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Tech Trends That Supersize Yields

July 26, 2013
By: Ben Potter, Social Media and Innovation Editor google + 
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Two decades of precision ag experience has helped Walnut, Ill., farmer James Schoff push corn yields, efficiency and profitability.  

Seed companies look beyond genetics for new ways to boost bushels

Your favorite seed company has varieties or hybrids that produce profitable yields. Of course it does—if it didn’t, it wouldn’t stay in business. Because high-yielding germplasm is an expectation no matter the source, farmers are seeking out high-tech solutions to better manage their seeds and harvest their full potential.

"Farmers are begging for the technology to get better," says Illinois farmer Brian Corkill.

Corkill uses a blend of technologies in his tractor, including Ag Leader, Trimble, SureFire Ag and Precision Planting. That helps him ensure that whether he’s planting a Mycogen corn hybrid, an NK soybean seed or anything else, he can track how it’s managed throughout the year and make smarter decisions on his operation.

"Everything’s mapped," he says. "We can prove what pays and what doesn’t. The early adopters take on more risk, but they have the biggest advantage and chance for profitability. You’re not guaranteed something will work, but you have the most to gain from it."

Companies step up. Savvy farmers have been leaning on precision ag companies for

a solid two decades. Increasingly, seed companies and other players are entering the game. The challenge is creating something that’s useful, but not too hard to learn. That’s what Illinois farmer Dustin Spears appreciates about Monsanto Company’s new FieldScripts variable-rate planting software.

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The key to discovering what technology works and what doesn’t work on your farm is to "map everything," says Brian Corkill.

"FieldScripts sounds like a complicated system, but it’s extremely simple for the farmer to use," he says. "Prior to planting, the dealer gathers all of the data and prepares it to be used by the farmer. The data all comes to the farmer’s iPad, so he pushes a few buttons, and he’s ready to plant."

Monsanto researchers cite a 5 bu. to 10 bu. per acre yield advantage from using FieldScripts. The company’s acquisition of Precision Planting in 2012 has allowed Monsanto to quickly ramp up its high-tech capabilities. Other seed companies are also putting their high-tech stakes in the ground.

"There are a number of tools we have put into place to make sure we’re putting the right product on the right acre," explains Mike Dillon, DuPont Pioneer product strategy manager. "These tools can help farmers keep better records and ultimately make better decisions."

In fact, there’s so much information available, it’s easy to get overloaded, Dillon adds. "That’s one of the areas Pioneer has been really working hard at—mobile applications to help simplify things," he says.

DuPont Pioneer’s latest round of apps and digital management tools includes a notes app for field-by-field record keeping and a web-based software subscription service that will

allow farmers to monitor their fields by "management layers" in real time for precipitation amounts, growing degree unit (GDU) information and corn growth stage development. And before they load a single bag of seed in the planter, farmers can use DuPont Pioneer’s plantability app to their benefit, Dillon says. The app lets users input seed tag info to receive plant population advice and more.

Real-time expectations. The saturation of tablet and smartphone devices in agriculture has further accelerated the expectation of farmers to receive and process information in a near

real-time environment.

Newly founded companies such as Rev!Co and FarmLogs are just two of many examples of startups that have emerged in agriculture to make every aspect of farming more mobile.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2013
RELATED TOPICS: Technology, Production, Seed

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