FIVE WAYS FARMERS FARM RESPONSIBLY

In this office, it feels like farmers being irresponsible is a primary headline in the media.  Intellectually, I know it isn’t.  I know that things like ISIS and the latest slip up by the President or Congress make the headlines far more.

But you know how you notice things that really bother you more?  How a personal interaction with something makes it appear more often to you?  Yeah, that happens to us when we hear how irresponsible farmers are.  Because for the majority of farmers, it just isn’t true.

(I know there are “bad actor” farmers.  But really, there are “bad actors” in any industry.  In your workplace alone, I know you can name at least two or three that don’t do their job appropriately or efficiently.  Don’t hold that against us.)

So today, I’d like to highlight five ways farmers farm responsibly.  If any of these are news to you, make sure you ask all your questions in the comments.  I would absolutely LOVE to clarify.

1. Farmers preserve their soil through tilage practices.

illinois, farm, winter, snow, cornOk, this sounds big and complicated, but it really isn’t.  Tilage: it’s the same thing as tilling your garden, but on a really big scale.  What this means is that farmers have actually quit tiling their soil so much to minimize soil erosion.  When the stubs of the crop before are left on the field over the winter, the roots and stalks help hold the soil in the spring when the melted snow and excessive rain threaten to wash it away.  Farmers are interested in preserving and building up their soil because it is their family’s income for the next year … and the next.

2. Farmers minimize trips over the field to use less fuel.

Sights of guys back in the fieldThis should make sense to everyone – fewer times up and down the rows in the field equals less diesel used equals less emissions.  But how do the farmers do it?

Well, the tilage practices I mentioned help.  If they aren’t tilling their ground, they also aren’t running a tractor up and down to till the soil.  But also, farmers are using GPS to cover their fields more efficiently.  Before, every trip up and down the field included a few feet overlap to be sure that no portion of the field was missed.  GPS eliminates that and allows farmers to minimize their fuel usage.  Technology is amazing!

3. Farmers “prescription farm.”

farm technologyNew technology is also allowing for another amazing advancement – “prescription farming.”  Farmers are able to look at soil types and soil tests to determine what each square foot of their field needs in order to be optimized for crop production, and then they only apply fertilizers on that area.  Gone are the days when farmers treated a whole field the same!  Now they minimize the use of inputs by applying only exactly what is needed in the single spot in the field where it’s needed.

4. Livestock are known as individuals.

6-24-11 cattleJust like your doctor knows you as an individual and treats your needs accordingly, livestock farmers know their animals as individuals too.  Each animal has a certain personality and demeanor – and farmers recognize changes when they see these animals every day that alert them to illness and other problems.

Some farmers even have ultrasound scanners that individually check each cow to determine weight and potential grade of the meat they will supply.  The health of each cow is a priority and the farmers strictly manage antibiotics (only given when the animals are sick!) and withdrawal times before they can enter the food supply.

You’ll definitely want to read this mom’s impressions of the livestock farm I’m talking about!

5. Farmers seek continuous improvement.

11-19-12 FarmerIf there’s one thing that is a priority to farmers, it is preserving the land and equipment they have for the next generation.  Farmers and their families spend their lives just hoping to build something they can pass on.

All the technology they use now helps.  They are able to gather data about their fields, harvests, yields, inputs, rainfall, etc and analyze that data in programs that help them understand their sustainability.  But the real key here is that all that data gives farmers a means to continually improve.

Think about it this way – if you are mostly healthy but not having a yearly physical, you probably don’t worry much about your cholesterol.  But the moment that you have your first blood test and your cholesterol is high, you eat healthier.  Farmers are the same way.  Having the technology to provide data about how they are farming helps them in their pursuit of continuous improvement and leaving something amazing to their children.

Want to know more?  Ask questions in the comments!!

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT A CORN PICKER

old corn pickerFarm Machinery has changed drastically over the past 60 years. It’s hard to believe that my grandma, Janice Dittus, not great-grandma, not great-great-grandma….grandma remembers as a child in the 1940’s picking corn by hand and throwing the corn into the wagon that was pulled by horses, taking the wagon to the corn crib at home when the corn would be combineshelled in the summer. In the 1950’s our family was fortunate enough to use a picker that would harvest the corn two rows at a time. Her grandpa had a combine in the 1960’s with no cab and she specifically remembers the dust flying back into her face. Before moving to Illinois, she lived and farmed in Platte Center, Nebraska – she was a true Nebraska Cornhusker.

The picker was shortly advanced to a more efficient machine, the combine. So, what about the combine? What exactly is with that large machine we see going through the fields?

8230 combine labeled

  • A new Case IH 8230 combine in 2014 costs on average $450,000. A used 2013 Case IH 8230 costs around $240,000.
  • It takes approximately 9,000 part numbers to build a combine
  • The cab comes equipped with AM/FM radio, heat/air, a buddy seat for a passenger (some even have a cooler under the buddy seat to store food/drinks), an option for heated leather seats
  • Bin extensions are added to the top of an older combine to hold more corn/beans/wheat; combines made in the past couple years come with an added bin extension from the factory
  • On average, a Case IH 2588 combine can hold ~180 bushels (~225 bushels with a bin extension); a Case IH 8230 combine can hold about 225 bushels
  • A combine can typically harvest 1.6 bushels of corn per second. Ryan Lepp, combine specialist with Case IH projects this number going higher as corn yields reach above 300 bu/ac and the combines grow in capacity
  • Auto Steer allows the combine to drive itself through the field by communicating with satellite signals to know where it is in the field and where it needs to be
  • Precision Planting can be installed in combines to take the data from when the field was planted to see where hybrids were changed and how they performed
  • On average, it takes 12 seconds for the combine to cut, feed, thresh, separate, clean and transfer the corn to the grain tank

I am proud to work for a Case IH dealership, Central Illinois Ag, where I am able to work alongside and support the American Farmer. As Ryan Lepp, Case IH combine specialist, says, “Case IH is leading the way in crop harvesting innovations and celebrating good old American ingenuity.”

abby coersAbby Coers
Marketing Coordinator
Central Illinois Ag

YOU’LL BE SHOCKED TO LEARN THIS ABOUT TODAY’S FARMERS!

We’ve talked a little bit about technology on this blog (here and here), but when I stumbled across this video featuring our own Illinois Corn Marketing Board member, Paul Jeschke, I just had to share.

The stereotypical farmer is a country bumpkin with less than a high school education, making a living doing physical labor and not really needing to use his head. Nothing could be further from the truth in today’s agriculture!

Farmers today must be computer scientists, crop scientists, water quality experts, chemists, stockbrokers, economic analysts, and so much more.

This video will show you some non-farm moms from Chicago whose minds are reeling from the vast amount of technological information they are receiving this day on the farm. You will be shocked too!

THREE TECHNOLOGIES THAT HAVE REDEFINED FARMING

Technology and farming are two words that probably just don’t go together for many people, but you might be surprised to learn that farmers are utilizing increasingly technological systems on the farm and realizing huge benefits to their productivity, their soil and water health, and their sustainability on the farm.

These are the top three technologies that I believe have redefined farming.  Bet you didn’t know that farmers today are spending a lot of their time sitting behind a computer too!

1. Guidance Systems

Most tractors in the field today have guidance systems installed that map the field and direct the tractor over the field in such a way that every inch is covered, yet there are no overlaps.  Farmers used to use markers or just their skill level from having farmed for years to figure this stuff out – but now the guidance system makes sure that every inch of their field is perfect.

GPS system

What this does for a farmer is minimize inputs for his farm.  He buys less diesel because without overlap, he minimizes trips over the field.  She buys less seed because seeds are planted perfectly straight without overlap with other rows.  He buys less fertilizer because the GPS system guides him to exactly where the fertilizer needs to be applied instead of applying it over the entire field.

Guidance systems – often working in tandem with other technologies – have reduced inputs and maximized yield.

2. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The extent of some damage from a heavy rain as seen from a drone - photo courtesy  Flying the Farm
The extent of some damage from a heavy rain as seen from a drone – photo credit Flying the Farm

These amazing little drones with a camera attached have made it possible for farmers to see into their fields, even when the crops are so tall that the view is blocked from the edge.  They allow for the farmer to crop scout – she can see if an area of the field is too wet, too dry, has additional disease or insect pressure, or is being taken over by weeds.  With some awareness of how each section of the field looks, the farmer can then visit those poorly producing areas in person and rectify any problems she might see.

What this does is make every spot in the field a highly producing region and allows the farmer to tailor his treatment of those spots instead of blanket treating the entire field.  Awareness of problem areas is a powerful thing.

3. Smart Phones and Tablets

While the rest of the world enjoyed ever increasing internet speeds, rural areas were often left out.  I didn’t know what decent internet service was until I got to college!  But smart phones have basically allowed farmers to skip over the dial up and DSL internet service eras and move straight to constant access to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For farmers, this means more information and more timely information about their farms and the legislation that effects their farms, access to webinars and tools to make farming and decision making easier, and easy interaction with specialists at Universities and Associations.

photo credit United Soybean Board
photo credit United Soybean Board

Even little things like weather apps and organized information about their farms on their phones has made a huge difference to the work that farmers do every day.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out this video from Grant Noland where he discusses some of the technology they use on their farm.  And the recent Corn Farmers Coalition efforts in Washington, DC focus on technology too!

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director