December 05, 2018

Technology in the field: How this fourth-generation farm is using technology to the fullest

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RimRock Ranches from above. Photo courtesy of Ben Hermann via the 2018 #BredToWin contest.

One of the amazing parts about wheat farming is that it’s more than just a means of earning income. For many wheat farmers, wheat is a family affair often going back generations. For Ben Hermann, wheat has been in the family for over 100 years.

A fourth-generation farmer, Ben partners with his father, Jim, to run RimRock Ranches, a farm that has been in operation since it was homesteaded in 1909. Wheat is the crop of choice in this area as the short growing season and winter precipitation pattern isn’t suitable for corn or soy. This fact, however, doesn’t disappoint Ben. “I like growing wheat specifically because it’s a tried-and-true consistent crop,” says Ben. Still, Ben likes to keep things interesting by trying new farming methods.

These new farming methods typically revolve around the idea that not all land is created equal. Ben explains it like this: “A big change in farming recently is managing ground to be more site-specific instead of treating all acres the same way.” Although managing different parts of the field doesn’t necessarily require technology, it sure makes it a whole lot easier. “Yield monitors in combines have been a huge help in gathering data to find the good and bad spots in our fields,” Ben says. Before data technology like the Climate FieldView™ platform, identifying and tracking high-performing and low-performing parts of the field was much more manual and time-consuming, and ultimately less scientific. With these new tools, Ben can make quicker, more data-driven decisions than ever before.

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Photo courtesy of Ben Hermann via the 2018 #BredToWin contest.

Herbicide and fertilizer applications have also become easier to manage, especially around difficult terrain. “Auto steering in tractors and combines is nice, but the system that turns our spray and fertilizer valves on/off by GPS has made life much easier on our steep slopes and irregular-shaped fields,” Ben explains. Of course, the introduction of all this technology has its drawbacks. Ben explains that their equipment can break down, occasionally at the most inopportune times.

Despite frustrating technology breakdowns, Ben likes to keep things fun with harvest traditions such as “harvest beards,” in which he and his brothers and father don’t shave until harvest is over — a great way to celebrate the end of those long harvest days.

Do you have any fun harvest traditions? Let us know on WestBred® wheat’s Facebook or Twitter, or by emailing the.tiller@westbred.com so that you could be featured on an upcoming Tiller article.

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