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Keith Wendte asks himself the same question every time he makes an adjustment on his family’s Effingham County, Ill., farm: Is this providing a return on investment?
If it isn’t, then forget it, he’ll try something new. And when it comes to precision tools, there aren’t many he hasn’t tried.
Wendte manages data and analysis for his family’s 7,000-acre operation from an office more than 200 miles away in the Chicago area. The family grows corn, soybeans and wheat.
“My responsibilities include the collection, organization and analysis of data on our farm and the creation of application maps,” says Wendte, who recently wrapped up a 37-year career as an engineer first for International Harvester and later Case IH and CNH Industrial.
Wendte was an early adopter of precision farming technology nearly 30 years ago. He first used yield maps in 1994, GPS and grid soil sampling in 1997, variable rate technology (VRT) fertilizer application in 2005, RTK auto-guidance in 2012, high speed planters with individual shutoff row units in 2020 and now he’s looking at implementing drone technology on the farm in 2023.
“We would use a drone to apply fungicide and insecticide,” Wendte says. “This is important for our wheat crop because when we’re applying fungicide early in the spring, it’s wet and many times we don’t have the ability to get in there with a sprayer. The drone would also give us the ability to put in our own check plots, so we can…