Precision agriculture technology does not come one-size-fits-all. Limitations, specific on-farm needs, and overall goals all dictate what makes good business sense. With this in mind, four North American farmers share how they make precision tech pay. In part 1 of a 4-part series: Clinton Monchuk from Saskatchewan explains what precision farming technology works for him, and what doesn‘t.
Clinton Monchuk farms approximately 4000 acres of grains and cereals, though tree cover and a lack of drainage tile means the number of workable acres is closer to 3600 – with the location of unworkable ground sometimes shifting with rain pattern variations.
With an emphasis on soil improvement, he says precision tech – most notably sectional control for different inputs – is a cost-saver rather than money maker.
Monchuck combines soil profiling, with a mid-row banding system on their planter for in-furrow ammonia application. Sectional control and a Trimble 2050 mapping system have wrought 9.5 per cent savings on fertilizer costs annually.
Sectional control is a no brainer. It pays huge dividends
“The level of loss is extremely low. Our organic matter continues to grow and we’re seeing better results,” he says. “Sectional control is a no brainer. It pays huge dividends.”
Sectional control was also incorporated into their spray strategy, though savings are comparatively minor (approximately 2 to 5 per cent). Similarly, the AFS Pro 700 mapping system in his combines do not bring savings, but are more convenient for the operator. Such time savings, Monchuk says, are themselves valuable.
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“We like to keep current information, current technology, but has to fit sustainability on our farm. Really at the end of the day for us to pay for it, it needs to make sense. We’re not buying brand new [equipment] every year […] What we do is when we purchase new equipment, we usually retrofit it to make sure we can put some of that new technology to use, but again it has to make sense economically.”
Clinton’s advice for those investing in precision technology is “don’t cheap out.” Doing the homework to ensure what you plan to buy matches what you need, and paying for something of quality that will actually work. Don’t be afraid to ask advice from those with past experience either.
Farmer: Clinton Monchuk, 42
Location: Lanigan, Saskatchewan
Total cultivation area: 3650 acres
Main crops: Canola, malting barley, wheat, yellow peas, oats, rye, mustard, soybeans.
Main farm implements: Bourgault seed drill with Versatile tractor, Case IH high-clearance sprayer, MacDon swather (windrower). Both planting and spraying setups have sectional control and mapping systems.