Information Management to Maximize Your Yields

R7 Tools Help Troy Watne Unleash the Power of Precision Ag

20140723_maxyield_430 (1024x681)While Troy Watne is interested in precision ag, he had one big question: Is the technology so complicated that it will be more trouble than it’s worth?

“I wanted to see if there’s an easy way to get started,” said Watne, who has farmed full-time near Belmond since 1991. “If you pick up just three to five bushels an acre, the return on investment is huge.”

That’s why Watne was interested when Cody Ostendorf, a local MaxYield agronomy specialist, encouraged him to try the R7® Tool, which combines local data with precision ag technology.
In February, Watne sat down with Ostendorf and Rodney Legleiter, a SciMax Solutions specialist, to develop a variable-rate planting plan for 2014. As they talked, Ostendorf could project the satellite imagery and more from WinField Solutions’ R7 tool onto a large television screen for easy viewing.

After analyzing five or six different fields, the team decided that the R7 system would work well on a 160-acre field that Watne farms northwest of Belmond. The field contains clay-based, tight soils, including Clarion, Nicollet, Webster, and Terril. The land includes side hills with slopes ranging from 2% to 4%, as well as low areas. “The field was ideal for the R7 trial, because Troy had improved the drainage and fertility levels prior to variable-rate planting,” Ostendorf noted.

With the R7 technology, Watne and the MaxYield team could review 10 years’ worth of aerial imagery for this field and observe changes over time, all with the touch of a button. “I was intrigued that we could go back that far,” said Watne, who noted that the whole process only required a couple hours of his time. “I was also impressed by how fast the process was.”

The MaxYield team then went to work to map out management zones throughout the field. Zone A denotes areas with the highest yield potential, while Zone B includes areas with average productivity. Zone C consists of challenging areas with lower productivity levels due to poor drainage, lower fertility levels, or other factors.

Data from dry years and wet years were overlaid to create a composite management zone map, said Ostendorf, who wrote a variable-rate planting prescription for Watne to download into his 24-row John Deere® DB 60 planter.

“Downloading this information into the planter was easy and just took a few minutes,” said Watne, who planted DeKalb® 5356 on May 9 on the field, which had been planted to soybeans in 2013. The corn hybrid was planted at 34,000 to 38,000 plants per acre, with an average of 36,000 plants.

By early August, the lush, green corn plants were thriving. “The crop has been looking really good,” said Watne, who is part of WinField Solutions’ Greater Acre project, which is following a select group of growers’ results throughout the 2014 growing season. “I’m looking forward to harvest.”

So is Legleiter, who has seen the benefits of the R7 tool and variable-rate planting in fields throughout MaxYield’s territory. “Variable-rate populations are the easiest, most affordable way to boost yield, as long as the field’s drainage, pH levels, and fertility are adequate.”

Fine-tuning crop production
The R7 tool offers a valuable resource to help any grower gain a better understanding of specific fields, without having to produce years of yield data, noted Keaton Krueger, an ag technology specialist for WinField Solutions.

“It’s a great tool to determine the right hybrids for your acres and helps bridge the precision ag gap. Aerial imagery from your field can be used to write prescriptions, even before you have the yield data.”

The R7 tool also provides a good summary of each hybrid offered through MaxYield, including pictures of the hybrid’s root mass, ear size, and more. It’s important to note that the correct variable-rate seeding prescription can vary widely from hybrid to hybrid. That’s where the MaxYield and SciMax specialists can tailor the R7 data to each client’s specific needs. “Not all hybrids work for variable-rate planting,” Ostendorf noted.

“Some withstand lower and higher populations much better than others, so it’s important to find the right fit for each client’s acres.”

DeKalb 5356 was the right fit for Watne’s field, because it develops a strong root system that can penetrate clay soils. “It’s also a good fixed-ear hybrid where you can push populations higher on well-drained areas,” Ostendorf said.

To track the crop’s progress during the growing season, Ostendorf took tissue samples from high-population areas and low-population areas of the field around the V4-V5 stage in May, at the V12 stage, and around tasseling. As Ostendorf pulled samples throughout the field, this allowed him to conduct more extensive crop scouting.

“It’s good to have another set of eyes looking at my crop,” said Watne, who appreciates this peace of mind. “I can ask Cody how my crop compares with other fields in the area and get a better idea of what issues might need to be addressed now rather than later.”

Ostendorf checks the R7’s satellite imagery that’s updated every week or two during the growing season to track the vegetative index and measure various factors, including the crop’s response to plant populations and response to nitrogen.

“The R7 tool gives you a better idea of how to fine-tune your management throughout the growing season,” said Watne, who included check strips across his field. “You don’t have to sit around wondering what’s going on in the field. You’ll know if you need to add more nitrogen in season, for example.”

Taking the next step to SciMax
Improved management through the R7 tool provides a good stepping stone into SciMax Solutions, Legleiter noted. “Once you get started with R7 and get some yield data, this helps you move into SciMax, where we use your yield data to develop a management plan.”

MaxYield and SciMax make the process easy. “Our goal is to save growers time,” Legleiter added. “It’s even more efficient once you’ve been through the process.”

Going forward, Watne is interested in using the R7 tool on more fields and wants to include variable-rate nitrogen. “The end goal is to produce more consistent yields,” he said.

Put R7 to work for you
The R7 tool is a value-added service available to all clients through MaxYield. “There is no charge to map a field and show you the potential this tool can offer you,” said Legleiter, who noted that the initial consultation and historical aerial images are free.

Now’s the time to take your farm management to the next level, said Peter Bixel, SciMax Solutions’ team leader. “We’re ready to develop precision ag solutions for your 2015 crop.”

For more information, contact your local MaxYield agronomy specialist or SciMax Solutions specialist or visit or ■