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Knowledge he gained from Mississippi State University Extension management programs and specialists, from production conferences, and from farmers willing to share their experience and advice, has led to the adoption of practices that boosted yields, reduced costs, and increased revenues on Keith Morton's north Mississippi farm.
KEITH MORTON and wife Beth with the tracked tractor that’s a part of Keith’s program of utilizing precision farming technology and no-till to reduce compaction and maintain beds in the same place year after year.
Wheat yield significantly improved
Keith added wheat in 2007, averaging 57 bushels. “It took a while to get to know the crop and to improve production methods,” he says. “I changed from 10 inch rows to 7.5 inch and increased plant population, and in 2012 yield was 73 bushels — a significant improvement.
“Wheat provides the benefit of providing cash flow in the spring. I have 450 acres this year, which will be double-cropped to soybeans, and I’ll have 370 acres of full-season beans. Soybean varieties are Pioneer 94Y90, Asgrow 4632, Armor DK4744, and AgVenture 51X.
“I also get some extra revenue from the wheat by contracting with a local landscape firm that comes in following harvest and bales the straw for use on highway rights-of-way and other projects where a lot of mulch is needed. And I lease hunting rights on my land, which provides additional income.”
Adding GPS technology in 2008 enabled him to achieve a greater degree of accuracy in field operations, Keith says, and to get more work done in less time.
“We added John Deere auto-steer, swath control, and yield monitoring all at one time, and it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. The only problem with my current GPS system is that I can’t get the repeatability I need to keep rows and tractor paths in exactly the same place. Positions drift over time.
“Next year, I plan to upgrade to RTK. With that technology, there is no drift — positions stay the same from day to day, year to year. It will also record elevation data, which will be useful in improving drainage. And if I install drip irrigation in the future, as I hope to do, repeatability will be necessary, particularly on irregularly-shaped fields.”
Keith’s tractor is an 8410T John Deere — a wide stance machine with 18 inch tracks, 120 inches track-to-track. “It spreads the weight of the tractor lengthwise instead of widthwise,” he says, “which results in less compaction. It has been an excellent fit for my bed system and controlled traffic. My no-till planter is a 12-row John Deere 7300. Residue cleaners on the planter push aside residue from last year’s crop just enough to provide a clean opening for seed placement.