Friday, October 31, 2014
   
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Precision name of planting game

Farmers use technology to maximize profits, minimize mistakes

Brandon Carter fielded 259 phone calls one day last week and numerous text messages as area farmers hitched up their planters and headed out to plant corn.

Carter answered questions from farmers in their fields, treated soybean seed at his business and consulted with farmers on site.

Spring planting in central Nebraska has begun in earnest and Carter, owner of Carter Ag Services, is in demand.

That’s because the agronomist sells Precision Planting equipment that helps farmers boost crop yields and reduce waste by using satellite mapping and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.

“No two fields are planted exactly the same,” he said. “As a result, we want farmers to plant as efficiently and accurately as possible.”

The heart of precision farming, he said, is adjusting farm practices to match differences of soil and terrain—throughout a field—with the right amount of inputs.

For example, after sampling soil in a field, Carter figures out the quantity of inputs needed.

Like a doctor, he writes a prescription, using a program on his iPad that he sends to customers.

Carter also installs monitoring systems, such as a meter with a sensor on the planter, that continually monitors seeding rates and measures the weight on row units.

Not enough weight means seed depth may not be optimum, resulting in poor root development.

Too much weight causes soil compaction around the seed and could restrict root growth which can affect late-season standability, Carter explained.

While a farmer is planting, Carter can pull up information on his iPad such as singulation, or the percentage of seed that is being properly planted. The farmer also watches, on a monitor mounted in his tractor, and can make corrections right in the field.

“If it’s skipping, you lose production,” Carter said. “And two seeds at a time means the plant will grow too spindly.”

Last Thursday, area farmer Mark Aden kept an eye on the monitor in his tractor that showed his 16-row planter dropping 34,000 corn seeds per acre, one every six inches.

“If there are excessive skips, I maybe slow down,” Aden said, noting that he can make adjustments instantly instead of after the corn starts growing.

In areas where the amount of seed planted drops dramatically, or where there are excessive skips, Aden said Carter downloads the maps on his iPad to figure out how to fix the problem.

This is the second year Aden has used precision equipment installed by Carter.

“I really like it because it shows me so much information I can see instantly,” he said. “My iPad shows me in real time what I’m doing.”

Carter has been selling precision equipment for five years but noted that technology has exploded in the last two to three years.

“The integration of technology into agriculture has been exciting for me,” he said. “It’s exciting when there’s something out there that makes farming more efficient.”

And with the high price of corn, Carter said every error costs even more money.

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