New Lessons in Farming Efficiency
Nebraska farmers embrace technology to streamline operation
Since his two sons, Jeremy and Shane, came back to the farm full time, Nebraska soybean farmer Greg Greving has undoubtedly taught them a thing or two. But they’ve also impressed at least one lesson upon him when it comes to the technology they’ve installed in some of their equipment.
“Sometimes I get in the tractor and ask them what I need to do with a monitor, and they tell me ‘Don’t touch it!’” says Greg Greving, the chairman of the Nebraska soy checkoff board who grows soybeans and corn in Chapman, Neb.
The Grevings use technology such as GPS and autosteer in their machinery. They also installed a computer program that uses that guidance technology to automatically turn spray nozzles on and off as they drive their sprayer through a field. Another program automatically keeps records as they plant, spray and harvest.
In total, tools like those have made farming more efficient, Greving told a group of food sector representatives who participated in the soy checkoff’s recent sustainability farm tour. The participants heard from various farmers in Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa about just a few of the ways they’re improving their sustainability performance, which helps those companies meet demands from their customers for sustainably sourced ingredients.Greg Greving explains the benefits of being able to monitor his center-pivot irrigation equipment remotely through a hand-held computer tablet, yet another example of how U.S. soybean farmers continue to improve their sustainability performance.
The Grevings’ farm, like all the others around it, is completely irrigated. Technology has also helped them manage that part of their operation. Greg Greving demonstrated a program that tracks rainfall and how much irrigated water they’ve applied to their soybeans. The program charts a line illustrating the ideal amount of water for optimal soybean growth as well as a second line that shows how much water the soybeans have actually received.
“When we irrigate, we know it takes so many days to get through a field, and we need to get water to the crop right when it needs it,” Grieving explains. “The key is not to let the irrigation line go past the ideal line. It’s a very helpful tool for irrigated farms.”
The tour participants made their last stop at the lone livestock farm on the program, a hog operation in Central City, Neb., where farmer Mark McHargue built a small methane digester that will turn hog manure into electricity. Once processed, the liquid that comes out of the digester gives off substantially less odor than the original manure, but still possesses the same nutrients, making it just as useful as a crop fertilizer.
“We figured out a way on a smaller operation to treat manure, take some of the odor out and create electricity,” says McHargue. “We have lots of things we could do to improve our sustainability, but sometimes we have to wait on the technology.”