SMS Software Users Get Hard Core Certified Training

Insights WeeklyComputers and software are an essential element in a grower’s toolbox to achieve greater efficiency. Without advanced software, the coming explosion of variable-rate prescriptions and precise field management zones will not be possible.

Even if you are not a power user of software yourself, it’s nice to know that those suppliers creating maps and prescriptions for your fields have the expertise. To that end, Ag Leader Technology offers it’s three-day SMS Certified Training course for its SMS Advanced Software program – held at its Ames, Iowa headquarters. The next course is July 13-15.

“This class is mostly for ‘power users’ of our SMS Advanced program, primarily service providers like crop consultants and retailers who have already been through the one-day Basic and Advanced training and have worked with the software for at least six months to a year,” says Issac Bauer, Software Support and Training Supervisor for Ag Leader. “We created these small group classes because users wanted greater in-depth knowledge of our analysis tools—from yield by hybrid and yield by soil type comparisons to writing the needed equations for prescription application.”

Not only do participants receive a 500+ page, in-depth manual (only available with this class), but they also receive 22 CCA credits toward their Certified Crop Advisor accreditation. “At the end of the course, the 10 to 12 participants are tested on their knowledge. If they pass, they earn a plaque as a Certified SMS Software user, which they can promote to their customers.”

Class size is kept small to ensure all individuals get all their specific questions answered. “Participants really like this course because they get to drill down and really understand the power of the software. Not only do they learn how to speed up the processes they are already doing, but they learn more about the analysis tools—from how to run multi-year data analysis and how to compare data sets, to learning the ins and outs of the equation editor to create management zones, create layers and make prescriptions,” Bauer says. “In addition, attendees get to interact with others from different areas and backgrounds to discuss ways they handle different situations.”

For more information on this and other SMS Software training classes, call 515-232-5363 extension 1.

For more information:

SMS Advanced Software: http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-advanced/

Upcoming SMS Software Training Classes http://www.agleader.com/customer-support/training-sessions/software-training/

ParaDyme Offers Year-Round Benefits

Insights WeeklyAnytime I hear a grower mention best corn planting in 38 years, my ears perk up and the brain wonders why? Then you hear corn seed savings of 45 bags of seed, or $9,900. Wow. I’m beginning to understand this best year deal.

Franksville, WI, grower Mike Borzynski attributes his personal best in the field due to his investment in the new Ag Leader ParaDyme steering system with the INTEGRA display. He used the system on part of his 3,500 acre grain and 4,000 acre vegetable operation—along with another 1,200 acres of custom work.

Borzynski used the INTEGRA to run the SeedCommand with his ParaDyme system to achieve those seed savings over 1,240 acres of corn. And after these results he plans to plant other crops with it in the future. “The ParaDyme worked great. After the first week using it, I bought another one,” he says. Using multiple ParaDyme systems on his operation, Borzynski is confident that he’ll see even more reduction in his input costs in the future.

The ParaDyme automated steering system can be easily transferred from one piece of equipment to another. This allows growers like Borzynski to utilize the ParaDyme not only for planting, but also for application and harvesting.

His next trial is moving this system into his John Deere 7230 tractor, using DirectCommand and his pull-type sprayer to reduce application costs. When asked if he would recommend ParaDyme to a friend or neighbor, Borzynski says without hesitation, “Absolutely. I believe in it 100 percent.”

The ParaDyme automated steering system can be used with the INTEGRA or EDGE display, and offers its users a wide range of benefits for their precision ag operations. For more information about the ParaDyme steering system, visit www.agleader.com.

For more information, visit
Ag Leader Technology Insights newsletter http://www.agleader.com/docs/insights-jun10.pdf

ParaDyme steering system http://www.agleader.com/products/steering/

Continue Your Precision Farming Equipment Knowledge

Insights WeeklyAlmost every farmer I’ve interviewed about their precision agriculture investment over the years talks about technology complexity and the HUGE value they place on their retailer’s expertise.

To that end, I like to hear about companies and their retailers continually offering product and software training to customers. Starting next week and running all summer, dealers for Ag Leader Technology will be hosting day-long product training sessions across the Midwest.

The focus is on products involved in fall operations, everything from harvest to fall tillage. “Our summer hardware training sessions will talk about Ag Leader displays, DirectCommand setup and operations, automated steering with ParaDyme and OnTrac2, yield monitoring systems and other topics,” says Andy Boyle, Training Coordinator, Ag Leader Technology. “We’ll have opportunities for customers to ask questions and bring up issues from this past year to help optimize performance and gain tips for smoother operation.”

Currently, the company has 17 sessions scheduled, winding through Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and more (see link to sessions below). “Check with your local Ag Leader dealer and ask if they plan to hold a training session,” Boyle says.

“Dealers will tailor specific topics to local needs, and primarily discuss what to do before heading to the field at harvest—such as what components to check and how to calibrate and when recalibration is needed,” he adds.

Registration is $25, which includes a meal. To register call Kimberley Warnick at 515-232-5363, extension 6205.

For more information, visit
Customer training http://www.agleader.com/customer-support/training-sessions/

Product training schedule http://www.agleader.com/customer-support/training-sessions/hardware-training/

Ag Leader Sponsors Farm Journal Corn College

Insights WeeklyWow, 19 years of test plots is a major undertaking, especially when started and conducted by a magazine. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Farm Journal Test Plots, started by Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie and Editor Charlene Finck. Initially, the plots were basically learning tools about how to grow crops better—shared with farmers. Today, Farm Journal launches into its third year of Corn College classroom and in-field events along with the test plots. And the knowledge goal remains unchanged.

This July, Ag Leader is sponsoring Farm Journal’s Corn College events near Bloomington, IL. Led by Ken Ferrie, Associate Field Agronomist, Missy Bauer and the Corn College crew, the events are packed with take-home crop production knowledge integrating both classroom and in-field instruction. The Corn College location is surrounded by 17 acres of demonstration plots which allow attendees to head out to the field with Ferrie, Bauer and other agronomic coaches.

As a sponsor of Corn College events, Ag Leader experts will present a Tech Session on crop sensors. Growers can learn details about how sensors work, how to collect crop scanning data, how to implement crop sensors into a nitrogen program and how this information can lead to successful management decisions.

“We’re participating in this event to not only educate growers on precision farming and the latest technology, but also to learn from the sessions and by visiting with growers,” says Jessica Reis, Marketing Communications Specialist for Ag Leader Technology.

The company will also be located in the vendor tent to answer questions about the latest technology trends and how growers can put together a year-round precision farming system—designed to achieve optimum input efficiency and maximum productivity.

If you cannot attend, Reis says to check out their Precision Point blog (link below) as they will be posting knowledge gained from the meetings.

Corn College is being held July 19-23. If you register for Corn College by Friday, June 18 (TODAY), you get the early-bird rate of $199. Otherwise you pay $249. Sessions are filling up fast. For more information and to register, visit www.agweb.com or http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?eventid=804054

For more information, visit

Precision Point blog http://www.agleader.com/blog/

Farm Journal Corn College https://secure.lenos.com/lenos/pcg/fjland/summer.htm

Corn College Registration http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?eventid=804054

How Software Helps In-Season Scouting and Management Zones

Insights WeeklyWhen discussion centers around all the data that fields can generate these days, crop consultants and savvy growers truly love powerful software programs. Especially when data can transfer easily between desktop and a mobile device to take to the field.

I spoke with Greg Kneubuhler the other day, who is a certified crop consultant, agronomist and owner of G&K Concepts in Harlan, Ind. Greg has been a true pioneering consultant in the NE Indiana/NW Ohio area—starting growers down the precision farming/yield gathering path back in the late 1990s. Today, his clients’ business has evolved into intensive precision management that includes precise zone management and applying the right variable-rates—all driven by on-farm research on every farm. To help accomplish such research, Greg works on numerous projects in cooperation with Joe Nester of Nester Ag, Bryan, Ohio.

“We’ve always used a zone management philosophy in fields—which started with soil types. Then we added yield and soil test data layers to begin developing variable-rate applications of nitrogen, lime, and even seed by management zones. But an accurate yield map is critical,” he says.

Kneubuhler, who has used various software over the years, now relies on SMS Advanced software from Ag Leader. Its data layering and management zone capabilities, along with its smooth data transfer between the SMS Mobile software on a handheld computer.

“I’m a daily SMS Advanced user, and I have yet to find a software that is better. If there was one, I’d be using it. I can manage all clients zones, all research trials, and easily sync data to SMS Mobile so I can use it to walk corn fields to exact locations for stalk nitrate tests or to check on potential issues that show up on aerial imagery,” he says.

These valuable information tools help Kneubuhler take all the geo-referenced data his clients collect, which he layers into his ‘sandwich.’ “As an agronomist, we use this tool to build a sandwich of every type of information we can gather—and that really helps us make very good management decisions today, and down the road.”

For more information, visit

SMS Advanced Software http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-advanced/

SMS Mobile http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-mobile/

Ag Leader Precision Point blog – “Scouting the Crop” http://www.agleader.com/2010/05/25/scouting-the-crop/

G&K Concepts http://gkconcepts.com/Contact-Us.html

Nester Ag http://www.nesterag.com/

Certified Crop Advisors https://www.certifiedcropadviser.org/

Consider Sidedress N Applications Or Mapping with OptRx Sensors

Insights WeeklyAs corn continues to grow across the Midwest, areas of heavy rain in portions of states may cause more problems than just pond replanting. Loss of applied Nitrogen can cause valuable yield loss.

I spoke with Cory De Jong, Certified Crop Advisor and GIS/Agronomy Sales at Sully Cooperative Exchange in Sully, Ia. today. They tested the Ag Leader OptRx crop sensor system last year during all the heavy rains. “We strictly used the sensors on a sprayer for mapping purposes, as we weren’t set up yet to apply nitrogen. And we saw a lot of (plant health) variability in fields, covering several thousand acres that we mapped,” he says.

“Last year, sidedressing N definitely paid due to all the spring rain we had here in central Iowa. On average, growers gained at least 15 bushels an acre by sidedressing. And if they applied variable-rate, they could have gained 30 bushels,” De Jong says. “We saw 50 bushel per acre differences within fields with the OptRx. So this year we’ve got a bar ready to custom apply with OptRx to apply sidedress N. And we have a bar with OptRx that customers can rent, too.”

De Jong says there is a lot of hog and chicken manure used by customers in his territory, and they are interested in this sensor technology. “For example, one grower who has a lot of hog buildings wanted to know how much N he was getting from his manure. We used the sensors to shoot the plant leaves and saved him input dollars. And in some areas the N gets reallocated to areas of the field where N is needed most,” he adds.

He feels this sensor technology will gain more and more users, once growers see the benefits of variable-rate application. “As interest picks up, we’ll add sensors to a sprayer that will just be dedicated to sidedressing. We may be losing some N business due to manure, but we’re gaining business by helping customers apply N only where the sensors detect it is needed—as well as how much the plants need.”

For more information, visit

OptRx Crop Sensor http://www.agleader.com/products/directcommand/optrx/

Ag Leader Products http://www.agleader.com/products/

Sully Cooperative Exchange – Agronomy Dept. http://www.scecoop.com/index.cfm?show=10&mid=7

Certified Crop Advisors https://www.certifiedcropadviser.org/

Auto Steering Plants More Acres Efficiently with Less Stress

Insights WeeklyWe’ve written before about economic savings derived from auto steering and auto planter row shut-off off. But many growers often favor the aspects of increased productivity with less fatigue at the end of the day.

We spoke with Adam Gittins, Precision Ag Sales Manager for HTS Precision Ag Solutions in Harlan, Iowa, about the current planting season and local farmer philosophy on this subject.

“Farmers, and I’m one of them, often apply two schools of thought regarding productivity and planting season—auto steer and auto shut-off,” Gittins says. “First, adding auto steering allows growers to run later at night with less fatigue and still be every bit as accurate as planting during the day. Second, by adding auto row shut-off to the planter, guys are saving time with quicker turn time at the headlands.”

Farm more acres. Running longer hours combined with quicker turns can help growers farm more acres with the same equipment. “We’ve seen operations add farm land, and instead of buying another tractor and planter, they’ll instead buy auto steering and planter shut-off to increase productivity—and be able to farm 20 percent more ground with the same equipment,” he says.

“It so much less stress when you don’t have to stare at a marker furrow all day. And I feel I’m doing a much better planting job because I can swivel my seat part way around and watch row units and planter attachments, and can make quick adjustments as needed—instead of focusing mostly on driving. And I feel so much better physically at the end of the day,” he adds.

Becoming standard equipment. Gittins cited one extreme example from this past winter where a farmer saved money by buying an auto steer unit instead of paying for markers on a new 90-ft. planter. “Another trend we’re seeing is that guys who purchase new tractors won’t wait and add auto steer later, they put it in now.”

While good weather is really helping a lot of farmers get crops in the ground quicker this spring, any grower with auto steer and auto planter shut-off will tell you how this technology has truly helped them improve their entire planting operation.

For more information, visit
Tips for using AutoSwath http://www.agleader.com/2010/04/08/tips-for-using-autoswath/

Ag Leader Steering Products http://www.agleader.com/products/steering/

Ag Leader Products http://www.agleader.com/products/

HTS Precision Ag Solutions, Harlan, Iowa
http://www.htsag.com/

HTS on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Harlan-IA/HTS-Precision-Ag/222272725264?ref=ts

HTS Precision Ag’s blog
http://htsag.blogspot.com/

Control More Products With Mid-level Precision Farming Monitor

Insights WeeklyAdded features to existing precision farming monitors can truly benefit owners and prospective buyers alike. Such is the case with Ag Leader’s dual product application upgrade for its mid-range, economical EDGE display.

Owners of granular spinner-spreader fertilizer rigs and anyone with a sprayer will benefit thanks to new dual product control. “Fertilizer applicators can now variable-rate apply both P and K, or apply a fertilizer blend along with micronutrients at the same time,” says John Howard, DirectCommand Product Manager with Ag Leader Technology. “The EDGE has the ability to precisely control the speed of the spinners to deliver spread pattern accuracy.”

For sprayers, dual control means you can control both a liquid carrier and a direct-injection pump. “With our DirectCommand system’s AutoSwath control, and the interface to the Raven Sidekick chemical injection pump, growers and retailers gain complete control of both products,” he says.

Howard says that fertilizer retailers who seek an economical monitor with just the right functionality for their needs will be pleased with this new addition to the EDGE display—especially with the auto steering guidance control features added last December. “We continually strive to provide practical and economical solutions, while helping users upgrade as seamlessly as possible.”

Current EGDE display owners can download this firmware upgrade to their monitor. http://www.agleader.com/customer-support/downloads/

For more information, visit
http://www.agleader.com/2010/04/28/ag-leader-adds-dual-product-application-control-to-edge™-display/

EDGE Monitor:
http://www.agleader.com/products/edge/

Difference between EDGE and INTEGRA monitors:
http://www.agleader.com/products/displays/

Field Rugged PC Improves Crop Scouting Capabilities

Insights WeeklyAs planting continues throughout the country, some of our thoughts here begin to focus on the emerging plants and keeping stress off of them. One good technology tool to help with this task is Ag Leader’s rugged SMS Mobile Field PC.

“In addition to crop scouting essentials for documenting weeds and insect pressure, our new just-released software update for SMS Mobile, Version 4.0, offers additional crop scouting capabilities,” says Corey Weddle, Director of Software Solutions for Ag Leader Technology. “We added additional support for crop sensors, including Holland Scientific and Greenseeker. And we added the option to go to a previous sample/site when taking soil samples or scouting.”

This software improvement comes on the heels of a big Version 3.5 release last fall. “We added a unique navigation view that allows the operator to easily navigate to an exact location. We made it clear and easy to read, with a large “stop” graphic, so operators on ATVs or in pickup trucks can see their location quickly at a glance without having to stare at the screen when they should be driving,” Weddle says. And that feature has been really well received by customers.

Not only can you easily find exact locations in fields, the software helps you read plant and soil data from sensors, and log that information for later transfer to SMS desktop software. “We have a growing list of supported sensors—from soil electrical conductivity reading to leaf chlorophyll levels,” he says. It also has capabilities to log custom sensor data, such as yield monitors for bulk crops such as potatoes and sugar beets.”

For more information, visit the SMS Mobile page.
http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-mobile/

http://www.agleader.com/

Ag Leader SMS Software Adds Efficiencies

Insights WeeklyTurning collected precision farming data into useful information continues to get easier, more automated and more user friendly. To that end, Ag Leader Technology’s latest upgrade to its SMS Advanced and Basic software packages continues to achieve those improvement goals.

“Now entering our tenth year of continual improvements to our SMS software, customers will find everything from major interface enhancements to faster processing speeds in version 10.0,” says Corey Weddle, Director of Software Solutions.

For SMS Advanced users who are into writing variable-rate prescriptions using equations, numerous improvements were made to help customers learn how to build them. “We basically gutted parts of our Analysis functionality to make it easier to use and understand–despite the complexities of analysis in general. For example the Equation Based Analysis function (see screen example below), often used to build prescription equations, now has automated logic that will insert the proper formatting for parts of the equation. Users no longer have to build it from scratch,” he says.

Retailers and consultants will find it easier and faster to batch process data, as well as generate prescriptions for multiple products from a single equation function (i.e. DAP, Potash, Lime prescriptions from one saved equation analysis). “These changes will save a lot of time and manpower because we have streamlined the process to complete more complex equations—at greatly increased processing speeds, up to 50 times greater in some cases,” Weddle adds.

For SMS Basic (also in Advanced, too), customers will find improved scouting capabilities. “Instead of separate reports by pest or disease or weed issue, our new dedicated scouting report combines maps, images and a summary by field in one report—either in detailed or summary format. You can enter scouting data by hand, or collect data using SMS Mobile and sync to your SMS Advanced or Basic software to quickly and easily produce reports,” he says.

Search capabilities have also been enhanced, especially helpful if you cannot remember how you named an entry or where you saved it in the software. Weddle explains, “With the vast amount of data that growers are collecting, some with 10 to 15 years of information, we’ve added the ability to search by text to make it easier to find specific data. Just start typing a word like ‘Roundup’ in an available search box and you’ll get a list of all the items that match what you typed. Obviously a huge help when you have so much information to manage.”

Other interesting enhancements/additions to v10 include:

  • New tool added to help easily build partial buffer zones in fields.
  • Export guidance lines from SMS to AutoFarm A5 monitor.
  • Improved speed and accuracy of guidance lines created from a field boundary or a manually drawn area.
  • New guidance attributes that allow you to easily display detailed information about your imported/created guidance lines.

These improvements, and numerous others, will be available soon. For more information visit these links.

SMS Software
http://www.agleader.com/products/software/

SMS Advanced
http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-advanced/

SMS Basic
http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-basic/

SMS Mobile
http://www.agleader.com/products/sms-mobile/

Ag Leader Technology
http://www.agleader.com/

Calibrate For Variable-Rate Precision Farming Success

Insights WeeklyWhile every farmer knows the value of preparing and calibrating the planter and sprayer, the same holds true when calibrating the electronics and software that control these implements—especially if you vary rates across the field on the go.

Hopefully you pulled out that owner’s manual, or enlisted your local dealer’s help, several weeks ahead of pulling into the first field with a planter full of seed. “The equipment only works as well as the set-up, so running the calibration software on your monitors should be an annual event,” says Nick Ohrtman, Technical Support Supervisor for Ag Leader Technology.

Since there’s no real standard procedure when calibrating for variable-rate technology, it is critical that you follow the guidelines in the owner’s manual of both the piece of equipment and the monitor that is driving it. “Our display monitors, like the Insight or INTEGRA, have a calibration wizard that walks you through seed meter calibration, allowing you to count the actual seed that drops per revolution, which is critical for variable-rate seeding” he says.

“If your variable-rate monitor is set to plant 34,000 seeds and the population monitor says you’re only seeding 30,000, then that’s a sign that the calibration was done inaccurately. If this happens with our system, when both monitors are running through our display, an alarm sounds when the populations don’t match up,” Ohrtman adds.

Granted, most calibration settings made are saved by crop, but it is still wise to recalibrate every year for each crop. “Once you’ve calibrated for corn and soybeans, then every field will use the same calibration. And the calibration doesn’t change when you’re switching plant populations,” he adds.

For growers using planter section or row shut-off technology, it’s advised to make sure your settings are correct each year. “With our AutoSwath system, there are three different settings available, so it’s wise to check the owner’s manual every year, as well as do a dig check in the soil on the first round to make sure the row shut-offs are working correctly.” Nick talks about tips for using AutoSwath in his blog post here.
For more information:
Calibrating Equipment for Variable-Rate Application

Variable Rate Equipment – Technology for Weed Control

Gear Up For VRT (Farm Journal, March 2009)

Use Precision Software Data For Planting Trials and More

Insights WeeklyGive farmers a piece of technology and they find inventive ways to use it to benefit their operation. In the case of Newton, Iowa farmer (and Ag Leader SeedComand product specialist) Will Cannon, it all started with the yield monitor and mapping hybrids.

“I like knowing exactly to a row when hybrids and varieties start and stop—especially when you have to switch near the end of a field—so when you analyze yield results you know why the yields went up or down,” Cannon says. “That practice led to conducting strip trials across whole fields. And I often plug in all my hybrid/variety numbers into the monitor before I head to the field so changing numbers and fields is simple.”

And Will does a lot more than just track yields. “Last year we conducted alternate strips across a field to compare no-till and strip-till soybeans. We set up and mapped alternate passes of strip-till in the fall, came back in the spring, locked in with auto-steer to fertilize and plant into the strips, then no-till plant in-between those passes,” he says.

Cannon likes having all that mapped in the spring, because come harvest he doesn’t have to worry about where the combine is in the field. “I can just harvest and not worry about anything else, because I trust the monitor and data gathering.” Then during post-harvest into winter he crunches data. “I really like the capabilities of the SMS software. There are great tools I can use to select which passes across the field I want to analyze and compare. And I learned a lot about what tillage systems work best in specific fields.”

Another data layer is tracking his refuge management acres. I see this as becoming more and more important, as different hybrids change percentage of refuge acres, plus if I get audited I can direct them exactly to where they need to take tissue samples. And exact location is a big help if I need to apply insecticides on those acres,” he says.

Cannon continues to be impressed with the flexibility built into today’s software and data recording capabilities. “You have a lot of features to document things, so you don’t have to remember it all. And as more growers learn the capabilities, they figure out new ways to use it—because what appeals to one grower may be the opposite of what another guy wants. And the history of data that you build up is invaluable in the future.”

Sensors Aim to Improve Your N Use on Corn

Insights WeeklyYou won’t find too many farmers who would disagree with the notion that corn plant health can vary widely across a field. And I think the majority of growers would love to improve their nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency—if only the weather would cooperate.

While variable rate fertilizer based on grids/management zones and soil tests is one possible solution, that practice cannot account for heavy spring rains—all too familiar to growers in some Midwest states during the past two years. These events caused a lot of N loss through nitrification, runoff and leaching. Peter Scharf, University of Missouri Extension agronomist estimated that 70 million bushels of corn were lost in his state in 2008, and even more was lost in 2009.

However, using sensors to read and apply the correct amount of N a plant needs at V6 growth stage is a technology that is beginning to catch on. But in order to reap potential benefits, growers must be willing and able to apply one-third to one-half of their target N amount pre-season, then come back and sidedress, feeding the healthy plant less and the weaker plants more.

A handful of companies have developed the technology, with Ag Leader Technology being one of them. Over 100 side-by-side comparison tests (sensor-applied versus grower’s normal flat rate) at the University of Missouri USDA-ARS have shown an average benefit of $15 to $20 per acre with sensors. Ag Leader trials with their OptRx crop sensor system delivered $50 to $60 per acre greater return in 2008, and a $22 per acre average return last year.

“We don’t expect such high returns year in and year out, unless high rainfall removes N early on from the profile, like it did in 2008 and 2009 in many areas,” says Chad Fick, OptRx product specialist for Ag Leader. “We have great confidence with the sensor, now it’s all about getting more growers to experience the possibilities in their fields.

Fick says they have conducted trials in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Louisiana. “We’ve had good results in all cases except in Michigan where we didn’t get harvested grain data due to the corn being chopped. Most growers applied approximately 60 to 100 lbs N before planting, then came back at the V6 growth stage to sidedress the amount needed by the crop, as determined by the sensors,” he says. “The most important emphasis here is to make sure you have enough N so the crop does not get stressed before V6—because stress before then will cause permanent yield loss.”

To calibrate the sensors, Fick says it’s as simple as driving to the healthiest part of your field and taking a reference strip sensor reading there. “That gives the sensors a frame of reference to what the field is capable of achieving.

If you want to hear comments from several growers about their experience with this technology, check out the video on this page.

Time To Prep Your Precision Farming Equipment

Insights WeeklyAs you gear up for planting season, it’s wise to power up, check out and test your monitors, displays and other valuable electronic components before seed enters the planter and you head to the field.

I talked to Nick Ohrtman this week, technical support supervisor for Ag Leader Technology. He said a good place to start is to check the manufacturer’s website (or with your local dealer) to see if any of your equipment needs a firmware upgrade.

“Be sure to clear out data from last-season (after you’ve copied and transferred it to your computer), and create a new season—including any new fields you have added, as well as load any new machinery, new hybrids and varieties, new herbicides or other new inputs you plan to use,” Ohrtman says. “Doing it now saves time when you’re in the field.”

The owner’s manual is a good resource as you run through your display. “Always a good idea to test your auto-steer by capturing a signal and run up and down the yard a few times. And the same dry run with your planter and a little seed helps calibrate the seed monitor,” he says.

When you do your walk-around to check planter shut-off clutches and hydraulics, don’t forget to also check all the cables to ensure nothing is pinched or was chewed by rodents.

Many companies also provide spring guides or checklists to help with product prep. “We provide our owners with a list, published in our newsletter, that details pre-season display setup, using the new INTRGRA display, as well as pre-season prep for SeedCommand and DirectCommand,” Ohrtman says. “We’ve also been conducting training sessions across the country during much of February and March for our customers.”

The Value of Software Training

Insights WeeklyFriday, I wrote about how Ag Leader listened to customers of their SMS Advanced software and built a Certified Training program to give participants deeper knowledge that helps their own business.

This weekend I spoke with Justin McCuiston, who helps customers of the farmer-owned cooperative Farm Service Inc., in northeast Arkansas with variable-rate fertilizer programs, yield mapping and other precision farming practices.

“We have five locations that cover about 8 counties in this rice and soybean area, where about half of our growers now use variable-rate prescriptions. In the past we used another software program, but switched to SMS Advanced which has turned out to be hands-down the best software I’ve ever dealt with in the 16 years I’ve been doing this,” McCuiston says.

“What truly makes it valuable is Ag Leader’s Certified Training program with the small class sizes and personalized training, which allows us to optimize the software capabilities to meet the services we offer to growers. We run 14 variable-rate fertilizer rigs that cover thousands of acres, and we couldn’t do that without the capabilities and batch processing features of SMS Advanced,” he says.

McCuiston says that once growers start with variable-rate fertilizer, they stick with it. “We re-pull soil samples every three years, which helps makes true believers out of them because they see soil improvements, fertilizer savings and improved profits.”

Check these links to learn more about SMS Advanced and Certified Training.