Precision Point Blog

Ag Leader

Apr, 14 2010 - by Dave King

Farming in Chile - After the Earthquake

Rodrigo Pic 2

On February 27th of this year Chile was struck by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake causing great damage to the country. Rodrigo Ortega Blu from NeoAg, the Ag Leader distributor in Chile, was near the epicenter when the earthquake struck. Thankfully, Rodrigo and the rest of the staff at NeoAg and their families were not hurt during the earthquake. Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends. It's been six weeks since the earthquake.  I recently spoke with Rodrigo when he was back near the epicenter. He states "the biggest problem for the Chilean farmers has been the damage to the infrastructure of the farming community.  Roads and bridges were destroyed making it very difficult to get machinery and supplies where needed." Harvest is coming and many farmers are concerned about getting machinery to their farms to harvest the crops.  There was a lot of damage to irrigation canals and dams causing the loss of crops due to flooding in some areas and lack of water in others.  Additional losses occurred due to grain bins and elevators being destroyed and storage tanks at wineries collapsing spilling all of their contents.  While the grain from the damaged bins and elevators can be recovered at a cost, the wine is a complete loss.

Grain storage facility in Concepción

On top of the damage to the infrastructure, Chilean growers are struggling with trying to operate their farms without a home.  Rodrigo says, "There are a lot of farm families that are living in tents or makeshift shelters because their homes were destroyed by the quake.  Even though their homes are gone the farm work must get done so they can earn their living." Farming without a home?  Quite the testament to the Chilean spirit and perseverance. With all the damage and destruction Chilean farmers do appear to be optimistic.  Commodity prices have come back after falling right after the earthquake.  A new government that is more favorable to the farming community has been elected promising to help rebuild the infrastructure so that the spring planting season can occur, although it will likely be delayed.  Also, the US government extended the period for Chilean imports into the US by two weeks allowing more growers to get their products (mainly fruits and vegetables) exported. We wish Rodrigo and the Chilean farmers the best of luck as they work to recover from the destruction of the earthquake.  Our prayers are with them.

Ag Leader

Apr, 13 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Are you a "field doctor"?

Planting season has arrived.  Time to implement all the things you learned last year into your operation for the 2010 growing season.

If there is one thing I learned while growing up on a farm, it's that a farmer's job changes every day.  As an owner and/or operator, farmers are tasked with jobs ranging from electrician to mechanic to machinery operator and the list goes on and on; but how many of us would have thought to consider adding "field doctor" to this list?

Just like a doctor prescribes the amount and type of medicine to a patient, you have the ability to prescribe products and rates to the field.  The difference here is that the doctor doesn't have variable rate technology on his side.  Unlike the doctor at the clinic who only gets to choose one dosage to give his patient, you have the ability to choose multiple rates to apply within the same field.  This can be accomplished with any product type: seed, liquid or dry fertilizer, or a chemical.  Precision farming desktop software gives you the ability to reference one or more maps to create variable-rate prescriptions.  Examples of maps that can be referenced are:

  • Yield data (one or more years, or a layer with multiple years averaged together)
  • Soil test results
  • Soil type
  • Hand-drawn management zones
  • Irrigated vs. dryland zones
  • Vegetative index data base on imagery or crop sensors

By creating variable-rate prescriptions and using a display that is capable of controlling the rate of application, you have the ability to apply more inputs in the ares of the field that are going to give you a higher rate of return and less in ares that do not.  Prescriptions can also be used to ensure no product is applied where there may be environmental concerns, such as spraying certain chemicals near a river bank.  If creating prescriptions is a new concept for you, you can also use your software to create check strips in small areas of the field.

Prescription map featuring

After harvest is done, you can then query the information to find out if that is something you want try on a larger scale next year.

Check out the video below to learn how to become a "field doctor" using SMS Software.


Ag Leader

Apr, 12 2010 - by Ag Leader

Getting Started: How do I narrow my precision ag choices?

When starting in precision ag, the decisions for what to use on your operation can seem daunting. What features do I need? What is best for my operation? Where will I save the most money? What brands of equipment talk to each other?  There are simple but important steps to take when you are a new user adopting precision technology. Here are some points to consider as you get started narrowing down the precision ag choices.

The information in a notebook.

The first step to getting started is to plan for what you want to accomplish, thinking in terms of both short-term and long-term goals. Make a list – what do you want to accomplish now?  What do you want to accomplish in the future? Next, research which precision ag products are out there to choose from, without getting too distracted with brand names or specific products.  Some good online resources include:,, and, as well as precision equipment manufacturers' websites.  An obvious resource is other farmers who are experienced using precision technologies. Talk to them and see what products they have benefited from; do not focus on brands, but more on what features those growers are using, and how they are impacting their operations. Will those benefits work for your operation? Of course another resource during this process can be a precision farming dealer; we discussed what makes a good dealer here. It is important to find a dealer you can trust and feel comfortable asking tough questions. A dealer should make sure you know all of your options and tailor the technology choices to best suit your needs. Keep in mind different operations call for different precision technologies. For example, a strip-till farmer may find it best to invest in a RTK signal and autosteer system to ensure that seed is put exactly where fertilizer was placed.  An operation with lots of odd shaped fields would benefit from planter section control to save on seed costs in traditionally double-planted areas as well as alleviate yield loss due to overplanting. Taking time to develop a plan and researching a wide range of technologies can help ease the decision-making process when first adapting to precision farming. Talking to others can provide scenarios you may not otherwise considered. But most importantly, remember that the most cost-effective precision technology is one that fits your operation. With that said, stay open to choices that would fit your operation while still having the option to take it to the next level. If you plan to upgrade or add additional features later, make sure your investments are made with that in mind.

Ag Leader

Apr, 08 2010 - by Nick Ohrtman

Tips for using AutoSwath


AutoSwath™ is a common feature being used in many applications this spring. For those that are not famaliar with it, AutoSwath is Ag Leader's term for automatic swath control.  This has several ROI applications, but the largest is reduced input costs by not overlapping already applied/planted areas.  You can learn more about the feature here and here. When setting up your systems make sure you check the following things to ensure your section control will work as expected...and will likely eliminate a call to your dealer or Ag Leader Tech Support.

Coverage Options - There are three different coverage options you can choose from:  Minimize Skip, Minimize Overlap and User-Defined.  These options will determine when your sections will turn off as they enter an already-covered area.

  • Minimize Skip will turn off the section when the entire section is an already covered area.
  • Minimize Overlap will turn off the sections when they first enter a covered area.
  • User-Defined allows you to set the percentage of your section that needs to be in a covered area before the sections turn off.

AutoSwath Look Aheads - The "Turn On" and "Turn Off" look aheads are used to determine how far ahead the system looks ahead to turn your sections on or off.  You can find the recommended settings for look aheads in the operator's manual.  If the Turn Off is larger than the Turn On look ahead you will see issues with the system turning off and back on when entering a covered area.

GPS Offsets - GPS offsets are used to determine the distance from your GPS antenna to the application point on an implement.  When setting up your configurations make sure to enter all the GPS offsets for your equipment. You will need to enter GPS offsets for both the vehicle and implement used in your configuration.

GPS Settings- Most Ag Leader GPS receivers come from the factory setup at lower hertz and baud rates to accommodate basic precision ag monitors.  In order to run AutoSwath minimum requirements of 5 hertz GPS signal and a baud rate of 19200 must be met.  If you are using Ag Leader GPS units, you can change these setting through your Ag Leader display.  If you are using non-Ag Leader GPS, consult the owner's manual of that unit to determine where to make these settings changes.

Boundaries - Used to determine what parts of the field you would like to apply.  First you will make an outer boundary of the field, generally the field border.  Once you have an outer boundary established, you can add internal boundaries to map out areas of the field you would like to excluded from operations, such as waterways and terraces.


To summarize, if you're having an issue with AutoSwath, check the above list before calling your dealer or Tech Support.  It will likely save you some time and frustration.

Ag Leader

Apr, 07 2010 - by Paul Rose

40,000 ha Croatian company adopts precision ag

Croatia - not a country that immediately comes to mind when talking about precision farming.  However, in this country of 4.5 million people there is one company that is now adopting this new technology.  Agrokor Group is the largest farming company in Croatia and farms approximately 40,000 ha with a variety of crops from wheat to vineyards.  Agrokor Group was formed in 1995 but one of its companies dates back to 1697!

Testing VRA using InSight display and Bogballe trailed spreader

Agrokor has always been ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and management practices; one example of this is the wheat crop. Average yield for Croatia is approximately 4t/ha (metric tons/hectare) but Agrokor have managed to double this yield to 8t/ha by using modern farming practices and management.

Recently, they have started exploring the world of precision farming.  The main driving factors behind this are to improve productivity and efficiencies whilst maintaining a high quality product.  It wasn't long before they discovered Ag Leader.  Within the space of a couple of months, I visited the farm for the first time with Ag Leader distributor Findri. Our mission was to test variable rate application (VRA) of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) based on a prescription map using the Ag Leader InSight™ display and Bogballe fertilizer spreader.  Testing was a resounding success and has since been followed up with a second visit by me and Ag Leader staff.

Ag Leader staff training user on OptRx system

OptRx™ (Ag Leader's new crop sensor) was also of great interest to Agrokor, not only because of the benefits of real-time VRA nitrogen (N), but also because it seamlessly integrates with their existing equipment.  Initial testing was a success and further trials are to be carried out this year.  The main focus of the trials is to see what real world benefits this technology can bring to Agrokor.  What they are hoping for is more efficient use of N, not necessarily larger yields.

It is a common misconception that VRA N will increase yields when this is not necessarily always the case.  The main goal of this technology is to put product where it is needed and not waste it where it is not needed.  In some cases this many mean higher average yields, in other cases it may mean less N use, but maintaining average yield.

For 2010, trials will be conducted in various locations withing the Agrokor Company and will compare standard practise of applying a flat rate of N versus VRA N using the sensors.  Both practices will rely on local agronomic input to make sure the best results are achieved.  As with the initial trails for VRA P and K, the University of J.J. Strossmayer in Osijek, Faculty of Agriculture will be involved to validate the results and carry out any statistical analysis.

University of J.J. Strossmayer, Faculty of Agriculture called in to carry out testing of VRA

Ag Leader

Apr, 06 2010 - by Michael Vos

A Report Card for Your Farm

Precision ag tools can improve efficiency in the field.  These tools also provide information from the field to be viewed with computer software.  With so much technology and ways to improve your operation, the difficulty is deciding which solutions are right for you.  I've heard it said, "there are a lot of rabbits to chase and you can't chase them all". Software that reads the information from your precision ag displays gives you the ability to quantify the changes you made and see which ones profited.  The largest value from precision ag data is that it is truly your information!  Only your information gives you data from your unique fields.  Only your information gives you a report about your final yields, combined with your management practices.  And only your information can help make you the most informed decision to improve on next year's crop.  Similar to getting a report card in school, your information is a "report card" for all your fields. One way to see your report card is to create maps and reports.  Most precision ag software programs create maps and reports using your information.  View this video to see it done in SMS™  Software.

If you would like to know more details about specific areas in your field, you can also use the query tools.  These tools are very powerful; we give you a brief overview of how they work here.

Ag Leader

Apr, 01 2010 - by Ag Leader

Happy Easter! Is Tech Support open?

Happy Easter - bunny & eggs

As preparations for Easter egg hunts and family dinners with some sort of ham involved are going on all over the country, so is spring field work.  If you're not in the field yet, you are preparing to be there soon.  Ag Leader's business office is closed tomorrow, April 2, 2010; that might put a kink in some of your plans...maybe you're thinking "what happens if I have a question or issue in the field, does that mean I have to wait until Monday to get an answer?" Before you panic, Ag Leader's business office is closed, but Tech Support will be open Friday, April 2 from 7am-8pm and Saturday, April 3 from 8am-4pm.  Tech Support will be closed Sunday, April 4. We wish you an enjoyable and safe holiday weekend!  Happy Easter! PS - This is not an April Fool's joke! smile

Ag Leader

Mar, 31 2010 - by Dave King

International Perspective


While Ag Leader is usually thought of as a North American company, we have been selling into the international market for 16 years and currently have distribution in over 30 countries.  We are fortunate to work with a great group of distributors who represent the Ag Leader brand across the globe.  Some of our distributors have been with us from the beginning and others are new to the Ag Leader family.  Our distributors have helped us bring the benefits of precision ag products to growers around the world, and for this we thank them. The international market for precision agriculture is complex with different farming practices and equipment for each country and region of the world.  It can be a challenge to adapt our products to meet the needs of the farmers in different parts of the world, from fertilizing sugar cane in Brazil to harvesting corn with six-foot row spacing in South Africa.  Needless to say, the challenges keep things interesting for us as we continue to expand our international operations.

Rows of corn are six feet apart.

Through the course of this blog, myself and other staff who work with our overseas customers, will highlight some of the ways growers from around the world are using precision farming equipment and learn a little more about how their farming operations work.  We will also showcase some of our foreign distributors and find out what precision ag practices are relevant to their region. For more information regarding Ag Leader distributors throughout the world, here's a link to our Dealer Locator.  If you have a question about global precision farming practices, drop us a line.

Ag Leader

Mar, 30 2010 - by Ag Leader

Getting Started: What makes a good precision ag dealer?


Starting out in precision farming can seem easier when a knowledgeable dealer is on your side. What makes a good precision ag dealer? What questions should you ask when talking with dealers about adopting new technologies?

It’s important to feel comfortable with a precision ag dealer. A good precision ag dealer gives you all the choices and provides information that would better your operation. Your operation is different than anyone else’s. First, you should explain your operation to a precision ag dealer. You want to make sure the dealer knows what your goals are, specifically in terms of precision technology. What do you want to be able to do? Your precision farming dealer can then give you options to choose from.

Second, ask your dealer what kind of service is provided after the product is purchased. How can you reach them if something goes wrong during planting or harvest seasons? What do they have to offer when it comes to technical support? Do they have specific employees designated to providing technical service? This is important to know because the dealer relationship is not finished after the sale. Chances are there will be times you have a question about your equipment. Make sure you have someone there when you need an answer.

Third, how can you learn to best use the precision equipment that you purchase? Some dealerships offer trainings on specific products or put on seminars for general precision ag information. Others can point you in the right direction to find those resources. It is important that you have a way to learn more about your precision technologies so you can advance your operation.

A well-rounded dealer can help you make informed decisions. They may not always know the right answer, but they know where the answer can be found. Use the above points to create your own questions for a precision dealer and think through the answers they provide. These questions are by no means comprehensive, but a great place to start when considering precision technology.

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