This yearlong endeavor looks at how four farmers are evaluating technology and agronomic information that can boost the productivity of their operations.
Welcome to the 2016 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic information to boost the profitability of their operations. Check back each week for new blogs and videos to learn more about their plans and practicesâ€”from planting through harvest. Here is a brief overview of our four participants and their respective farming operations.
Landon Aldinger grows corn and soybeans with his father, Mike, a Certified Crop Advisor, near Iowa Falls, in north–central Iowa. Along with the crops, the Aldinger family runs a small beef herd.
The Aldingers' fields are 100% grid–sampled and soil–tested every four years. Data from annual hybrid, herbicide, fungicide and fertility trials power their decision–making processes.
The family has used variable–rate fertilizer applications for several years and recently adopted variable–rate seeding as well.
In addition to the farm, Landon works with other area farmers on precision data solutions through his business, Precision Farm Management. "It's not just about bigger yields, it's also about reducing risk," he says. "The more you know about your fields, the less risky those management choices become."
Carmen Hawk farms with her father, Mark Nigh, and brother Ryan Nigh, near Shelbyville, in central Indiana.
Hawk has a strong financial background that the farm readily harnesses for input decisions and marketing. She earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University.
The family farms approximately 1,600 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, with 700 to 800 acres rotated annually in a corn–soybean rotation. They strip–till all corn acres. After combining, wheat is planted to double–crop soybeans.
The Nighs have been 100% no–till for 20 years. They plant about one–fourth of their acres to cover crops each fall, and use 5–acre grid soil samples to evaluate soil nutrient needs.
For 2016, Hawk is focusing on increasing wheat yields. A special focus for the wheat crop is to improve disease control and increase average yields to 100 bushels per acre. Last year, the farm's soft red winter wheat crop averaged 90 bushels per acre.
"I think split–applying the nitrogen was a big factor behind our increase," Hawk says.
David Kay is a first–generation farmer who grows corn and soybeans with his father–in–law, Rick Knierim, in southeast Michigan, near Jasper.
Kay and Knierim like to base agronomic decisions on results from their on–farm field trials. Kay takes a hands–on approach to all the farm's soil–sampling processes and uses a grid system, testing areas as small as 1 acre in size. All fields are sampled on a three–year rotation or less. Research fields are sampled every year.
The family farms in the Lake Erie watershed, and Kay places a high value on putting the right nutrients in the right amounts in the right areas. The family proactively and voluntarily uses setbacks to restrict phosphorus from waterways and ditches.
"We are doing it before it is mandated," says Kay. "It is our responsibility to take care of the soil and water quality. They are what put a roof over my children's heads and what lets me sleep at night."
Jason Luckey operates Rege Luckey and Sons in partnership with his brother, Ken, and nephew, Zac, in northwest Tennessee, near Humboldt. Jason started farming fulltime in 1993, after he graduated from the University of Tennessee.
The family farms 4,500 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. Along with the crops, they also run a beef cattle operation.
Eight years ago Luckey began mapping yields, essentially identifying and tracing the productivity within individual fields. Today, that information helps Luckey plant a higher seed count on productive ground and fewer seeds in unproductive areas.
The family's farm has been 100% no–till since 1996. "In 20 years of farming no–till, we've seen better soil tilth, better weed control and soil moisture, and less erosion," Luckey says.