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  • Writer's picturePrecision Ag Reviews

8 Ag Tech Tips, Takeaways and Trends from 2022

Time flies when we don’t seem to have any, right? In another year that tested our ability and – perhaps our patience – to do more with less, take a moment to draw motivation from those who are excelling in the lemons-to-lemonade market.

To do our part and help maximize your minutes, we’ve reviewed the volume of Precision Ag Reviews content posted throughout the year and picked 8 of the most valuable tips, takeaways and trends from our 2022 Industry Insights, Precision Profiles and Precision Points Podcasts.

From marrying precision practices with regenerative ag opportunities to reaping the economic and efficiency benefits of robotic soil sampling, the times tried to keep pace with precision ag innovation.

1. What’s Old is New

Progressively persistent Ohio farmer Austin Heil is meticulous in his methods for converting precision pain points into positives by retrofitting older equipment with modern technology. Heil, along with Missouri farmer Joshlin Yoder, were the first participants in the Precision Ag Reviews Ambassador program.

Heil successfully connected a used Precision Planting 20/20 monitor to a 1979 7700 Ford Tractor to collect planting data from their 6-row 5100 White planter – that he later converted to a 12-row 20-inch soybean planter.

“On June 1, I ended up creating an Excel sheet based off the data from the 20/20, and the projected yield on the farm we ran the 6-row planter was 160 bushels per acre,” Heil says.

“We borrowed a neighbor’s yield monitor, and the field average ended up being only 1 bushel off the projection. That was the foundation to figuring out other ways to adapt newer technology to older equipment.”

Heil has since brainstormed ways to rebuild the grain tank on his 1979 L2 Gleaner so that it can run a yield monitoring system and retrofit an old $2,000 Wilmar dry spreader with variable-rate technology to apply potash at the same time he bands fertilizer.

2. Biological Boon

While fertilizer costs have stabilized somewhat heading into 2023, they aren’t expected to decrease anytime soon, according to forecasts. Farmers continue to experiment with economic alternatives to commercial applications, including the use of biologicals.

In 2022, Illinois farmer Kent “Skip” Klinefelter’s fertilizer program included applications of PivotBio’s Proven 40, Sound Agriculture’s Source, and Terrasym NewLeaf Symbiotics. All of which are alternatives to synthetic nitrogen (N) and have the ability to enhance plant availability of phosphorus.

Traditionally, Klinefelter split-applied N, including 150-175 pounds per acre of custom-applied fall or spring anhydrous and then a comprehensive liquid package applied at planting.

The Proven 40 product is designed to replace up to 40 pounds per acre of synthetic N, but Klinefelter only cut his commercial N rates by about 20 pounds per acre during in-furrow application.

“We’ve learned that if the weather cooperates, we can get down to 0.66 pounds of nitrogen per bushel when the state recommendations are closer to 1.2 pounds per acre,” he says. “Our goal is not just to reduce our cost per bushel, but it’s more of an insurance policy. We’re still applying less nitrogen and combining it with the biological product.”

3. Technically Speaking

“Fall harvest is not the end of our return on investment. We’ve collected enough data over the years that we’re not averse to looking at crops and land uses that can deliver a similar ROI to corn and soybeans, along with additional soil health or economic benefits.” – Jeff Lakner, Lakner Farms, explaining crop diversification goals on the South Dakota operation.

4. Carbon Chaos to Credits

In 2022, Iowa farmer Kyle Mehmen participated in five different carbon credit programs, with each company validating data and then compensating for credits in different ways.

While the intricacy of each program poses challenges, Mehmen says they’ve largely been worth the bottom-line benefits. In less than three years, the farm has seen carbon credit revenue begin to rival that of some of their complementary businesses, in part because they already had the infrastructure in place to realize an economic return quickly.

“The time we’re investing to report out the information we’ve been collecting and practices we’ve been doing for years is time well-spent,” Mehmen says. “What we’re learning is there is an endpoint to this system because it’s monetized. Maybe this carbon model evolves into an organic or regenerative tag that goes on a product that commands a premium and adds $0.50 a bushel to my corn.”

5. Monitoring Risk

Proper calibration – especially of yield monitors – are operational oversights that can have costly consequences. Basic pre-season calibration can minimize the risk of yield map errors, says Ohio State University Precision Ag Professor John Fulton.

“We’ve seen farmers who didn’t account for low or high grain flow conditions during calibration have errors of 24-27% in calculated yield even though the average for the whole field was only about 2% off,” he says. “It’s risky to make economic decisions for targeted nutrient applications or variable-rate seeding with yield errors this high for specific areas of your field.”

6. Technically Speaking

"You first have to make sure the entire job gets done right. It's making sure that every pass, whether it's tilling, planting, seeding, and harvest, can be done to perfection with full autonomy.” – Seth Crawford, Senior Vice President and GM of Precision Ag and Digital for AGCO, discussing the future of truly autonomous ag equipment.

7. Accuracy Insurance

In addition to farming 4,500 acres, Yoder also has a crop insurance business and estimates that about one-third of his clients now utilize yield monitor or grain cart data for crop insurance reporting, and as much as 50% submit acreage information based on planting data.

He foresees growth in the application of precision ag data in crop insurance reporting, and beyond, with new geographic and crop-specific add-ons that farmers can add to their insurance policies and further reduce risk. One is a new USDA pilot program – Post Application Coverage Endorsement (PACE) – that provides farmers who split-apply nitrogen with additional protection if weather prohibits them from making those secondary applications.

“Every year, crop insurance covers a specific event or scenario, and the documentation requirements won’t loosen up. But the advanced collection of precision data can give farmers an advantage and more easily and efficiently meet those requirement thresholds.”

8. Technically Speaking

“On Twitter we hear about cover crops and regenerative agriculture and carbon credits, blah, blah, blah. That's just an echo chamber. In the real world, there's not that many people who are truly adopting these practices and truly making them work on their farms. And they are rebels. They are moving against the grain. They are this 5% at the tail end of the bell curve who are not the status quo, and they're farmers who are deliberately choosing to go against the status quo.” – Joe Bassett, CEO of Dawn Equipment, talking about the perception gap in regenerative ag adoption.

Our team at Precision Ag Reviews wishes you a healthy and happy start to the new year and continued prosperity in your precision ag pursuits.

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