Establishing specific goals has helped Kevyn Van Wert manage the production data that is generated each year on North Concord Farms.
Farmers face a frustrating gap between gathering information and using it to make management decisions
The massive amount of production data that farmers generate during the planting, growing and harvest seasons makes many feel they have a tiger by the tail that can’t be tamed.
Kevyn Van Wert says he counters that challenge by setting goals for the data he collects from precision farming practices, including variable-rate nitrogen applications and seedings.
"We record a lot of information from yields to moisture and hybrids to crop weight to refine the management zones in our fields," says Van Wert, who works for North Concord Farms in Concord, Mich.
After 10 years of gathering and using data, Van Wert says the resulting management decisions have put corn and soybean yields on a more even keel across the farm.
"We don’t see as much fluctuation now between the poor areas in our fields and the higher-producing areas," he reports. That is one of the primary benefits that have resulted from the data generated on the farm.
Plus, by analyzing the data from multiple years, he knows where to invest his input dollars for the greatest payoff.
"We don’t spend money needlessly on fertility and chemicals in fields or areas of fields where they won’t pay for themselves," he says.
The reduction in inputs has an added benefit beyond saving money, says Linda Flynn, product manager for Pitney Bowes Business Insight in Troy, N.Y.
"Fine-tuning how much fertilizer or chemicals are applied is an important environmental component," Flynn says.
The company’s Windows-based mapping and geographic analysis application tool, MapInfo Professional, can be used by retailers to pinpoint fertilizer applications as a value-added service for their farmer customers.
Tracking data for long-term analysis requires software with the capability to archive and retrieve data.
"Software is a huge factor, especially if you’re using variable-rate practices," says Isaac Ferrie, technical support specialist with Crop-Tech Consulting.
- February 2012