David Hest

Corn hybrid choice paired with management zones can boost yield

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.

Crop scouting with satellites and smartphones 1

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.

Better variable-rate management zones 1

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.

Deep soil data helps boost productivity

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.

Use data to improve fertilizer efficiency

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.

Farm management fast lane

“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.”

Crowd-sourced hybrid results

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.

Ethanol can reduce fall tillage 3

Two years ago, Curt Ferris began an experiment that side-lined his deep ripper. Instead, he removes about half the corn residue after harvest, with no tillage until spring.

Soybean fertility yield boost

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.

Benchmark your precision payoffs

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.

Stop farming unprofitable acres 2

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.

Calibrate yield monitors more often

A well-calibrated yield monitor can assess yields to within +/- 3%, says Matt Darr, a precision agriculture specialist at Iowa State University. A poorly calibrated monitor can have a margin of error of +/- 10%, particularly in fields where yields vary significantly.

Variable-rate nitrogen program tested

The two-part program includes planning tools to develop field-by-field nitrogen management strategies that reduce the chance of over-fertilization. The tool also can be used to assess current soil nitrogen levels and risk status throughout the growing season.

Corn planter down-force systems tested

In 2014, the Boettgers, who farm 3,000 acres near Harlan in southwestern Iowa, decided to harness technology to help solve their planter down-pressure challenge. They outfitted half their 16-row Kinze 3600 planter with an Ag Leader hydraulic down-force system, which automatically senses down force and adjusts it in one second.

Multi-hybrid corn planter trials

Fields across the Midwest will begin sporting a new look in 2015 as farmers begin using variable-rate, multi-cultivar planters, which are available commercially for the first time after being field tested in 2014 by Kinze Manufacturing and Precision Planting, in conjunction with four seed companies.

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