Making time for potato industry conferences and events is a great way to learn from others, gain ideas, and improve your business whether you’re a grower, processor, or a technology supplier like me.
At the end of January, I ran into Terrence Bueckert of Beaver Creek Farms at Manitoba Potato Production Days in Brandon. They grow 9,000 acres of crops including 1,000 acres of potatoes near MacGregor in central Manitoba. Because of Terrence’s experience with potato planting, I really value his perspective on how seemingly small adjustments can make a significant difference to potato production. So, I followed up with him to share his thoughts here:
“We mounted RiteDepth sonar sensors on our Lockwood planter for depth control last year. In the past, we had certain situations where we struggled a bit maintaining depth. When this technology came along, well, sometimes you’re hesitant in starting a new electronics application, but in this case we figured it seemed simple enough to install and try.
“In the past, we’ve had inconsistent emergence because as the planter gets emptier, it has less weight. When we added extensions to our planter’s hoppers we noticed more how the planter rides deeper when it’s full of seed compared to empty. The sonar sensor measures the distance from the ground to the frame, so it maintains the correct distance whether it’s empty or full.
“Same goes for wet ground. Last year, we planted when much of the field was ready to go but we had to muck through some frost boils. In the past, the machine just goes down and the seed can get quite deep. The wet areas are always colder ground too, so sometimes you can get seed rot when the seed goes too deep. With the sonar control, the planter compensates for the soft areas and maintains proper depth.
“The other thing I liked is the manual depth override. In situations where you want to go shallower or deeper, it’s a simple toggle on the box in the cab. In general, the technology is user-friendly: we’re pretty handy so we had no issue installing and using it, and it’s a simple menu.
“We’re only one year in, but we definitely saw more consistency at emergence. We haven’t tracked all the way to harvest to find out how much of a yield difference it makes because there are a lot of other factors at play over the season. It’s not necessarily a game changer but I do think it all factors in. As farmers, the pursuit of excellence is always on our minds. If we can see an evenly emerged field, we can see that’s one area we were able to manage.
For us, there’s no turning back. We definitely see value in it.”
Thanks for your thoughts, Terrence.