Attending the National No-Tillage Conference always presents an opportunity to network and learn from some of the most innovative farmers and conservation-minded academics.
This year’s event in Indianapolis was no exception, and strolling the halls and overhearing conversations, it was clear that one topic that peaked attendees’ interest was the evolution of precision farming practices.
Walking out of a classroom presentation on making use of precision data, I was in earshot of one farmer telling another that while he’d been able to get a handful of technology answers, the session also sparked more questions.
This isn’t surprising, especially as precision products and strategies rapidly evolve. But how close behind is adoption? During his presentation at the NNTC, Ohio State University ag engineer John Fulton estimated that precision farming touches about 70% of all U.S. farms.
However, he noted that only about 15% of farmers have adapted “prescriptive farming” practices, which includes aggressive seeding and fertility management. While this percentage is on the rise, Fulton says continued growth will depend in part on farmers’ commitment to a systematic approach to moving from precision farming to “digital farming.”
Woodville, Ont., strip-tiller Dustin Mulock and his father, Carl, are among those farmers who are eager to learn and incorporate precision practices to improve overall decision making on his family’s operation. Like many strip-tillers, RTK plays a critical role in helping navigate sidehills with their modified 16-row John Deere 2510h anhydrous bar.
The shank-style rig features a single-disc fertilizer opener with a 20-inch blade to precisely place fertilizer in the strip about 5 inches deep. Mulock admits that up until recently, they were “flying by the seat of their pants” with a precision gameplan, but have developed a more focused approach to adding technology and analysis of collected data, to include building variable-rate seeding and application maps.
Moving from no-till to strip-till more than a decade ago, combined with their targeted progress for precision adoption, the Mulocks have been able to reduce the size of tractor they use to pull implements (425 horsepower to 275 horsepower) and reduce fuel consumption by 6 gallons per acre and doubled their acres per-hour efficiency.
The Mulocks are still looking for a better solution to implement drift, even with RTK, but have nevertheless put themselves on a path toward future productivity.
How are you using farm data to improve your strip-till operation? Share your perspective with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.