Satellite Technology and The Piar Farm

The Ohio State Agricultural Extension Office has granted two Knox County farmers the money to experiment with precision farming. Bill Piar and his father Ron now farm 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans more precisely than most farmers in the region.
John Deere, Inc.
Bill Piar uses Global Position Sensing (GPS), or satellite signals, to help collect yield information for many different areas in his fields. In the spring, John Barker, an agricultural extension agent, maps out all of the Piar's fields on a computer. Each field map is made into a grid. ComputerDuring harvest time, Bill uses satellite signals to pinpoint exactly where the combine is on the field grid. The computer in the combine collects yield and moisture data for each square in the field grid. Each square on the grid may have different yields.
One square in the field may produce 150 bushels of corn per acre, Sunwhereas another square may only produce 130 bushels of corn per acre. The square which produced 150 bushels per acre may have had better soil, Water dropless moisture or a good amount of nutrients. The square in the field which produced 130 bushels per acre may have had too much moisture or not enough fertilizer. Bill will take soil samples of the field to determine why there were different yields.

Bill Piar harvesting his field
Bill Piar harvesting his field
Photo by Annick Shen
In the fall, Bill can plant his crops based on the new information he gathered in the spring. SoilBill says, "I'll take all the data, process it, and adjust seed dropping when I'm planting the field. It may vary from 25,000 seed per acre all the way up to 32,000 seed per acre, depending on the potential of the soil."

Farmers who do not use precision farming may not know exactly how many seeds or how many chemicals to use in each section of their fields. ChemicalsFarmers who use precision farming techniques can calculate just the right amount of seed or chemicals to use. These farmers save money.Money They can also grow more crops by getting the most out of the soil in the field. Bill says, "What we are trying to do is spend our money more wisely." Precision farming is better for the environment than some conventional farming practices.

Precision farming is popular in the western half of the United States. CombineThe more land farmers farm, the more money they can save by using precision farming. One reason farmers in Knox County do not use precision farming is farm size. The average farm size in Knox County is 200 acres. NotepadThese farms are much smaller than farms in the West. Precision farming also requires a lot of record keeping, data analysis, soil testing and field mapping. Many Knox County farmers do not have enough farm hands to perform all these tasks. The Ohio State Agricultural Extension Office provides some of these services to the Piars, so they can use GPS.

Bill says that it takes an open minded, possibly younger farmer to adopt new technologies like precision farming.

"If you look around Knox County, the average age of the average farmer is going up because there is not enough in farming to keep younger people interested. It is going to take a younger person to say 'This is what it is going to take to make me cost competitive or to make me more efficient.' Whereas an older farmer may say, 'This is the way I have always done things before. It has always worked.' You have to be open minded and it takes a lot of work."

Bill Piar, Knox County


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