Knowing Your Roots

IMG_2969A recent blog post mentioned how important technology has become in the potato farming industry, and one of the biggest technological helpers is guidance. By using guidance systems on our machinery that use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, farms like ours, Wysocki Produce Farm, can make field operations much more efficient and sustainable. We added guidance systems to our farm about eight years ago, and it’s made a huge difference for our crops, our environmental impact and our staff.

In our fields, guidance plays a large role in our sustainability efforts, allowing us to get more yield over fewer acres. In the past, we tilled our crops by driving our tractors “freehand,” which means that we used to prepare our soil for planting by just driving up and down the field and overlapping that work to make sure we didn’t miss any area.  Now with guidance recording the exact area tilled, we are tilling with a margin of only an inch on each row. This means we no longer have that overlapped guess spacing between rows of crops and can plant more plants per acre while eliminating a few passes, or laps down the length of the field, with the tractor on each field by not having that overlap.

We also keep the amount of rounds we make in the fields down by doing single passes with our tractors to hill our potatoes. Hilling is when additional soil is piled up around the base of the plant, which improves the yield of each potato plant by encouraging an increased growth of tubers.

Fewer passes through each of our fields adds up quickly from both an equipment and environmental standpoint. We use each piece of our machinery less, which means less wear and tear on our equipment and less maintenance. Using that machinery less is an environmental plus because we are consuming less fuel to power our equipment.

When we apply this GPS technology to our sprayers, it also records the area covered as it makes a pass. With sprayers, however, the system can also shut the sprayer down to ensure there are no overlaps or over-application of nutrients in the fields. The same can be accomplished with our irrigation systems. Our irrigators can be set to cover only a certain amount of area in the field and can be monitored offsite. This means fewer trips to and from each field as well, another way we can cut down on our fossil fuel consumption.

The technologies we are able to use have also improved the quality of our employees’ lives and encourage a healthier work-life balance. For example, our irrigation specialist in Nekoosa spends more time at his campsite than he ever has in the past. Now he can monitor and control our irrigation systems using his computer from just about anywhere, so he knows exactly what our irrigation is doing, and doesn’t have to wonder what is happening in our fields when he is not there.

The recent strides in guidance systems have allowed farmers to know exactly the area they are farming and plant the maximum amount of healthy crops with less waste of resources. Guidance and GPS technology will only become more important in the planting and cultivation of potato crops with the coming years.

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