Brent Hauxwell of Hauxwell Consulting does our agronomy work and takes soil samples of every field. From the results he compiles a recommendation on what amounts of each fertilizer needs to be applied. He also includes what chemicals need to be applied and at what rate, along with variety recommendations. During the growing season he monitors insect and weed infestations.
We use a twenty-four row planter that is equipped with precision planting updates. Why Precision Planting? Proper agronomic placement of all the seeds is extremely important for optimum emergence, early growth, and eventual yield. Corn plants next to a gap in the row may produce larger ears to help compensate for missing plants, however, these plants cannot make-up for those that are crowded as seed doubles or triples growing within one or two inches of each other. Plants placed too closely together in a row will compete ineffectively for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Crowding results in barren plants or ears too small to be harvested. Precision planting updates on the planter places the seeds at even spacings and eliminates planting doubles. Seeding rates vary on the season moisture outlook, but 17,000 seeds per acre are common on dry-land. Irrigated plantings increase toward 30,000 seeds per acre. A fertilizer tank on the planter is linked to tanks on the tractor and placement of fertilizer is two inches to the side of the seed. This allows us to mix fertilizer according to soil samples and apply most of the required amount in the soil at planting time and not affecting germination.
Auto steer is also an important tool in our planting operation.The driver gets the tractor and implement in approximately the right position at the end of the field, then the system takes over steering the tractor in a straight line. At the far end a signal, kind of like rumble strips before a sharp curve, alerts the driver to be ready to turn 180 degrees, however a new upgrade now turns the tractor around at the end properly aligning the planter for the next path the other direction. Although this system does not replace an operator, letting go of the steering wheel allows watching the equipment and gauges, or relax, talk on the phone, even work on a laptop computer. Also when the planter reaches the turn row, each individual row will shut off as it passes the previous planted rows. After turning around and the planter lowered again, the rows will start planting automatically as they enter what is not planted. In 2013 we started planting different rates according to soil types. We separated the soils into three categories and varied each one by 1000 seeds per acre, with 15,000 seeds being the lowest (on dry-land). A map on the computer will show all the areas planted, how much seed used, how much fertilizer used, rates, and current row populations as well as ring an alarm in case of row failure.
Planting wheat we use a 40 foot wide John Deere air planter. This drill is specifically a no-till drill and will place the seed at the proper depth, even in very hard soil conditions. We use the same auto steer and shut off technology as with the corn planter, but this drill automatically shuts off in two sections. The spacing on the row units are ten inches apart. A fertilizer tank on the planter is coupled with tanks on the tractor, pumping it to each row at a specified rate, automatically varying with ground speed. Planting time for wheat begins around the 20th of September and winds up the first week of October. We plant at least three different varieties at a rate of 90# to 120# per acre.