Maneuvering through fields riddled with angles can be difficult with any size strip-till rig. But just how essential is RTK-level guidance for smaller spaces?
Operators navigating large, square, flat fields swear by the necessity of having repeatable accuracy to build strips and precisely plant into those strips to maximize yield potential.
RTK is both a blessing and curse for Colfax, Ill., strip-tiller Tryston Beyrer. Although he farms a 2,000-acre dairy operation with his father, Bill, and brother, Jeco, some of their strip-tilled fields average only 17 acres in size, with rolling hills and variable soil types.
While Beyrer understands the valuable combination RTK and strip-till can provide, he’s not been able to make it work on their smaller fields. “We looked at using an RTK signal, but we can’t get a steady signal. Even cell phone coverage is spotty,” he says.
They’ve used both Orthman and Dawn Pluribus 4-row strip-till rigs and strip-till both corn and soybeans. While they have an Ag Leader Integra display, they had used a GPS 1500 receiver and Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) for planting and harvesting.
Most strip-tillers would have a hard time relying on anything less than RTK these days, but Beyrer says it’s partly a matter of economics on his operation.
“A base station doesn’t make sense because our field sizes are so small and the terrain makes line of sight difficult,” he says.
Another challenge posed by the smaller field sizes, is the ability to leverage soil-sample results to adjust fertility rates. For the most part, Beyrer says they order their fertilizer by the field and apply a single rate.
“The custom applicators around here aren’t totally set up to variable-rate apply fertilizer, so we can’t take advantage of that technology,” Beyrer says.
He certainly hasn’t ruled out investing in RTK in the long run, and he’s by no means soured on the potential benefits of precision farming. But Beyrer is looking for an affordable and effective option to make it pay in the future.
How is precision farming helping you manage your smaller-acre, strip-tilled fields? Share your story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.