Precision Farmer Panel explores precision agriculture techniques implemented on their operations
By Ryan Ridley
Attendees of the 2020 Farms.com Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase tuned in to the Precision Farmer Panel – a farmer favorite – at the end of the three day event on November 19.
The expert panel featured four farmers who are implementing precision ag techniques on their operations and shared their experiences with conference attendees:
- Clinton Monchuk – Monchuk Farms – grain and layer operation in Saskatchewan as well as cattle ranch in Oklahoma
- Justin Hiebert – Hiebert Farms Ltd. – farm corn, soybeans, wheat and some asparagus in Long Point, Ontario
- Mark Brock – Shepherd Creek Farms Ltd. – grain and oilseed operation and produce lambs for the Ontario red meat market in Hensall, Ontario
- Beau Jacobson – Jacobson Farms and President of Premium Ag Solutions in the United States
The session kicked-off with Clinton Monchuk who says the top priority at Monchuk Farms is to improve soil health.
“From our soil, everything else happens. Our aim is to always improve the soil,” said Monchuk. “My background is economics, so I always feel that you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
Soil profiling is something that is continuously done at Monchuk Farms.
“This little bit of better soil profiling every year on each piece of land, we find gives us a better edge in terms of being able to adapt to where we need to go,” added Monchuk.
Using a mid-row banding system for its planter, Monchuk Farms directly injects NH3 into the furrows which lowers the loss of nitrogen. The farm is also using precision openers for seed and seed placed fertilizer, as well as a Trimble 2050 display system.
“We use a Trimble 2050 which allows us to have our variable rate in there, as well as our sectional control. Working through the numbers, it saves us roughly about 9.5% on our fertilizer costs every year – it’s more environmentally friendly and it’s pretty easy to use,” explained Monchuk.
For spraying, Monchuk Farms recently purchased a Case IH with AIM system and Pro 700 display and moved from 90’ booms to 120’ booms, which reduced spraying costs by about 2-5% (depending on field). They are also using Case IH combines with Pro 700 monitors with GPS and mapping.
“We like to keep current with information and technology, but it has to fit with sustainability on our farm. At the end of the day, for us to pay for it, it needs to make sense,” said Monchuk.
Hiebert Farms Ltd.
Hiebert Farms Ltd. is always on the lookout for new technologies and processes, says Justin Hiebert, a third-generation farmer.
“This winter we re-built a planter with Precision Planting gear on it. It’s really impressive technology and was significantly cheaper than pricing a new planter... it’s a great way to save money and I think we are technology ahead too,” said Hiebert.
Technologies used on Hiebert Farms’ planter include: DeltaForce, FurrowForce, vSet/vDrive, SpeedTube, FurrowJet and Conceal, vApply HD, SmartFirmer and CleanSweep.
“Some of the things that we’re doing using precision ag on the farm includes variable rate corn population, we’ve been trying some variable rate beans to reduce white mold pressure, we have done some primitive variable rate fungicide in beans, we built our own asparagus planter, we’ve done some variable rate lime scripts, and use FieldView,” explained Hiebert.
Hiebert also discussed some pitfalls or areas to watch out for when implementing precision agriculture:
- Backup all your data
- Plan ahead
- Data management
- Yield monitor differences
Shepherd Creek Farms Ltd.
Mark Brock and his wife Sandi farm 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans, edible beans and winter wheat on a mostly strip-till or no-till basis and maintain a 450 head sheep operation that raises 700-850 lambs per year.
“We’ve gone down the path of precision ag for quite a while now – we’ve had a yield monitor since 1999, but have only really gathered good data since 2012,” said Brock.
What other precision ag tools is Shepherd Creek Farms currently using?
- RTK Guidance
- Section control on all planting and application equipment
- Fully customized planted with Precision Planting upgrades
- Tile plow
- UAV (drone)
“There’s some really cool hardware and equipment technology out there on the precision ag side and we’ve just really incorporated as much as we can, whenever we can because we always see that there is value in it,” added Brock.
Shepherd Creek Farms uses several tools to collect data from its operation, including FieldView, Farmers Edge, Agrimatics and Harvest Plus.
“On the farm internally, we use Ag Leader’s SMS Advance software to do our yield mapping, to look at soil data, making our prescriptions and pulling in our as-applied maps,” explained Brock. “And also, the water management module to do some tile layouts and look at elevation.”
Brock went on to discuss satellite imagery, topography, comparisons, drone imagery and how he strives to turn data into dollars.
“When we look at our farm and its future direction, my emphasis is really on looking for tools that mitigate risk. I think that’s the biggest challenge we have on our farm – just trying to figure out and identify what our risks are and then trying to find tools to mitigate those,” said Brock.
Beau Jacobson is a partner at Jacobson Farms with his brother where they operate 15,000-16,000 acres of mostly corn and soybean with some wheat and dry beans. Jacobson is also the owner of Premium Ag Solutions.
“All of our planters are set up with Precision Planting – we’ve been doing high speed planting since 2015... In the sprayer world, we’re running the AIM Command system on the sprayers – cutting our costs down to a minimal amount,” explained Jacobson.
Jacobson discussed harvest, tillage methods, tile, variable rate and the different data platforms they are currently using on their operation.
Tune in to the Precision Farmer Panel video below and check out the 30-minute Q&A portion at the end.