When Monsanto purchased Precision Planting in May, many wondered what a leading seed technology company wanted with the planter technology business.
The day before the Farm Progress Show kicked off in Boone, Iowa, Monsanto revealed the strategy behind their new Integrated Farming Systems division. Ted Crosbie, vice president of IFS, explains it like this.
"Farming is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube," Crosbie says. "As farmers, we all feel like if we could just figure out how to move that cube the right way, we could get a lot more yield."
Crosbie hopes IFS' first product offering, FieldScripts, will help farmers get that cube moving in the right direction. Put simply, FieldScripts is precision ag on steroids.
Crosbie explains that FieldScripts will seek to optimize yield by choosing the correct hybrid, at the right population density and plant it in the optimal section of each field. Years into the future, a FieldScripts'-compatible planter, which will rely heavily on Precision Planting's technology, will be capable of varying hybrids and plant populations down to the individual row.
In the initial stages, FieldScripts will vary plant populations across the field based on the grower's yield averages, most recent yield data and fertility program. FieldScripts also utilizes a proprietary algorithm, which compiles data from Monsanto's extensive breeding program. Not only that, but Monsanto has also changed their breeding program's approach when it comes to performance evaluation.
In the past, Crosbie says growers would complain that Monsanto would test hybrids only on the best spots in their best fields. Rather than continuing this shoot-for-the-moon approach, Monsanto will now conduct performance evaluations across numerous soil types and growing conditions. It's all part of matching the right hybrid with the right soil type for optimized performance, Crosbie adds.
John Raines, vice president of IFS, says FieldScripts will enter the "groundbreaker research testing" phase in 2013 for select acres in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota. In 2014, the product will see a limited launch across these four states.
According to Raines, FieldScripts will be paired only with the Dekalb seed brand in the initial launch. It will be sold as a separate product on a per acre basis. Raines says pricing information is not yet available. FieldScripts will be sold through Monsanto's seed dealer network.
Gregg Sauder, founder of Tremont, Ill.'s Precision Planting, was on hand for the FieldScripts launch at the dealer training center in Huxley, Iowa. His technology is a key component in varying seeding rates according to grower data. Sauder says any planter can be retrofitted with Precision Planting's technology in order to take advantage of FieldScripts. The cost is approximately $1,000 per row.
In years past, Sauder would evaluate 38 different genetics on his farm. He'd choose the top performers and plant them across all 5,000 acres. He knew he was missing the nuances of certain individual hybrids, but couldn't figure out how to refine the system. Then Monsanto approached him about IFS.
"When they left, I turned to my wife, Cindy and said, 'This is the piece I've been missing,'" Sauder explains.
As planter technology advances, pairing individual farm statistics with soil data and Monsanto's genetic algorithms will push yields toward the magical 300-bushel level, Sauder says.
"It's planting the right genetics on the right soil at the right density," he notes. "That's the key."