Rich Keller
Rich Keller

Moving from fall to winter is just around the corner and the shift from outside field work to the inside office work will be in high gear shortly.

I can remember the days when winter was a fairly slow period for the agronomy professionals. There would be that customer appreciation sandwich lunch at the ag retailer office to bring farmers in to discuss early ordering for next year’s fertilizer and herbicides. That booking day would be the basis for the ag retailer staff to talk with the crop protection manufacturing reps and fertilizer suppliers.

Today, precision agriculture tools with all the information gathered during the past growing season means the winter is a much different work scenario than just a few years ago. The winter is the slightly slower time when farmers and crop consultants, farm managers and agricultural retailer agronomists can get together and evaluate all the precision data gathered.

What does the data show, and how will it influence a farmer to improve his equipment or to do things different in 2013? Is the cost of a new planter with precision planting technology a wise move? How many acres of custom application service will be necessary? Is there a new technique or new technology that can change the way each field is farmed? Are there new pesticides that should be included and old ones replaced?  

There is considerable work necessary to compile precision data before meeting with a farmer. Agronomists and consultants have to know how to read the data, even if a service is used to store and analyze the data. The ag professionals of today must be educated more than ever before to walk the talk in helping farmers with all their computer, GPS, satellite and telemetry files.

Large manufacturers and ag distributors are offering services to assist growers more than ever. Examples are Pioneer with upgrades to its FIT services; Winfield has its new R7 tool, and Monsanto just announced its FieldScripts program.

Every year the equipment manufacturers are offering precision systems incorporated into their equipment line-up , it was only a couple years ago that most precision systems were after-market bolt on or factory installed based on the requested add-on. Today, precision systems are original equipment installations coordinated as part of the total wiring and electrical system installed during the assembly line process.

There are only a few manufacturers of the various precision systems, but each seems to issue an update or new tool one or two times per year. And it lands on ag professionals to know how the technology works, the preciseness of the data being gathered and how to use that data for improving a farmer’s operation. Because the professional is going to make detailed recommendations, he/she has to know more than the farmer about the data.

The advantage the ag professional has is that he/she is reading and interpreting the data for more than one farm; therefore, the process becomes much more second nature. Recommendations can almost be standardized if data shows specific ranges when certain equipment is being used by the farmer on similar variability of soil.

Overall, crop consultants and agronomists have a much more complicated and busy winter than in the old days, but this workload also makes sure that farmers and their ag professionals have more than a brief meeting to book chemicals, seed and fertilizer.

 Ag professionals, who are a true mix of technology specialist, strong salesman and have a personality that farmers appreciate, are hard to find. Ag retailers who have these types of educated and knowledgeable professionals on staff are extremely lucky.