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Podcast Ep. 177: Documenting Tillage

29 Sep 2022

In this episode, we're going to be talking about best practices for documenting tillage — an important topic during harvest. 

You can find past podcast episodes and view show notes by visiting our Podcast website

Watch related: Get Started with Work Planner in the John Deere Operations Center

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Read the entire transcript from the latest episode

This was something that should be talked about just because of the season that we're in and some of the questions some people may have about documenting tillage passes. Traditionally speaking, or thinking about some of the passes that we document, or some of the agronomic information that we collect, of course the first one that comes to mind is yield. That was the one that started it all, was documenting our yield so we had something to put into our toolbox to start making educated decisions off of.

Now, fast forward, documenting yield goes back to the mid to late '90s, I believe, so fast forward here to 2022, and we can document so much more than just yield. We throw in documenting our planter pass, so we're documenting our population, our seeds per acre, pounds per acre. We're documenting our fertilizer applications, whether it be on that planter or pre-planting or fall application, whatever that may be. We've got planting documentation and now with the HD data that we can get off of the John Deere planters. It's way more than population.

We've got applied down force, we've got seed singulation or seed spacing, we've got all of that. The speed, the applied down force, the target margin. So many data layers that we pull in. The next one would've been application. I touched on that with the planter. We talk about whether it be fertilizer application, we talk about our spray passes or our crop protection passes. All of that stuff is documented on target application, as applied application. The amount of gallons or pounds, whatever products we're putting down, all of that stuff is documented. Then we move into harvest, well actually we're going backwards into harvest.

Went down the line of the seasons, not how they came about, but with harvest, we get yield, we get moisture, we get-- Oh gosh, there's so many all other different applications or agronomic data layers that are coming in. When we talk about that, we've got, like I said, our moisture, our yield, our speed. We've got variety data that comes in, a lot of different things. Now, if we have connected machines, JD link connected machines, all of those data layers, whether it be planting, application, harvest, we also get machine data along with that. We're documenting our fuel efficiency. We're documenting total fuel utilized fuel per hour, fuel per area.

All that stuff is being documented, and then we start looking at productivity. What does our productivity look like? Now, I say all of this stuff because those are, again, going back to the '90s, starting with harvest. That is what we think of when we think agronomic data. We think of our yield maps, our planter as applied maps, and maybe some fertilizer or crop care. Our spraying maps. Those agronomic data layers are what we focus on when we talk about agronomic data and making decisions. Now, here we are today going to talk about documenting your tillage pass, and the big question I always get is, "Why would I document my tillage pass? We're just out there turning the soil over, making it black, bearing residue, sizing residue," whatever it may be on your operation.

Maybe you don't do tillage. Maybe you're a no-till farm, minimum till, strip till, all those other ones. We don't know. There's different reasons for every operation, whether you're next door neighbors or you're halfway across the world. Everybody does it just a little bit different. Going back to why we should start documenting our tillage operations, it's going to come down to no different or no other reason than the same reason we document our harvest or we document our planting. With these data layers, we can utilize them in our toolbox to make educated decisions for the future.

Now the data layers that come in with tillage are somewhat limited at this point because documenting your tillage pass is actually fairly new to the industry. Now, some of you out there that already have John Deere true set tillage, you're ahead of the game. With John Deere true set, we've actually got a number of data layers that are going to come in with applied depth, applied down pressure. If you have rolling baskets, you got your target depth, your target pressure, we can document if we're running a map based tillage or prescription tillage, we document that stuff. Even those of you that don't have true set tillage on your tillage equipment, we can still put in a just a base, a generic piece of information as long as we set up the operation within that display.

Whether you're using 2,600s, 2,630s gen four 4,600, or 4,640s excuse me, or the 4,600 on the command arm, we just need to make sure we set up that operation to document tillage. Now we can go in and we can just put a flat, "Hey, we're tilling this ground at four inches deep," or whatever it may be. We can put that in and it's still going to give us the information that we want. That being, we're just going to have a set target or set applied depth, but we're going to be able to bring in our speed, we're going to be able to bring in our productivity, our fuel usage, all of that type of stuff, and start to take that information and compile it with our yield data, our variety data, our different soil types, and be able to make decisions based of all that information.

Now, in this part of the world, a lot of people have hired hands out doing tillage. Or maybe it's yourself doing the tillage and different things happen. You go throughout the day, maybe you're going a little bit faster because you want to get to your grandson's football game or your son's football game, or if it's in the spring, you want to get to a baseball game or a track meet or whatever it may be. We all do our little things to speed up or slow down or cut corners, whatever it may be. When we document that, we can start to see things happening. Say we have a targeted tillage speed of five miles an hour, and we decide, "This field's tilling up good. I'm going to speed up to six and a half miles an hour."

When we do that, we're changing our practices. We're changing the way that soil profile sits based on the tillage tool we're using and the speed that we're utilizing it at. Now, every tillage tool out there, doesn't matter if it's John Deere or any other manufacturer out there, they all have best practices when it comes to speed. They have ideal operating speeds on all the different products, the different types of tillage, everything. They all have an ideal speed. Now, even if we're in within that ideal speed, what we can see, and I have personally seen it myself in different data sets, if we go from five miles an hour to, let's say, six and a half or seven miles an hour doing some tillage, we could potentially, now again, I say potentially, see yield differences based on how that ground is being worked.

Now, a lot of stuff goes into that. It's how our growing season comes upon us. It's the variety or hybrid we choose, it's which crop reach we choose, it's the amount of pest pressure that we have throughout the season. There's a lot that goes into that, but I'm saying that there is opportunity to start learning from our tillage passes. The other thing we can do is taking tillage and bringing it to our planting data or looking at it with our planting data when we start to talk about rye quality and ground contact and amount of downforce needed or amount of downforce applied. All of that information can be bundled together and utilized.

Again, the question I get, "Why do I want to document my tillage pass? It's just another thing I have to remember." Yes, it is, but again, if you get something with TruSet Tillage, that documentation is already happening. If you don't have TruSet Tillage on it we can set that up to document and collect those data layers within the John Deere operation center. You don't need a John Deere tillage tool with TruSet. TruSet is John Deere exclusive, but you don't need a John Deere tillage tool to document your tillage pass. You can be utilizing any of the other manufacturers out there and we can set up a generic tillage pass within your display.

Again, wasn't a ton to talk about here, but I felt that this topic was valuable for those that maybe they're questioning documenting the tillage pass or they don't really see value in documenting the tillage pass. I can assure you there is value in documenting every pass across that field, that being your tillage, both primary and secondary. Tillage, planting and seeding, your application, your harvest. All four of those operations, collecting any data we can get is only going to help us make educated decisions for the next year, and the next year, and the next year.

We start to compound and compile that data, we can start to see trends, whether they be good trends or bad trends. We can take that information and use it to make our operations better, make them more efficient. We start to talk about productivity or efficiency with some of the tillage, especially. You want to get across that ground in an efficient manner but also still doing a good job. All of that stuff can be brought into thought when we are documenting that. You're only out in the field for a certain amount of time, and maybe it's not even you, maybe it's a hired hand, and by documenting this information we can learn more about what's going on across our whole operation.

That is all I have this week. I just again wanted to touch on documenting your tillage pass and just the amount of value that it can bring you when you document your tillage, your planting and seeding, your application and your harvest. Taking all four of those operations, all four of those seasons, utilizing that information, utilizing that agronomic data to make our educated decisions and make our operations better, more efficient, more productive. In the end hopefully we're reducing our costs, we're increasing our revenues, and just doing a better job.

Hopefully this information was helpful for you and you can take it back to your operation and maybe learn something new this season by documenting your tillage pass. With that, we'll catch you on the next one. Please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already. You can subscribe to the show on the many different podcasting apps that we're streaming this out to, such as Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, as well as many others. While you're out there, drop us a review. We'd love to hear what you think about the show.

Lastly, make sure to follow RDO Equipment Company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and catch all of our latest videos on Youtube. You can also follow me on Twitter @RDOTonyK.



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