What Tools Are in Your Toolbox?
By Jim Johnson
I recently became the owner of an iPhone. It does almost everything except "Beam me up, Scotty." Smart phones are excellent examples of tools we can use to make our agricultural operations more efficient and productive. Smart phones combine the technology of a phone, high speed Internet, computer, email and a digital camera. These tools, whether in one package or as separate units, allow the exchange of voice, text and picture information. This makes communication with suppliers, customers and others with whom you need to interact easier and faster.
For instance, a picture of an unknown weed or insect can be taken and emailed to a Noble Foundation soils and crops consultant for identification. The consultant can then identify the pest and send back a recommended pesticide to control it, if it is something that needs to be controlled. Then the Internet can be used to look up more information about that pesticide, and the phone can be used to call your chemical supplier or custom applicator.
Another technology tool that can be used for crops and pastures is the global positioning system or GPS. Using a GPS guidance system when spraying pesticides on fields reduces skips and overlaps which improves pest control and reduces crop damage, resulting in increased crop production. Using a GPS guidance system also reduces fatigue on the person driving the tractor so they can work more effectively.
Access to trusted advisors is also a valuable tool for agricultural operations. These may include the Noble Foundation; government agencies such as the extension service, state department of agriculture and Natural Resource Conservation Service; and crop consultants, among others. In addition to answering questions, these expert sources often offer educational events. Each month there are many field days, seminars, workshops and conferences available to agricultural producers. These advisors can also provide you with educational materials, such as fact sheets, either in printed or electronic form, and even "calculators" such as the Dry Fertilizer Calculator and Lime Calculator found at www.noble.org/tools. By increasing your knowledge, you can improve your operation.
Newer and better crop varieties are another tool you can use to increase production in your operation. For instance, a newly released variety of wheat that has been proven in multilocation and multiyear performance trials may yield 10 percent more grain than a variety released 10 years ago.
As you can see, there are many other "tools" beyond traditional hammers and wrenches. The tools mentioned above as well as many more are available, not just for crops, but also for other areas of agricultural production. Take some time to think about the resources you have in your "toolbox." Remember to work smarter, not harder.
Source: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.