When it comes to scouting no-till fields, Michael Horsch isn’t convinced you can do a good job from the driver’s seat of a SUV. In fact, he maintains placing too much emphasis on computerized prescription farming practices rather than walking fields is a major mistake for no-tillers.
Besides operating one of Europe’s major shortline farm equipment manufacturing firms, Horsch and his family rely on no-till and minimum tillage to farm 55,000 acres in Germany and the Czech Republic.
He says encouraging farmers, crops (think GMO) and fields to be as identical as possible ends up putting more dollars in the pockets of suppliers. Instead, Horsch urges farmers to be different and willing to innovate. He’s convinced that growers who walk their fields earn higher profits than farmers who makes most crop management decisions while sitting in an SUV or at a computer.
“The less time you spend on your computer during the growing season, the more time you can be walking your fields,” he says.
Horsch finds a major problem with crop scouting occurs with farmers who own a SUV. By sitting 20 inches higher than in a traditional car, a grower can see a few hundred feet further into a field. Simply by pushing a button and rolling down the window, he can view much of a large field without stepping out on the ground.
From the SUV driver’s seat, a grower may spot a small area of mildew near the road in a wheat field. Without putting a boot on the ground, he may decide to spray 500 acres with a full rate of fungicide — just to be on the safe side.
Yet by walking his wheat fields, all that may have been needed was to spray a half rate of fungicide on 25 acres. As a result, large amounts of fungicide and application dollars are wasted.
While Horsch admits prescription farming plans offer valuable crop information, nothing beats walking your fields before making costly cropping decisions.
“It’s not walking the first 100 feet in from the road that counts but walking 300 to 400 feet into a field because that’s where the cropping concerns get interesting,” he says.
Most concerns won’t be seen from the driver’s seat of a SUV.