotton yields.

Using predominantly John Deere equipment, Blythe says her dealer is located near the home place, which is a strategic asset in their operation. “We are located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so having a dealer close by helps us stay timely in our field work,” Blythe says. “That timeliness is what helps us get the most from our crop inputs.”

Blythe says the family started with Deere’s AutoTrac Universal steering on their tractors in 2008. It allowed them to get rid of row markers on their two 12-row Deere MaxEmerge XT1770NT planters. “The system allows us to multi-task in the cab,” Blythe says. “I can take my office with me.”

While the StarFire2 accuracy is acceptable for dry fertilizer or chicken litter spreading, Blythe says they will be moving to an RTK signal to get sub-inch accuracy in 2015.

“We really struggle with the 4 inch drift especially with the hooded sprayer and when we are applying liquid fertilizer on corn and cotton,” she says. “With that level of drift, equipment tires often drive right on crop residue and it’s like knives cutting the tires. The 1 inch accuracy with RTK should solve that problem.”

Training herself to use Deere’s software system, Blythe develops their variable-rate maps for fertility and population. Her first assumption was that the soil and yield maps would match up, but that was not so. Using the software helped her identify elements that can be refined to increase yield.

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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“It’s trial and error. I work on it at home at night and during the winter, learning the system and building the variable-rate maps,” Blythe says. “I find it exciting to know our fields so well after working them for so many years and then being able to use that knowledge to build prescription fertilizer and seeding rates.”

Point of Pain: Multi-Brand Compatibility

But software compatibility is an issue for Blythe. “The Deere system’s inability to pass along information for other brands of equipment is frustrating,” she says. “It’s a learning experience.”

Blythe says she must take data from Deere’s Apex farm management software and transfer it into Ag Leader’s SMS software to produce a prescription program that non-Deere equipment can read. “We need to do that so our custom applicators read my variable-rate files,” she says.

However, Blythe does appreciate how MyJohnDeere.com can be used to capture yield data wirelessly. “It helps me see trouble spots with yield,” she says. “It gets exported into yield maps within 24 hours and we use it to try and define our zones better, based on yield and soil types.”

Blythe also has experience with Deere’s new Remote Display Access that allows her to monitor equipment and operator performance on her desktop computer or even cell phone. “I can check in to make sure whoever is running the planter is staying right around 4 mph, or see what they are seeing on the monitor,” she says.

“This helps me help operators work through a setup issue or problem over the phone. Plus, our dealer can access it if we are having an equipment problem.”

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