What is in this article?:
- Precision agriculture spurs growth on South Carolina farm
- Focus on row crop operation
- Is a learning curve
- Played role in yield increases
• Like most kids growing up in the cyber era, Landrum Weathers grew up learning on a computer; he learned to drive a tractor and use a computer hard drive at virtually the same time.
• Coming back to the farm, Landrum Weathers found his family quick to put his knowledge of computers and their role in precision farming to use.
• Precision agriculture will be a big part of the ongoing transition to more row crops.
A LITTLE BLUE BOX replaced a bulky GPS base station on the Weathers farm in South Carolina. Landrum Weathers checks out the GPS unit.
Played role in yield increases
There is little doubt among peanut specialists in the Southeast that increased digging efficiency has played a key role in the recent increase in peanut yields.
“With the Trimble system we’ve run for a number of years, we can plant our peanuts and then dig them within an inch of each other,” Weathers says. “No matter how good the tractor driver, it isn’t possible to follow a row as precisely as you can with autosteer.
“Peanuts paid for the GPS equipment, but we now have adapted it to use in other crops. The only thing we lack is a retrofit kit to go on our fertilizer spreader. We have all the software and all the maps we need to use our GPS and auto-steer equipment in all our crops.”
Variable rate fertilizer application is next on his to-do list of precision ag tools.
“Looking at computer generated topography maps and other field data, we can tell how many different soil types we have,” he says. “Being able to work off one map to vary fertilizer rates on different crops would be a big cost saver and labor saver for us.”
For the 2011 cropping season, they started growing cotton, but not just for the high prices the crop is bringing, he notes.
“We feel we can maximize our profits on corn by keeping those acres under irrigation, but we couldn’t do that with a corn-peanut rotation.
“The best rotation for us is corn, cotton and peanuts, because it allows us to grow cotton on our non-irrigated acres, which we feel is a much lower risk than growing dryland corn.
“We think corn, cotton, peanuts is the best rotation for our peanuts, and it helps reduce the risk of growing dryland corn.”
For the 2012 growing season, Weathers will be adding a new tractor and a new GPS system.
“The John Deere tractor we are buying comes with a GPS system — it’s sort of like buying a new car that comes with a radio. You could buy the car without the radio and add one from another car, but it never seems to work as well as the factory installed radio.”
Weathers notes they will keep the Trimble system and Intuicom to use on their old tractor.
“We could convert the old system to the new tractor, but it seemed more practical to have Deere equipment talk to Deere equipment.”
As they move forward in their row crop operation, Weathers’ agronomy training leads him to say they will continue to incorporate precision technology to help the overall operation run smoothly.
And the business side of his training says precision ag will give them more options to optimize profits and reduce risks.