Corn Planting 2018

Hands Free Farm

Hands Free Farm About The Author

May 15, 2018

With 2018 corn planting only 17% completed, more than prices are weighing on farmers’ minds this season. It’s the first of May and bean drills should be rolling; corn should not only be in the ground, but coming up.

Reaching the desired 50 degree soil temperatures has proven to be a challenge for much of the Midwest. Snow cover, excessive rainfall in some areas and extreme drought in others, getting seed in the ground has proven to be one more challenge farmers are facing this growing season.

A peak window exists within the growing season to plant corn if a producer wants to see yield potential fully maximized. In northern Iowa, corn needs to be in the ground by May 2nd, while the southern end of the state has until May 9th to see 98-100% yield potential. The USDA crop report indicated that the state was zero percent planted on April 22nd. The April 30th report indicates a mere 17% of the Iowa corn crop in the ground.

Iowa State University research states that only 3.5 days out of week, on average, are suitable for planting corn, but in those 3.5 days, Iowa farmers can plant in the neighborhood of 1.2 million acres of corn per day. To put that number into perspective: That’s 50,000 acres an hour. The state grows around 12.5 million acres of corn each year. All is not lost!

Technology, not only in the seeds themselves, but in the cab, on the planter and through the laptop on a farmer’s kitchen table, is responsible for allowing producers to not just cover these mind boggling acreages, but to efficiently cover them, in small windows of time.

Precision agriculture will save yields this year, as it has throughout the past decade, by allowing farmers to concentrate on more than watching markers during those long days of playing “catch-up” during inclement weather and taking the guess work out of inputs.

Today, the industry’s markets are teeming with precision options, from data management to guidance and autosteer, with the largest corn farms in the U.S. being the greatest integrators of precision technology. A large corn farm is defined as those encompassing 2900 acres or more. The average size of a farm in the U.S. is 400 acres. But producers farming large acreages aren’t the only ones seeing the benefits of precision, and as the technologies become more commonplace, so too have the prices become more affordable.

Fifteen years ago an autosteer and RTK guidance system cost in the range of $50,000.00. Today, those same systems range anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000 and farms of all sizes are realizing the benefits those systems can provide. Like all technology, adoption and time have helped to bring costs to more affordable levels, however, competition within the market has also been a great driver of increased affordability. Many smaller companies are developing solutions that meet and exceed their competition and offering pricing that is affordable for farms of all sizes.

Not a newcomer to the space, Outback Guidance® recently released the REBEL™ product as a solution to RTK precision and guidance, and with an $11,999 price tag, the package is a serious contender.

The company has found a niche in helping mid-range acreage operations find the value in precision agriculture through a line of user-friendly products and free customer support.

In comparison, a staple in agriculture, John Deere’s sub-inch solution finds its place within the market with a RTK solution priced at around $23,000 and paired with an additional $300-$1000 annual support subscription. Even with the steep price tag, the agricultural giant has a loyal following in the precision space.

The moral of the story: Agriculture is evolving. The world’s arable land percentage continues to decline, the population continues to grow and the margins involved in row-crop farming continue to narrow, making the venture one of ever increasing risk. Precision agriculture has become an integral part of every progressively efficient operation, and regardless of which solution a producer decides upon, technology in agriculture has become a necessity to efficient production.