You can find past podcast episodes and view show notes by visiting our Podcast website.
Have precision ag questions? We have the answers. Find a specific channel dedicated to answering your precision technology questions: Precision Ag Answers.
Read the entire transcript from the latest episode,
Welcome back to another season of the Agriculture Technology Podcast. Yes, this is season eight. We are in 2023. Happy New Year to everybody. I hope you had a wonderful and safe holiday season. I wanted to start out this season or this year talking a little bit about some on-farm learning that we can do.
Now, I know many of you out there are probably already doing this. What I'm going to talk about here is really nothing new, nothing earth-shattering. It's just something I wanted to get out there. it's something that I'm very passionate about, always learning, always adjusting. Lot of different things that we can do on farm, on the operation, to learn more about either the equipment you're currently using, the inputs you're currently using, or maybe equipment that you're interested in, curious in, whether that be attachments or performance upgrade kits or just new equipment in general.
There's a lot of stuff that can be done educating yourself prior to making those changes. Whether that be going from a conventional till to a minimum or a no-till, or maybe that's going from a conventional planter to a more high-performance, high-speed planter. Lot of different things can be done. We can learn a lot. One of the things that I don't want to overlook is it's not always agronomic value. We often think about field trials or on-farm research, and we always think about the agronomic value. One of the other things we also need to keep in mind is the economic value.
Now, I say that because inputs are going up. We've seen it for the past number of years. The input prices, they're not coming down. They continue to climb. The economic threshold of each farm's operation and where they're at and what they can afford is going to be different, but that is something that has become-- well, it's always been important, but I think it's becoming more and more important as we go on, as the input prices continue to climb. Even things with fertilizer shortages, stuff like that in recent years.
Knowing those agronomic and economic outcomes, or what we can learn or what we can do, what we can change to make sure we're doing it right on the operation. Again, I didn't really-- This isn't new information. This is just something that I wanted to talk through because we're at the beginning of the year. Those of you that have off seasons, I guess, here up in Minnesota and the Dakotas, we have a blanket of white stuff covering the ground, so we have this time to sit and think.
Those of you in climates where you're farming year-round, I'm sure this is an ongoing conversation. You probably have a learning or a planning stage at some point in your season, but up in colder climates where there is snow, we get the benefit of planning this out. Right now is a lot of times when we're doing that. I myself here, with RDO Equipment, we're doing some planning and working with local customers in the area to start working on some of these agronomic or economic field trials or plots, whatever you want to call it.
There's a lot of different things we could call it. We could call it on-farm research, field trials, learning plots, a lot of different things. Each one is a little bit different, but right now, we're in that planning stage. That's why I wanted to talk through this real briefly. Some of the things you can think about on your farm, maybe things you want to learn, maybe things you want to do. Maybe it's partnering with your local dealership or your local agronomist or co-op. Maybe it's a seed rep that you work really well with, that you want to work on some learning trials or learning plots.
Where I'm going with all of this is, there's a lot we can learn. Now, one of the things that often comes to mind for a field trial, a learning plot, or research is planters. Lot of different things we can do with planters. A number of different attachments. We've got our conventional planters and now we've got these high performance or high speed planters, things like that. Being able to take those machines and doing side-by-side comparisons.
Maybe your local dealership has a demo machine and you're able to do a side-by-side comparison across the field or a small portion of the field, run a treatment strip of the conventional planter, and then run a treatment strip of the new planter that you may be curious or interested in. That's one of the easier ones, as long as you can get your hands on this equipment. Now, I talk about your local dealership. There's also other things. Maybe you have a friend or a neighbor that would be willing to let you borrow their planter for a day, or maybe you've got, like I said, the dealership, a neighbor, or a friend, or you have a different way of getting your hands on that equipment you are curious about.
The other thing with planters that comes to mind. Planters are very easy to learn with. That's because we've got, let's say, anywhere from 4 to 48 rows that we're dealing with. What we can do with certain attachments is, we can do just a couple rows. We don't have to do the entire planter. It's not a big changeover. Let's talk, of course, the big one everybody always talks about is closing wheels.
Put a couple of closing wheels, I know I talked about this back in a previous episode, but put a couple of closing wheels on and run through the season with, let's say, four rows of your 12 or however you want to do it. Start taking data, collecting data, whether that be stand counts, looking at the emergence, looking at taking it to yield, looking at in-season effects or in-season responses to all of that stuff. There's a lot of different things that can be learned just from doing a couple rows of your planter.
Keeping on the planters, the line of planters, other things we can do is-- and we can turn these into learning plots-- is adjusting our inputs. Now, there's a lot of talk about starter fertilizer. Do I need starter fertilizer, InFurrow starter fertilizer, on my planter, or can I put it all down pre-planting, or can I put it in a split application, do half of it pre-planting and half of it in season? What can I do with that? Now, one of the things, of course, is starter fertilizer versus no starter fertilizer. One of the other things we can think about is maybe adjusting the rate. Maybe today we're putting down five gallons to the acre of whatever product that is. Maybe we can cut it back to four gallons per acre or three gallons per acre and not see a yield hit. We're not seeing any yield drag by dropping it down to three gallons per acre.
Then we do say two gallons per acre, and we do see yield drag. That is one thing that we can think about. It's not always just the equipment, but we can also start making adjustments to our inputs. Now, how do we analyze all of this? It goes back to the episode number 182, so just a couple of episodes back, the end of last season. We talked about data analysis at the end of the year. The John Deere Operations Center has a number of great tools to be able to analyze this data. Whether it be from treatment strips or it's a block trial in the corner of the field, we can, one, we could analyze it per application, or two, we could analyze it using the sub field analysis tool and drawing an area around that and getting just the data for that area.
There's a lot of different ways we can do that, lot of different tools we can use in the John Deere Operations Center. That being said, making sure we are documenting everything we do. When I say document everything we do, I'm talking about our tillage passes, our seeding and planting passes, our application, every application that we're doing, from fertilizers to crop protection with our sprayers and all of that stuff, documenting all those passes and then our harvest. Making sure we're documenting that, because when we document all four of those passes or all four of those operations, it's going to give us the maximum value of our data when we start to try learning stuff, whether it be agronomic or economic implications or the outcome of what is to come.
Taking all of that, we talk about the equipment. Where can we get the equipment? We talk about attachments. There's other things with attachments, too. Maybe it's-- I think about, say, a corn head on your combine. I know there's certain attachments or certain components that can be put on. Maybe you're looking at different types of stock rolls because you're curious of how the residue or how the stock is broke down. Put a couple rows of different stock rolls on, or half of your head with one stock roll, half of your head with the other stock roll.
Before you make that complete investment, you have the ability to learn. You have the ability to see the outcome and analyze that data and put numbers, either agronomic numbers or economic numbers, to what you're doing. We talk about collecting the data, documenting the passes, all of that stuff. The more information you have, the more educated decisions you're going to be able to make. Making sure that information is documented, making sure you are learning what you want to learn.
Now every operation is going to be different. Now is the time in your off season or your slow time, if you don't really have an off season, that is the time to sit down and think, "Okay, what do we want to learn this year?" Now again, this is nothing new. I know a lot of you operations out there are doing this today, but ask yourself this question. This is why I wanted to do this episode this time of the year. Ask yourself the question, "What do I want to learn? What can we potentially change on our farm to either increase our agronomic or economic outcomes, or decrease some of the expenses that we have? Maybe we can limit some of the yield factors, or increase yield factors, limit some of the input costs. Maybe we can do a lot of different things. What do we want to learn this year?"
By doing that over and over and over again, you will slowly transition. You'll slowly learn. You'll be able to take those limiting factors of your operation and get those out of the way. Making sure that the equipment we're using, the way we're inputting and also collecting or harvesting the crop, making sure all of those limiting factors are the ones that are out of our control.
Now there's some, the equipment, the optimization of the equipment, how we operate that equipment, the attachments and the components of that equipment, all of that stuff is a limiting factor that's in control, in our control. Some of the limiting factors that are not in our control, of course, are weather, moisture. Now, yes, you could be doing some irrigation, things like that, but the amount of moisture that we have, natural disasters with weather, whether it be hail, tornadoes, things like that, those are limiting factors that aren't in control. We want to make sure that we take everything that is in control and make sure we are bringing those down.
Those are just a few things. I guess one of the things I also wanted to add is a few different types of learning that can be done. There's two buckets that I like to put things into. One is a learning plot, where we know what the potential outcome is. Let's say there is an attachment company out there that says, "Hey, you utilize this attachment, it will increase or bring your yield limitations down by two bushel per acre," or something like that, or it'll increase your yield potential by two bushel per acre. That is a known outcome, but what I've learned in the number of years that I've been in the egg industry is, we all want to know, how does that product or products, how do they react in my environment? How do they react on my farm, with my equipment, in my soil types, in my weather conditions?
Taking a piece of equipment or an attachment or an input and putting it onto your farm, it's a learning plot. We already know what the potential outcome could be. We just need simple analysis. We can do very easy comparisons by doing side-by-side treatment strips. We could do block trials or block plots, things like that, give us the ability to just do a very basic kind of a learning opportunity. Now, the other one, the flip side is going to be your on-farm research. On-farm research is a little more time-consuming. It needs more statistical analysis, replicated data, things like that.
That's something where if we don't know what the outcome is, there's no research, whether it be through extension education or it be through the manufacturer themselves. They haven't really done the research. We need a lot more data. It needs to be evaluated and analyzed at a lot deeper level. You're also likely going to have a control treatment. That being whatever we are trying to research, you're going to have a control treatment where there is no application. You're not utilizing the tool. You're not utilizing the attachment or whatever we're trying to research. You're going to have some sort of a control.
Now, a learning plot, we don't necessarily need a control. You could have a control if you wanted, but we're just trying to learn what the outcome is going to be. Maybe it's, again, back to the starter fertilizer, or maybe you're interested in inside dressing or in-season application. Putting part of the field on all pre-plant and then putting part of the field on half pre-plant, half in season, or splitting it up into thirds, however it may be, or whatever you think you want to learn on your farm.
As I said, I'm just kind of rambling on here. This is nothing new. This is nothing earth-shattering. I just wanted to talk about it to get you to start asking the question to yourself, your business partners, whoever you work with on your farm, "What can we do to learn more about our operation, about the equipment that we utilize, about the inputs that we're using Can we make adjustments to any of this to better optimize our operation?"
Think about that as you sit here. Whether you're listening to this right when it releases here in January, or you're listening to this in April when you're sitting in the planter, think about what you want to learn. Think about how you can partner with your local dealership, your agronomist, your local egg service provider. Partner with them to get the equipment you're curious about.
I know from an equipment dealership standpoint, we are always curious about the learning plots and the side-by-side trials, things like that. I know the egg service providers, the agronomists, they're also curious about a lot of that stuff. Partner with them. Partner with a friend or neighbor. Maybe you got two different types of equipment that you two would like to see run side by side. The egg industry, we love data, we love learning. We love knowing more about what is and is not possible with the equipment that we have and the inputs that we're utilizing.
I encourage you to do some of this, some of these learning plots, on-farm research, agronomic field trials, whatever you want to call them. I encourage you to learn more about your operation. Hope this was helpful to you. Again, we are going into year eight. If there is anything, you guys, if you have any ideas you want to share with us about things you'd like to learn or hear about, reach out to us. Let us know. Again, happy New Year.
Welcome to 2023, and welcome to the eighth season of the Agriculture Technology Podcast. Please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already.