What is in this article?:
It takes “devotion to do precision ag” at Jeremy Hopper’s level, says Jason Hamlin, North Delta Crop Consulting, Dyersburg, Tenn. If a piece of precision equipment goes on the fritz mid-harvest, for example, or a prescription file is bad, “you have to be willing to stop and fix it. It’s one thing talking about this and another thing implementing it. A lot of people try it and quit.”
What’s next for this “numbers” guy? “The easy stuff, we’ve done now,” Hopper says. “Where we go from here is a question. The next steps — variable-rate population, hybrid changes within fields — these will take a lot more time and energy.”
Jeremy Hopper, Tiptonville, Tenn., uses precision data to make many agronomic and management decisions.
First payback: drainage
They also delineate areas with high weather-related variability, where “yields can be opposite depending on if it’s a wet or dry year,” Hopper says. These areas frequently benefit from drainage improvements. “Drainage is often our biggest limiting factor,” Hamlin says, “so it’s one of the things we are concentrating on.” Hopper does his own field grading, using Trimble precision land leveling software. His data showed that “in the first field we did, it took about five years to pay back the land leveling costs with yield increases.”
The numbers also showed Hopper that he was losing money by planting too close to adjacent woods. Along tree lines, “we weren’t even breaking even.” Hopper took those field borders out of production and planted perennial grass strips. “We didn’t see our production decline at all, and we turned those areas from a negative return to breakeven.”