In a recent study, “Successful Farmer” magazine found that farmers who adopted Precision Technology had an average annual yield gain of 20-40%. How is that possible? In my experience from the years spent working on my own farm and from walking the fields of my customers and friends, I have observed a few key actions that are taken to make these farmers a cut above the rest.
- They consistently perform routine maintenance. I am always struck by each grower’s care of their machinery, or in some cases, the lack thereof. To me, it doesn’t have to be the newest or the shiniest to get the job done, but it DOES require that whatever equipment used is maintained. It isn’t possible to achieve the highest potential yields without making sure the instruments you use to achieve them are accurate and fully functional. Often, I see planters that are “good enough” to get by, but fail to meet the standards of maintenance excellence needed to achieve an “excellent” crop. It’s all about bushels gained, especially in an economic climate with low corn prices. Maintaining your planter is an excellent start.
- They calibrate their equipment. After things are in good working order, it is important to calibrate each piece of technology so the information you gather is accurate. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing huge yields on the monitor in the combine, then seeing just a fraction of that translate to dollars at the elevator. We can collect all the data we want, but if the data isn’t accurate, is there any value to it? A farm is a business, and if we treat it like we should, at the end of the day, we need an unfettered picture of reality on our farm to make better decisions for the next year.
- They adopt technology and use it to their advantage. It is astounding how quickly technology changes and evolves in this day and age, and even more amazing to imagine all the uses for it. The ag industry is no different than the rest of the world with a hunger for the “latest” thing to make operating easier and more efficient on a daily basis. What I have found with my most successful growers, is that the technology they do invest in, they USE. They don’t buy corn planters for what it COULD do someday in the future, but what it CAN do on their farm today. They don’t buy an iPad and hope to someday integrate something at the farm, it is purchased and put to work to share and analyze field information. Make it an investment working immediately FOR you, not a liability collecting dust.
- Finally, they walk their fields and “dig” into issues. The biggest hallmark of a top-notch grower is their willingness to dig in the dirt. Aerial imagery, planting maps, etc. are a wonderful tool for telling you what happened, but if you want to understand the health and viability of your field, there is no better picture than checking things out live and in color. Getting your hands dirty allows you to gain a perspective that digital information cannot. You can detect what may need improvement and note what you did well this growing year.
While this is nowhere near a complete list of requirements for big yields it is a good start. I am certain that many of you reading this have done some or all of these things, but, for me, it is a good reminder of the actions I need to take day in and day out to truly be a “successful farmer.”
Featured Image Credit: US Department of Agriculture