GIFFORD, Ill. — While today’s agriculture data collection capabilities can be beneficial, they can also be overwhelming, and farmers want to cut to the chase to find what works best for their farm.

“Every farm has a different need and every farm has a different opportunity to move forward. It’s not a one size fits all, it’s not a silver bullet that works for everybody. It’s which pieces can we intertwine together to say here’s the things that are going to pay off long-term,” said Paul Schmid, precision ag specialist, Schmid Ag Technology, Cissna Park.

Schmid was among the more than 175 exhibitors at the Midwest Ag Expo Jan. 30-31 to showcase the business he started six years ago after working at a Case IH dealership as a Trimble and Ag Leader dealer.

About four years ago he incorporated Encirca consulting services through DuPont Pioneer into his business to offer variable rate nitrogen monitoring, prescription services, soil testing and variable rate fertility. He also is an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot for scouting and mapping.

“I’ve really specialized in after market hardware upgrades, whether it be planter upgrade, steering, yield monitoring, actual technology hardware upgrades, and then on the consulting side taking the data from that hardware and using it to help the farmer make better decisions,” Schmid said.

“Tying in the data from the combine with the data from the planter, how do we look at that and make better seed, fertilizer and nitrogen decisions in the coming year.”

Schmid, who was raised on his family’s central Illinois farm and remains active in the operation, took a break from his duties at the farm show exhibit for an interview.

Looking ahead to the growing season, what are some of the new features on the hardware side?

Ag Leader has really pushed ahead in some of their advanced planter functionality with the electric drives, their SureDrive and hydraulic downforce system that they offer. I think something that’s on the mind of a lot of farmers is making the planter that they have do a better job planting, getting more consistent spacing, more consistent depth and getting better information recorded about the planting as well as then tying it into that yield data to get some of those layers they can analyze.

What services are available on the consulting side?

With the Encirca nitrogen model we can take weather and soil type characteristics over time and model whether or not a given yield environment in a field is going to have enough nitrogen based on the plans, the applications of what a farmer has put on, the application timing and what we’ve determined that field is capable of, and we can run some risk analysis to say what the odds are that your fertilizer plan, your nitrogen plan is going to carry through to hit the yield goals that we’ve set for that field.

Then midseason are there some changes or some fluctuations that we need to make to manage our risk based on what we have invested in the crop, what we think the crop is capable of. When we hit harvest, how close were we to those goals, what can we adjust for next year, kind of that end-of-year report card looking at our yield data saying here’s what we did right and here’s what we can learn to get a better understanding of that farm to then try and ultimately learn more than a year’s information out of one year.

In times such as these with lower commodity prices and tight budgets how would a service such as this fit in terms of helping farmers during these tough times?

The thought on everyone’s mind is where can I save a dollar. The difference between the black and the red in some bottom lines is pretty tight. I think on the consulting side especially where a lot of farmers can see benefit is I need to cut seed costs, I need to cut fertilizer costs, or cut nitrogen costs, how do I do that without impacting my yields.

So, which inputs are my yield-limiting factors, which one am I okay tweaking, where are my soil test levels, do I need to put on what I have been or is there a response to more? I want to cut where I can on inputs but I don’t want to sacrifice bushels to do it.

On the hardware side, it could be anything from better placing that seed with a planter upgrade or saving diesel fuel on steering just by less overlaps and less passes through a field.

Tom C. Doran can be reached at 815-780-7894 or tdoran@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Doran.

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