Nebraskans Angela and Kerry Knuth are streamlining their operation by: Using a new scenario-analysis tool to evaluate cropping options; saving costs with variable-rate prescriptions that reduce phosphorus on high-testing soils; testing a plan to rent out fields planted in cover crops for cattle grazing.
When he decided to take parts of five fields out of corn and soybean production a year ago, Wayne Fredericks was convinced that converting the ground to wildlife habitat was a sound decision for his pocketbook and the environment. A year later, with crop prices even softer, he thinks the reasoning behind the decision is even more compelling.
After big nitrogen losses from excessive rains in 2009, Illinois farmer Corey Holmes adopted nitrogen management strategies that boosted yields 15 bushels/acre and reduced nitrogen use about 10 percent.
Although an unusually wet spring led to less-than-ideal-growing conditions on his Delaware, Ohio, farm, Jim Case says the new multi-hybrid planting system proved that planting both offensive and defensive hybrids in the same corn fields is a money-maker.
In late July, Zachary Yoder trudged into tasseling 8-foot tall corn to ground-truth his first-ever smartphone message alerting him that satellite imagery had detected an unusual area in the irrigated field.
Indiana farmer Lynn Hindbaugh plans to capitalize on new detailed soil type and organic matter maps to: Experiment with variable-rate seeding, improve variable-rate fertility practices and evaluate multi-hybrid planting scenarios.
As Woodrill Farms looks for ways to boost productivity, it is taking a deep-down look at soils to help drive decisions it hopes will help it maintain or boost its current year-over-year trend-line average corn yield increase.
After relying primarily on blanket applications of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium during his operation’s rapid growth phase, Riensche is planning variable-rate and just-in-time nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium applications on half or more of his acres in 2016.
“The cloud-based software we are now using is a huge time-saver,” says Jeana Harms, who began using Granular, a new farm management service, in 2015. “It automatically downloads data from our planter and sprayer monitors and hopefully soon, it will integrate and download from combine monitors, too. It saves a lot of phone calls and back and forth keeping track of what we are doing.”
This fall, as Steve Pitstick scans his combine’s windshield and yield monitor assessing performance of his Illinois farm, he also keeps an eye on his tablet computer as it displays harvest data from thousands of farms and millions of acres across the Corn Belt.
Applying extra phosphorus so it isn’t yield-limiting has been worth about 3.5 bushels/acre in Fred Below’s research on adequate to high-testing soils in his plots from 2012 to 2014. “Phosphorus is the biggest single factor in driving yield increases in the past three years of our studies,” he says.
Using the TrueHarvest yield benchmarking service offered through his co-op, MKC, Blew knows that the combination of variable-rate technologies he used on an irrigated field paid off handsomely in 2014. Following harvest in 2015, he will use the service across the entire operation to assess how management practices on those fields stack up.
Five fields on Wayne Fredericks’ farm took on a new look this year after he decided to retire small parcels in each of them to boost profitability and improve the environment. Although the retired areas are small – the largest is 3.2 acres and the smallest just under 3/4 of an acre – Fredericks says it makes sense to quit growing crops in these areas that lose money every year.