Sometimes it takes serious searching to find something properly termed “cutting edge.” Sometimes it just takes a bit of luck.
“I was attending the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants annual meeting a couple of years ago and dropped my business card in a bunch of industry fishbowls. Everyone does that,” says central Louisiana farm consultant Randy Machovec.
Unlike most, though, Machovec actually won some free satellite imaging from EarthScan — a company based in both Omaha, Neb., and Albuquerque, N.M.
Machovec, who works for Pest Management Enterprises, Inc., sent in the coordinates of an area worked by farmers he consults for outside Cheneyville, La.
“They shot a seven-mile area. I can go into that seven miles and pick any field to look at. It's really slick. The photos show relative vigor of what's out there. It gives you a color breakdown to 0.1 acre by color code.”
Machovec wanted to see if there were any odd things in the farmers' sugar cane and cotton. He also wanted to know if long-held assumptions about areas in certain fields were true.
“There's a lot of interesting things. We found weak stands due to water, disease, insects, whatever. We now know where the weakness are and will begin looking for the causes.
“I had the imagery taken last July and am still working on it. I've been to several meetings looking at these things. Consultants here are now looking at this as a viable tool.”
However, in terms of precision technology and satellite imagery, Machovec says, “the area is really behind the times. We have one yield monitor on a combine around here.”
“Because precision farming hasn't made it here yet, we don't have any variable-rate applicators. I hope within a couple of years this technology will be used extensively here. I've already been working on getting this stuff in here for three years. It's just a slow process.”
As a consultant, does Machovec wait for the demand for this technology to arrive and then respond to it, or does he try and build demand himself?
“That's a good question and something I've thought about. In assisting the farmer, I think it's our responsibility to help the farmer with whatever he needs. If precision ag will help him, it's my job to go ahead and recommend it.
“Consultants can't force farmers' hands, but I think the potential is incredible. It would be wrong to say nothing and play a waiting game while all this fantastic technology is flying around outside the parish borders.”