This season will be Seward’s first to use yield monitors on cotton harvesters. He will pick with three John Deere round-bale pickers, which will replace six, 6-row basket pickers used in 2010.

“We’re excited about the savings and the increased efficiency with the round-bale pickers,” Seward says.

“Our operations had gotten like a veritable village, with huge crews following pickers around. It’s like it has its own ZIP code.” He gins cotton at Silver Creek Gin in Holly Bluff, Miss.

He says the farm has pushed its precision farming program “about as far as we can. What we’re moving to now is precision management to maximize efficiency with telemetry, e-mailed work orders and trying to manage as many acres with as few people as we can.”

The farm is partnering with Dakota Fluid Power and AgJunction to remotely manage a battalion of 14 tractors, four combines, two sprayers, a fertilizer spreader and three pickers.

“With the software, I can strategically stage the routes and the dispatch of the diesel nurse trailer. I also want to know if my operators are going too fast, which can be very critical in planting and harvest.”

The software also allows Seward to keep up with equipment function, speed and even engine temperature from his laptop. The monitoring system cost about $6,000 to set up for a tractor plus about $1,000 for an annual subscription.

The higher efficiency the system provides could make it well worth the costs, according to Seward. “What if the system can help me eliminate a $235,000 tractor? How much is that worth?”

For the Sewards, precision farming is using technology to build on a very simple concept — putting inputs where they need to be placed.

“Smart controllers apply our inputs and generate data that we can use for recordkeeping and quality control,” Seward says.

“When you farm on this large a scale, you can use precision farming techniques to know when a job is done. As-applied maps can truth it to make sure that it was done properly.”

It also requires cooperation and coordination between people, technology and companies.

“To get into precision farming, you need to find a good partner, somebody like Jimmy Sanders,” Seward says. “They are in the forefront of variable-rate fertilizer applications in the United States.

“You also need to have great managers and employees, and we have the best. Technology in agriculture is all about increasing productivity and maximizing yields on whatever scale.”

 

erobinson@farmpress.com