Every once in a while I get a treat. This spring, I got to spend a couple days focused on planting at a northern Illinois operation. It's part of a project I work on for another publication here at Penton Ag, but it was a treat to just be in the field during a busy time.
Planting is that "paycheck investment" time and you know you've got to get your crop in efficiently when the weather allows. As I write this in late April, my Iowa readers are still worried about corn planting timing. But when the ground dries and it's time to do the work are you as efficient as possible?
Tough question to ask yourself since many readers may just be finishing-up and washing down the planter and other equipment to park in time for spraying season. But right now your work this spring is fresh in your mind; check your notes so 2018 goes even better.
For the fields I was in the producers had two planters going full tilt, which isn't easy because planters use up seed and preemergence herbicide pretty fast. That means having your tending setup ready to rock and roll when you need it.
So how did tending go this spring? Are you still using seedbags? Is it time to consider a seed tender and going bulk to speed up planting? Perhaps you need a bigger water tank or different setup to tend the chemical application side of your planting operation.
Planting is a critical time, where you can cost yourself money with missed opportunities. Yet, it's possible to overcome a lot of it with planning. And with weather being your biggest challenge at planting, anything you can do to shorten tending speed could have a solid payback.
While what I write may appear to be nothing more than common sense, every operation has a way to get more efficient. And with labor costs rising, and crop costs stagnate, looking at how you did things in 2017 could have a big payoff in 2018.
In these lean times, reviewing every practice with an eye toward blowing up how you do things now in a move to be even more efficient next year has value. Here are a few tips to consider:
Identify the "pinch points" in your process: What were you constantly waiting on this spring? That's the task or machine that needs attention. For example, if it took too long to move crop protection products from tender tank to planter, then perhaps its time to invest in a more powerful pump - and that's an economical speed booster.
Look at every process: Even those that don't technically slow you down could be ripe for improvement. Moving to bulk seed for example; or investing in an improved auto-guidance system that would allow you to move more efficiently through the field.
Evaluate key machines: There's a rule of thumb I've used for years that helps guide planting and harvest equipment sizing. It's not perfect, but it's something to consider as you look at future buying plans: Can you plant your fields in two weeks if you have no breakdowns and no weather stalls? Can you harvest in four weeks, if everything goes just right? If you answer yes to both question, your equipment is sized right. If not, perhaps a change is needed.