Precision Point Blog

Ag Leader

Jun, 10 2010 - by Nick Ohrtman

Ag Leader goes golfing…

Nice outfit

Each year we gather a group of suppliers and employees from Ag Leader for a day of golf and events as a way to say thank you to all the people that help us provide you with the precision ag products you use today. Last Thursday, Ag Leader held their fourth annual Ag Leader/Supplier Golf Outing at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny, Iowa. The suppliers that participate provide us with everything from circuit boards to touch screens to shipping services. This year's events included a "golf outift" contest and as you can see there were some very interesting outfits.  (For more pics, visit our Facebook page.)

There were 128 participants in the four person best ball tournament - including 75 people from 45 suppliers traveling from Maryland, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa. The event provides great opportunities for Ag Leader employees to get to know many of the people that make what we do on a daily basis possible.

There were many prizes awarded to the participants this year.  Trophies were awarded to the top three teams along with awards for the team who didn't fair too well and came in last.  This year's championship team consisted of Travis Goedken, Minnesota Territory Manager and Damion Solverson, Warehouse Clerk, from Ag Leader and Jeremy Louge and Sue Watters from Old Dominion Freight Line and won with a score of nine under par.  I unfortunately was not on a team that won an award this year as my team finished seven shots behind the leaders.  Better work on my game for next year... thanks to everyone who participated, it was a fun event.  Enjoy any golf you may do this summer!

Winning Team (L to R): Damion Solverson, Travis Goedken, Sue Watters. Not pictured: Jeremy Louge.

Ag Leader

Jun, 09 2010 - by Dave King

Does the Queen sleep on this?!?!

Dinner on the Volga River in Russia

As I write this post I am back on the road again after a short week at home.  I am currently in England preparing for the Cereals Show that starts today (Wednesday, June 9th).  I have been traveling a lot in the last two months and while I’ve enjoyed it, I’m also   looking forward to spending some time at home after this trip.

When I’m traveling overseas, I look forward to the opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new people, as well as experience different cultures and eat local foods (I think I have had my share of fish and chips so far this trip).  It is especially rewarding to be able to do these things in the agricultural industry as the people in the industry are some of the greatest people you will ever meet.  I have had the opportunity to dine with a great family on the Volga River in Russia, attend a youth rugby match in South Africa and watch some football (soccer) with fans in Denmark.  These people have all treated me like family and have made my trips enjoyable.

 

Youth Rugby Match

 

Even with the great hospitality and food you start to miss familiar things from home after traveling for awhile.  The first thing you start to miss is your family (and maybe even the dog).  After family, you start to miss some of the smaller things, such as ice in your drink, air conditioning or just good internet access.  However, the one thing I am missing on this trip is my BED!

Since I arrived in England I have had trouble sleeping.  It is not from the jet lag or time difference but the beds I have slept in. Whoever believes that a three inch thick piece of foam on a sheet of plywood constitutes a mattress should be forced to sleep on it once.  A thin piece of foam on a hard surface is okay when camping but not the most desirable when paying $150/night for the privilege of doing so.  Also, a mattress that sinks in the middle and funnels your body to the one spring that pokes you in the back is not my idea of a good sleep.  I’ll take a pillow top mattress any day.

My family.

I think there is a good opportunity for selling mattresses in the UK.  Perhaps, I should start a side business and make my fortune.  I could be known as the Mattress King of England.  Maybe some of you would like to get in on this opportunity with me.  I am sure it is a solid investment opportunity.  I think I should sleep on this idea and decide in the morning; that is if I can keep that spring from puncturing through my skin tonight.

I shouldn’t complain too much as the small inconveniences of traveling make you appreciate home more.  I will be heading back home on Friday and am excited to see my family and sleep in my own bed again.  I will be providing a complete detail of the Cereals Show along with some photos for my next post.  Have a good night sleep.

Ag Leader

Jun, 08 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Creating reports using precision farming software

During this time of year, we get a lot of questions from customers concerning how many acres they planted for their FSA reports, how much of a particular product in a tank mix was applied, or what their productivity (acre/hour) was while driving through the field.  This is all information that can be determined by making reports in your precision ag desktop software.

smsgenericlogo

In SMS, this can easily be done by clicking the New General Report icon on the main toolbar or by going to File - New - General Report.  There are several pre-defined reports that have already been created.  Here you will choose the report that best fits your needs.  For planting and spraying reports, I recommend starting with the Crop Type Summary Report and Product Summary Report.  The first two screens allow you to filter the data to be included in the report.  You will notice in SMS Basic/Advanced Version 10.0 we made changes to allow you to make reports for multiple operations at one time.  This will be helpful for those of you that are applying multiple products at the same time, such as applying starter fertilizer while planting.  The third screen will show you what items will be included for your report for each operation, and you have the ability to click the Edit button to make modifications if you like.  By clicking the Edit button, you have the ability to add additional attributes and properties as columns to the report.  I don't have room to list them all, but few possibilities include:

Productivity - area per hour the vehicle was covering in the field.

Total Product Amount Used/Needed - total number of bags of seed used based on as-applied information or the amount of bags needed based on  prescriptions or crop plans.

Start and End Date - dates when operations begin and end.

Also in Version 10.0, we added two new items for reports that are quite useful and can be seen in the Version 10.0 release video.  The first is the Sort List By drop down menu.  This allows you to choose one column to sort your reports by.  Examples of things you could sort by are: acres, application rate or even total amount used on the field.

The second item to take note of is the check box for Add Mix Component Attributes.  In the past if you wanted to see the total amount applied for items in your tank mix like glyphosate, AMS, water, etc, you would have to add each of those items manually.  In Version 10.0, you simply need to select Estimated Amount, or any other attribute, and check the Add Mix Component Attributes box and SMS will automatically tell you the values for all of the items within the tank mix.

On the final screen, you have the ability to choose the Summary Type. This determines the source of your information and allows you to change report colors, change the logo to be printed on the reports and save the settings for the next time you run the report.  To see a couple of sample reports, click the following links:

Planting – Crop Type Summary Report

Planting – Product Summary Report

Spraying – Product Summary Report

If you need help running a report or have questions, please feel free to contact our Support Team and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Ag Leader

Jun, 04 2010 - by Michael Vos

Insurance and Government Reporting

FSA Logo

Keeping accurate records of all areas planted for a crop, has become a necessary part of agriculture. If you take part in government programs, you need to make a trip to the local FSA office to certify the acres and specify the crop planted on each field. If you have changed field boundaries, planted corn on corn, or removed some alfalfa remembering all these details and matching the FSA acres can be a burden.

Three things can be helpful before you go to the government office (FSA).

  1. Print maps and reports to assist in the process of identifying the fields and crops planted. The government will not use the acres on your maps because they use the CLU (Common Land Units) acres, but your maps are very helpful in the identification process. Putting a satellite image in the background of the planting maps is also very helpful in associating your fields to the government CLUs.
  2. To ensure everything is done accurately and timely, be patient and go early. There are federal rules regarding misreported acres and you want your information to be reported accurately.
  3. As soon as planting is over, report your acres to your insurance agent first. You can then use your acreage reports from the agent to simplify the certification process with the government office.

Reporting to your insurance agent is another important step. Here are a few things to remember when working with your insurance agent.

Planting map from SMS containing percentage legend. Click to enlarge.

  1. Many of you will be using the Biotechnology Endorsement, which is where you receive a premium adjustment based on a percentage of the field being planted to a qualifying hybrid. To see if your hybrids are on the list, go here. Since this is done on a percentage basis, you can use the planting maps in SMS with the percentages in the legends to assist in this process.
  2. For Iowa the acreage reporting deadline is June 30th while Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio is July 15th. Go here for a complete list for your state, even though the dates on the site are not current, the dates are still accurate.
  3. A new insurance rule for 2010 is that specialty soybeans must be reported by specialty type. Small and large food grade, low linolenic, low saturated fat and high protein soybeans are all types of specialty soybeans that need to be identified. Again having a record of these crops is essential in the reporting process.

So, providing accurate information to the government and for insurance coverage is an important aspect of agriculture. Utilize the tools in SMS Software to assist in these reporting processes.

Ag Leader

Jun, 03 2010 - by Paul Rose

International Perspective: Visiting with farmers in South Africa

As I write this I am at the end of my second week in South Africa. During my second week here, I have been travelling around meeting some farmers.  We’ve been discussing their thoughts on precision farming and why they have adopted it. Coincidentally, I was also present during the installation of the first ParaDyme™ system sold into Africa.

Hanno Truter of CLM with Dries Englebrecht and Jaco Hamman of Dries Presies

Dries Minaar is the owner of the CAT MT865C that this has been fitted to. He farms 2000ha (5000ac) near Bothaville, in the Freestate. The entire area is planted with maize (corn in the US) each year, moisture permitting and averages 5t/ha (approximately 80bu/ac). He runs a staff of 18 and mainline machinery includes:

CAT MT 856C 3 x CAT 45’s JD 4730 sprayer Harvesting is contracted so he does not own a combine

Corn here is on wide row spacing of 1.5m (60”). The reason for wide rows like this comes down to available moisture during the growing season. Water is one of the most limiting factors, however it is not because of lack of rainfall (500-600mm/20-24” annually), but because they do not always get rain at the right time. It comes in big deluges here, which were especially bad this year, and caused some crops to suffer as a consequence.

Mr. Ashley Whitfield

Narrow Maize 5022

Sunflowers on the Whitfield farm.

When asked about his reasons for adopting precision farming, the answer was simple: “If you don’t do it properly, don’t do it all”. He believes precision farming is the key to success in an industry where making the most efficient use of inputs is the only way to ensure long term sustainability. So, my trip to South Africa has come to an end and as always it has been an enjoyable experience. I will leave you with one of my favourite images of South Africa – the fabulous sunsets:

South African Sunset

Ag Leader

Jun, 02 2010 - by John Howard

Selecting the proper spray nozzle

ExpNozzle-from-Teejet

This past weekend as I drove home from one of my niece's graduation ceremony in northern Iowa I was passing the time by thinking about quickly things change.  It seems like it was just last week that her mother, dad and I took her to her first 4th of July parade. I’ll never forget that the antique tractors, or at least the engine noise of the tractors, interested her more than anything else in the parade. As I drove by someone spraying pre-emergent chemical, I focused my attention on how much things have changed with sprayers and the related technology over that same period of time. Though a common sight today, a machine with a 100' boom and 1200-gallon tank moving across the field at 20+ MPH would have been a newsworthy story not that long ago. Contrast that machine to the first self-propelled sprayer I remember on our family farm. It was a three-wheeled, air-cooled, front-wheel drive with a 30' foot boom. Something my brother and I could easily outrun on our single speed bicycles. Effectively operating these modern machines at high speed would be difficult at best if technologies like GPS, automatic swath control, automated steering, guidance and automatic boom height control were not an integral part of the sprayer. Even with these technologies at our disposal, none of them diminish the importance of proper controller settings and selection of the proper spray nozzle for the application.

TurboDuo_redCap-from-Teejet

The process of selecting a correct nozzle was much easier when machine speeds were slow and relatively consistent and your nozzle choices were limited to brass flat fans …or brass flat fans. Today, when selecting spray nozzles you can still dig through manufacturers’ catalogs with calculator in hand but there are also resources on the internet that are generally much easier to use.  I quickly found the following links by searching for “agricultural spray nozzles”; a more intense search could definitely provide more results. Due to lengthy URLs, I've shortened the links to each of these spray nozzle manufacturer's interactive spray nozzle selection tools. Hardi Hypro Global Spray Solutions TeeJet Technologies Wilger Look hard enough and you may even find an app for your smartphone. Hope you find these tools useful. Have a safe and product spring season. Image credit:  Images included in this post were obtained using the Image Library from TeeJet Technologies.

Ag Leader

May, 28 2010 - by Nick Ohrtman

Getting the most out of your DirectCommand system

integra-boom-height

In my last post I talked about getting your sprayer ready for another season and some of the common settings used to fine tune your DirectCommand system. This week I will be discussing some additional features to use to get the best possible performance out of your sprayer.

Minimum Flow - This setting is used to maintain a consistent spray pattern by not allowing flow to drop below the minimum gallons per minute required for sprayer nozzles.  In order to determine this setting you will need to consult the manufacturer's tip chart and multiply the minimum flow for each nozzle by the number of nozzles on the boom. This setting will be changed under the Configuration Settings screen and will ensure you maintain a full spray pattern when applying at lower speeds. PWM Standby - This is a user-defined setting when using a PWM valve for rate control. It determines the percent duty cycle the system uses when the booms are all off. This will help the system maintain pressure when all sections are off and make it easier for the system to obtain it's target rate at the start of each pass. Tank Mixes - Tank mixes can be used when you are applying a mix of liquid products through one solution line. A tank mix can include up to seven products and will provide more accurate documentation of the products applied. When you use tank mixes you are able to record the total amount of product dispensed along with the amount of each specific product in the mix.
SmartRep1
Smart Report™ - The Smart Report is used to easily obtain hard records on what has been applied in the fields and what the conditions were at the time of application. They contain information such as EPA numbers, operator license number, total amounts of each product applied, wind speed and wind direction - just to name a few. Boundaries - An outer boundary is used to map the field border and determine the outside of the field.  You can also use inner boundaries to mark parts of the field that you would like to be excluded from application (e.g. waterways, terraces, etc). Boundaries can be created during application or in your desktop software. Clear Bounds - This button is pressed if you wish to center the map on the current GPS positions. Most commonly this is used when there is a flier point and the map is not being displayed during application, even though all data is being logged and the system is working as expected.  Flier points occur when there is a point on the map that is further than two miles away from the current GPS position. Clear Bounds can be found under the Field Information screen in the display.

Good luck as the growing season continues! Should you need any help with your precision equipment, don't hesitate to give Ag Leader Tech Support a call.

Ag Leader

May, 26 2010 - by Dave King

The Khaki Farmer

Farmer Hats

If you are a farmer in North America there is no doubt you wear a lot of different hats during the day. I am not referring to a Pioneer or Dekalb hat, but the hat of grain marketer, accountant, agronomist, machine operator, etc.  You are heavily involved in all aspects of your operation.  This is not the case in other parts of the world.  In areas of South America, Eastern Europe, Russia and the former CIS countries (former Soviet Republics) it is common to meet a different type of farmer, “the khaki farmer”.

You are probably asking yourself, what is a khaki farmer?  The term khaki farmer refers to a farmer who runs and operates the business side of the farm without actually performing any of the labor, or very little of it, themselves.  These farmers spend most of their time behind a desk – marketing grain, negotiating equipment and input purchases, meeting with bankers, insurance providers, etc.  The khaki farmer employs farm managers and farm laborers to make sure the work gets done.

In order to manage such large operations the khaki farmer needs information.  They are not able to be hands-on in every activity of the operation and therefore do not have first-hand knowledge of each field.  To get the information they need the khaki farmer relies on precision farming tools.  They use soil sampling, yield maps and aerial imaging to help determine their fertilizer requirements and create prescription maps. Information collected with handheld PDAs during crop scouting helps determine herbicide and fungicide applications.  Previous yield data for different hybrids and varieties leads to decisions on which seed to plant in which field.  The more information they have the better they can manage their operation.

khakis

The khaki farmer is always looking for ways technology can make their job easier and more efficient.  One of the new technologies these farmers are looking to use is wireless data transfer.  Sending and receiving information from the field to office, or tracking vehicles and operation progress in real-time are just a couple ways this technology can provide information to make better and timelier decisions.  Crop sensing is another new technology the khaki farmer is interested in.  In addition to mapping and data collection, these sensors can read the crops’ nitrogen needs in real-time and then automatically adjust the application of nitrogen on-the-go, making the input use more efficient and improving the bottom line.

While most farmers may not wear khaki pants and a dress shirt when they leave the house in the morning they are part khaki farmer whether they want to admit it or not.  Every farmer has to deal with the business side of their operation at some point and most do not care what type of pants they are wearing when doing it.  However, they will care about the information they have at hand to help them.  Quality information is important and precision farming can help provide the information necessary to make profitable decisions. Keep that in mind as you go through the growing season, what information could you use?  Are there investments in technology to be made before harvest? Next year?

Ag Leader

May, 25 2010 - by Michael Vos

Scouting the crop

LessingFlynn071304-AgLeader-163

This is a fun time of year.  A time when we watch the crops grow from a seed to a mature plant. Perhaps only a farmer would call watching a plant grow a fun time!  The growing season is the best time to continue to learn how the complex environment of weather, soil and plants interact with our practices to produce a crop.  We all know this as crop scouting. No matter what new technology continues to emerge, scouting the crops remains an important part of production agriculture.  This idea is supported by the numerous universities that hold training courses on how to effectively scout your crops.  These classes were held earlier this spring, but they still provide some useful information.  I also noticed a few of them provide handbooks that are also very helpful and it  seems like every agronomy student is still required to purchase these books.  Here are just a few of the many links out there. 

Crop Scouting Schools:

Iowa State University University of Nebraska Penn State North Dakota State University University of Illinois

Crop Scouting Handbooks:

Introduction to Crop Scouting, University of Missouri Crop Diagnostic Notebook, Iowa State University

Weed Books:

Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains Weeds of California and Other Western States

Integrated Pest Management Sites:

The Ohio State University University of California Michigan State University Purdue University University of Illinois Iowa State University

In past years, this is the time when your seed company sends you a helpful guide on how to calculate population for your row spacing. This is a beneficial exercise, but don’t forget that population is only one variable affecting the final yield. With so many variable affecting the final yield, I think two things are helpful to commit to doing:

Make a schedule to scout. Commit to scout your fields for the entire season. Similar to marketing your grain, it is helpful to put a plan together ahead of time to help you stay focused. Some hire a crop scout, others do it themselves. Either way, make sure you get through your fields learning about what changes you can make for this crop, and even next year's crop. Document what you see. There are a lot of things to remember.  Some use a paper scouting report for each field, writing the important information on the page.  Others use technology devices, like handhelds (with GPS) with predefined scouting lists like our SMS Mobile software.  Both of these documentation methods are useful for learning.  Just make sure it is documented! Here are a few examples of scouting reports:  Condensed Scouting Report, Detailed Scouting Report.

When attending conferences this winter, there were many presentations on products that will increase your profit. These claims are often supported only by providing yield information. I often ponder why more specific information is not provided about the farm sites where the yields were gathered.  Is the only thing that really matters the final yield? I don't think so, but logically presenters know the numbers more than the specifics of the farms where the numbers come from.  While we are thankful that some of us are dedicated to researching and providing these results, it does not guarantee anything on your farm.  No matter what products are promoted, you continue to be the one that can learn the most from the crops on your farm. This year, make a commitment to learn from your crop.

Ag Leader

May, 21 2010 - by Paul Rose

International Perspective: NAMPO Harvest Days in South Africa

As I write this post, I am enjoying the warm sunshine in the Freestate, South Africa. It is currently winter down here but even so, temperatures rise to 25° C (77° F) during the day. However it does drop to zero (32° F) overnight. My reason for being here is to visit our South African distributor CLM Precision Agriculture and to attend the annual NAMPO Harvest Days, which is the largest agricultural exhibition in South Africa.

]Picture shows CLM PA staff. L-R: Jan Vorster, Hanno Truter, Harvene MacDonald, Hendrik Jonker, Steyn Du Preez and Mac Nel.

CLM PA is based in Bethlehem and currently employs seven people. They also have a network of resellers throughout their area. The precision ag business is actually part of a family of businesses including land levelling, survey and construction. It is privately owned and run by a small group of directors that are actively involved in the company. CLM PA has been an Ag Leader Distributor since 2006 (though Ag Leader has had a presence in South Africa since 2000) and has built a strong business originally established around yield monitoring. Since then, the business has diversified into variable rate application (VRA), guidance and SMS software. CLM PA covers one of the largest geographical areas of all our distributors because although they are based in South Africa, they also service the whole of Africa. Apart from the sheer logistical challenges, one of the biggest challenges is to modify the Ag Leader equipment to suit African conditions. A lot of application equipment here is home-built or manufactured in South Africa. This means there are no custom kits so most installs have to be customised to suit the application at hand. But once a year, all staff from CLM PA head to Bothaville, South Africa for the NAMPO show. To give you a bit of perspective, Bothaville is about two hours southwest of the capital of South Africa, Johannesburg.

Birdseye view of NAMPO.

For the last 26 years, NAMPO has held the Harvest Days during May. The first Harvest Day was held in 1967 and then it changed to NAMPO Harvest Days in 1974. It is now held over 4 days and attracts an estimated 60,000 visitors.  It is quite an international show with companies represented from all over the world including Argentina, Brazil, the US and the UK to name but a few. Whilst the emphasis is on agricultural, there are several other exhibitors here that are involved in a diverse range of products ranging from construction equipment to safari camping gear.

Typical bakkie (pick-up truck to the rest of us!) kitted out with camping gear.

Having spent the last three days here at NAMPO, it has been a good opportunity to catch up with CLM  PA and also to meet some of their  customers. As with most of the rest of the world, the economy has had an impact on the buying capacity of the farmers. The maize price has also been low over the last few months which mean farmers have been holding on to the crop hoping that the price may increase. There does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel though as there has been good rainfall this year which will lead to a good yield when harvest starts in the next week or two. With all this said though, the progressive farmers are still keen on the technology and are well aware of the benefits it brings. “Not only have our customers used Ag Leader products successfully for variable rate application of granular and liquid fertilisers over the past few years, but lately our vegetable farming customers have used the RTK ParaDyme steering to plant high cash vegetable crops. By using the ParaDyme steering unit they have managed to add an additional two rows of vegetables per hectare.” Hanno Truter, Managing Director CLM PA. Without the determination and willingness to overcome challenges that CLM PA has faced, the business would not be the success it is today. So as the NAMPO Harvest Days draw to a close, I find myself sitting back and enjoying the South African sunset. Despite all the challenges this country has overcome and the ones it still faces, I have to say that it is one of my favourite places to visit in the world.

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