Since attending the 2013 InfoAg Conference in Springfield, Ill., a few weeks ago, I’ve had time to digest the abundance of information presented on new precision technologies and their application to farm operations.
Whether attending a program session or visiting with attendees on the show floor, one of the most common questions I overheard farmers ask was, “How can this stuff make me money?”
Ohio strip-tiller Brian Watkins was able to shed some light on the subject during a presentation and a subsequent interview with Strip-Till Strategies. A veteran no-tiller, Watkins had tinkered with strip-till for nearly 15 years before committing to practice 3 years ago for his 3,500 acres of corn. He also no-tills 3,500 acres.
Watkins explained how his overall investment in precision technology — more than $158,000 across his entire farm — has paid off, especially in strip-till. Due to traditionally wet falls in his area, Watkins runs a single-disc, low-disturbance anhydrous applicator in fall to place phosphorus and potassium, then builds strips in spring.
“A couple weeks after our fall application, we can’t tell where we’ve been, because we’re not building a strip or doing tillage,” he says. “We’re going about 4 inches into the ground and use RTK to come back in the spring to build those strips where we placed the fertilizer.”
Without RTK accuracy, Watkins admits that it would be tough to utilize the strip-till system he prefers, or realize the benefits, which have been significant. Through use of precision technology — and specifically GPS — he’s been able to see a $23,000 return on the technology in his strip-till operation.
“It’s about a quarter of the overall benefit I’m getting from strip-till,” Watkins says. “And it’s also contributing to about a 5% savings in soluble phosphorous, and about a 4% yield boost in corn over no-till.”
Although the percentages may seem small, the dollars can quickly add up, especially spread across a few thousand acres.
We’ll be digging deeper into Watkin’s strip-till methodology in our fall issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide.
But in the meantime, share your success story with precision-guidance tools and the payback they’ve provided to your strip-till operation. Contact me at 262-782-4480 ext. 441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.