Seeing is Believing

Growers harvest new practices from AGCO® Crop Tour™ events.

By Marilyn Cummins | Photos By Jamie Cole

As a host farmer for an AGCO Crop Tour plot in 2018, Kevin Iczkowski had a unique vantage point from seeding through harvest. He viewed the season from two perspectives—as a corn grower in Edgar, Wisconsin, and in his role as an ag sales consultant for Swiderski Equipment in nearby Mosinee.

Iczkowski watched nine side-by-side trials go into the 10-acre plot on his land. He noticed differences right away between corn planted at varying depths, or both with and without the automatic down-force control of DeltaForce® from Precision Planting®.“I walked the stands every day, flagging late-emerging plants,” he says. “You could clearly see a stand difference.”

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Steve Batdorf of Ohio Ag Equipment notes the visual contrasts evident in the corn at the Union City event his dealership hosted in August, especially in the down-force trials. “Just looking out across the field, you can see plant-height differences,” he says, adding that he was looking forward to getting in the rows to examine roots, ear size and more.

The plots in Wisconsin and Ohio were two of 10 AGCO Crop Tour locations across the Corn Belt in 2018, the third year of the research program that demonstrates how best planting practices affect yield and return on investment. Events were held in June, August and September for growers to view plots at various stages during the growing season. Once harvest is complete on all plots, AGCO will analyze and publish aggregated yield data.

Hands-On Learning

In each year of the Crop Tour, attendees have described taking home new ideas and practices to try. For example, in 2017, grower Jeff Franta said that viewing the plots at the WinField United event in Winfield, Minnesota, showed him “there can be a lot of benefit in increasing our technology in seed placement, spacing, keeping the rows clean and down-pressure control.” He was already using some Precision Planting technology on his Lafayette, Minnesota, farm, and was considering adding more.

At the same two-day event, Tim Rasmussen was another participant wearing two hats, as both a WinField agronomy associate on an agronomy panel and as a grower of corn, soybeans and wheat. “I put my farmer hat on for a day, and I got to go through the [Precision Planting] trailer and go through the different tour plots and such,” he said.

Rasmussen added his biggest takeaway was planting depth. “The demo of three-and-a half inch planting depth down to a one-inch depth was pretty eye-opening—how that one-inch planting depth is that detrimental to corn growth and corn yield,” he said.

He recalled an AGCO presenter asking a group of growers, “How many people jump out and check their planter, and how often? I wasn’t the last one to raise my hand, but I was in the middle of the pack of how many times I got out and checked and how many times per field that I’ve been able to check and make sure I’m having that consistent depth.”

When he does ground-truth, he digs a few feet of row at a time to see if he’s planting at the right depth and also with the right seed spacing. As to jumping out and checking the planter at regular intervals in each field, Rasmussen said, “That’s something that we just need to do rather than just say we’re going to do it—actually act upon it and actually provide an improvement to our operation.”

In 2018, when it came time to have growers and local FFA chapters visit the Wisconsin plots in mid-August, Iczkowski and the Crop Tour team were able to show and demonstrate agronomic results on central Wisconsin soils. “Everyone who came said they learned something to use in their own operation,” he says, based on surveys gathered from about 110 grower attendees during the two-day event.

“Our message to growers was, ‘We didn’t have the Crop Tour to sell you a planter. We want to help you grow a better crop,’” Iczkowski says. “If we don’t give them the tools to grow a successful crop, they don’t make money to spend with us.”

The day before the official two-day Crop Tour event, Swiderski Equipment and Crop Tour partners AGCO, Precision Planting, DuPont Pioneer, Cropping Central LLC and Marathon Feed & Grain held an interactive agronomy learning event at the plots for 50 FFA students from six local chapters, Iczkowski says. After the presentations, chapter teams vied for cash-prize donations in a timed exam on agronomy topics. “It was neat to see the students super-engaged and learning,” he says.

While 2018 was the first year Swiderski Equipment conducted AGCO Crop Tour plots and events, the dealership’s emphasis on agronomy is not new. Three years ago, Swiderski began teaming three specialists and two technicians in its Precision Farming group with its White Planters™ equipment salespeople. “Our Precision Farming specialists not only bring in-depth experience on the technology side, but also a broad understanding of how agronomic practices affect planting, and ultimately yields,” says Melissa Heise, the dealership’s marketing and human resources director. “Their specialized knowledge of White Planters and Precision Planting components…allows them to tie it all together with the customer.”