Machinery Chatter

Moving Forward

Charles Jacobi (left), Josh Jacobi (center) and Jeremy Amos check out corn root develop this summer at a research plot during a Precision Planting field day in Pontiac, Illinois. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Matthew Wilde)

Jason Webster, a commercial agronomist for Precision Planting, may be the new honorary king of the one-liners -- at least in agricultural circles.

Webster doesn't rattle off jokes like the true king, Henny Youngman, best known for the witticism, "Take my wife ... please." But he shared a couple philosophical phrases during a field day this summer at the company's Precision Technology Institute research farm in Pontiac, Illinois, that hit home with farmers and myself, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Here are two Webster gems as he talked about the future of agriculture:

-- "The same old thinking will provide the same results."

-- "I don't want to be average. In today's farm economy, we can't afford it."

That got me thinking about the vast differences among farmers when it comes to upgrading equipment and technology as finances allow and adopting modern production techniques. Some producers embrace change, others shun it.

You may remember an earlier blog post I wrote about my father, Eugene (if not, you can read it here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…). The 84-year-old is fascinated with the size, speed and precision of today's farm equipment, but ironically refused to modernize during his more than 50-year farming career near Grafton, Iowa. As dad's health rapidly declines (hospice is now involved in his care) and he copes with dementia, I know updates about the impending harvest make him happy.

I tell him about self-steering combines with 18-row corn heads, which easily exceed $600,000, that will quickly devour a field. An unimaginable way to harvest to a farmer that used a two-row New Idea corn ear corn picker -- and sometimes a one-row corn binder -- through the 1980s. Each cost less new than a monitor in a modern harvester.

Dad's reluctance to change, among other things, eventually doomed his business. I'll never know why, and it really doesn't matter anymore. Now it's time to make sure he's happy and comfortable and celebrate the virtues and lessons he knowingly and unknowingly instilled in me: A strong work ethic and change is good.

This summer I had the pleasure to meet and visit with Charles Jacobi of McCordsville, Indiana, during the aforementioned Precision Planting field day. About the same age as Dad, Jacobi is getting ready to harvest his 62nd crop with his grandson, Josh Jacobi, and their employee, Jeremy Amos.

The Hoosier farmers are considering planter and technology upgrades, so they wanted to see what Precision Planting has to offer, along with research trial results. After wet conditions prevented them from planting 1,000 acres this year, the Jacobis wanted to learn about ways to be more efficient and hopefully boost revenues.

"It's the first time I didn't get all the crop planted," Charles said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Despite the setback, the family patriarch likes to keep up with the times and upgrade equipment as needed.

"There's (always) promise when you're heading in the right direction," he continued.

The Jacobis already have Precision Planting's DeltaForce, which applies the right amount of downforce to row units to ensure seeds are planted at the proper depth, on their 16-row planter. They also use its 20|20 display in the tractor to help monitor and control planter functions.

Possible planter upgrades the Jacobis are eyeing include adding liquid fertilizer tanks and equipment accompanied by Precision Planting's vApplyHD, which automatically controls rate and flow of nutrients, and new row cleaners. If that occurs, the family would upgrade to the latest Gen3 20|20 display to give them even better control applying starter fertilizer, downforce, seed population and more. It would give the planter operator clear vision and confidence of what is going on in the seed furrow, and provide data for the company's control systems.

"I'm brand new at this (farming)," Amos said. "I want to be able to plant and not screw it up."

The Jacobis, Amos and other field day attendees were able to test out the latest Precision Planting equipment and technology in its "sandbox," a 30-acre testing ground. The ride-and-drive featured a combination of White, Harvest International, John Deere, Massey Ferguson and Fendt tractors and planters.

"We love the equipment," Josh said. "But Grandpa said you don't have to convince me, you have to convince Grandma, who writes the checks."

He estimates planter and technology upgrades could easily exceed $22,000.

Webster said Precision Planting studies show significant corn yield increases by applying nitrogen (N) before, during and after planting. In some cases, this was a nearly 20-bushel advantage compared to only applying N before planting. At $3.50 per bushel, that's about $70 more revenue per acre.

"That's my play with Grandma," Josh said. "If we can pay for upgrades with 300 acres, why not do it?"

Time will tell if the Jacobis, and Grandma, take Webster's one-liners to heart.

Matthew Wilde can be reached at matt.wilde@dtn.com

Follow Matthew on Twitter @progressivwilde

(ES/AG)