Although WinField formally launched its R7 Tool web-based precision planning system in time for the 2012 planting season, Del Unger has worked with bits and pieces of the system for the past half-dozen years as WinField began developing the program.

Unger, who farms in southwest Indiana near Carlisle, credits several aspects of the R7 Tool for helping boost yields. The program’s variable-rate seeding recommendations and satellite imagery have been especially helpful, says Unger, who is chairman of the board of Ceres Solutions, a WinField-affiliated co-op.

It’s not uncommon for Unger to have seven or eight soil types with production swings from 250 bushels/acre to 120 bushels/acre in a 60-acre field. “We needed to look at our soils and fertility more carefully, and find hybrids with the flexibility to turn up the population on the better ground and down on the hilltops,” he says.

“These tools have taken us to the next level by allowing us to be more consistent,” says Unger. “We still have wide yield discrepancies from our poorer to our better ground.” But it has made both soil types better, too, he says. “Overall, we have watched our corn yields ratchet up from 7 to 10 bushels per acre using these tools.”

Early in the 2013 season, Unger ordered weekly satellite flyovers through the R7 Tool to generate infrared imagery to identify nutrient deficiencies on early planted corn. The corn, which suffered from cool, wet weather following planting, showed a range of nutrient deficiencies, including N, magnesium and sulfur, corroborated by tissue tests. He followed with multiple applications of these three nutrients to the tune of $60 per acre in unexpected expenses.

“We had to do something; if we didn’t turn something around, we were looking at 150 bushels per acre corn instead of 250,” Unger says.

Since its launch, the R7 Tool has gradually expanded with new services. Two new 2014 enhancements are designed help farmers evaluate input performance and field profitability. The new field response and profitability maps spatially correlate actual yield map data from the combine with the input-prescription map, including costs. A new iPad app available to WinField retailers will allow them to more easily carry data to the field as they work with customers. Also, WinField’s parent company, Land O’Lakes, purchased Geosys, a global technology firm that provides satellite imaging and insights used in the R7 Tool.

Beginning in 2015 crop season, the R7 Tool will integrate Monsanto’s FieldScripts variable-rate seeding prescription capabilities. Initially, R7 FieldScripts will be limited to Dekalb hybrids. It will be expanded to include WinField Croplan hybrids the following year.