How Technology Informs My Decision-Making

Jim Hedges
Sr. Director of Strategy and Insights, Ag Technology for WinField United; corn and soybean farmer
As a corn and soybean farmer in Central Illinois, there are a number of things I do every year to help optimize my ROI potential and minimize risk, many of which are driven by technology. Here are some of the strategies I put into motion when planning for the upcoming growing season.
Align seed and crop input purchases with my management system.
On our operation, we manage both corn and soybeans quite intensely. Consequently, I want to ensure the hybrids and varieties I plant not only work on the soil types I have, but that they also fit into the systems approach we use on our farm.
For example, we do a late side-dress nitrogen application on all of our corn acres. Understanding each hybrid’s response to nitrogen score is a must if we are going to maximize our ROI on that input investment. The same holds true for response to fungicide scores. Technology gives me the ability to confidently invest in my crop with the knowledge that I have a high probability of dependable and repeatable ROI.
Use variable-rate technology to plant smarter.
This year, most of our soybean variable-rate prescriptions ended up at about 120,000 to 130,000 seeds per acre, and the results were pretty incredible. Our crops were under a lot of stress and had very little rain in August and September. Despite that, yields were very consistent, even between different soil types, which I did not expect. Can I attribute this all to using a variable-rate prescription? Probably not, but I think that the strategy of doing some over-population and some under-population did pay off. It also allowed me to move the seed savings into my micronutrient and fungicide budget. Once again, it’s about where the dollar invested generates the highest return.
Allow for in-season input adjustments.
As I think about the relationship between yield and inputs, it primarily ties back to what the environment has given or not given, the results of our cultural practices and what tissue tests are showing. I’m constantly evaluating the potential of our corn crop and adjusting nitrogen accordingly.
For example, I usually do a nitrogen application at planting, then come back with another between V8 and V12. However, if I use my knowledge of the environment along with NutriSolutions® tissue testing results and technology like the R7® Field Forecasting Tool by WinField United, I might decide to adjust that application timing, as well as the amount of product applied, to get optimal ROI potential.
Plan for tech use throughout the season.
When I think about next year, I know I’ll use in-season satellite imagery. I’ll also use the R7® Field Monitoring Tool to look closely at how fields performed this year, the practices I want to keep for next year and the changes I want to make. Abandoning a planned input decision, for me, is not ever going to be farm-wide. It’s going to be made field-by-field, based on the knowledge we have about that crop, the environment, and what the field can and cannot do. Technology aids us greatly in determining these factors.
In the past, we factored a lot of gut feelings into our decision-making process. The knowledge and insights that technology tools bring not only help me make more informed decisions; they also allow me to sleep better at night. That’s a big deal.