News, Waterford

Ag technology improves efficiency for farmers

Kevin Malchine, of Malchine Farms, explains yield map features on March 9 at his Wind Lake farm shop (Jason Arndt/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

By Jason Arndt

Technological advancements in the agriculture industry have helped farmers become better environmental stewards while increasing efficiencies in their day-to-day operations.

That technology includes yield maps and tractors equipped with GPS, among other enhancements.

Kevin Malchine, sixth-generation owner of Malchine Farms in Wind Lake along with his brother Mike, said they use the latest technology to produce more corn and soybeans on the 2,000-acre farm.

“Modern technology has made farmers much more efficient,” Kevin said. “Today, we have yield maps. Yield maps tell you how much corn you are taking off of every square foot in an acre, so we know how much is coming off of every spot in an acre.”

He said yield maps help farmers save on costs and time, since the technology shows specific areas in a field in need of additional attention.

“We take that information and fertilize accordingly and that allows us to not overuse fertilizer, and be more efficient and is also better for the environment,” Kevin said. “It allows us to produce more corn with less fertilizer.”

Before yield maps were introduced, farmers typically blanketed an entire field with the same amount of fertilizer, Kevin explained.

However, with yield maps and more soil testing, they can now target specific areas.

Information is compiled through GPS technology installed in tractors, according to Kevin, who said data is collected during harvest.

“We actually had GPS on our combine before everybody had it in the car,” he said. “The reason we use that in the combine is because it tells you where you are in the field, and as the corn comes in, it tells you what kind of volume of corn you have.”

Yield maps also show the soil’s moisture consistency, chemical composition and other characteristics.

Kevin said at Malchine Farms they also use self-driving tractors to help guide farmers in achieving the ideal grid people often see while driving in rural areas.

“They do drive themselves, they are self-driving tractors, once you set a grid in a field, it will put you exactly where you need to be, so you are not overlapping and not missing any areas,” said Kevin.

He noted however, an operator is always behind the wheel of the vehicle, so it’s not entirely autonomous.

Evolving technology
Kevin serves on various agriculture boards and is often exposed to new technology, including some undergoing trial runs, such as InnerPlant.

According to the InnerPlant website, the platform looks to help farmers manage crop stress while becoming more proactive in treating them.

“We value the critical role farmers play in society. But the challenges they face in managing crop stress requires them to apply chemicals in advance everywhere because they’re unable to identify problems early enough to take action. We believe crop health must be solved on a plant-by-plant basis,” InnerPlant states on its website.

“By digitizing a plant’s stress with our living sensors, we can spotlight areas of concern, allowing farmers to pick the right treatment at the right place and the right time to protect crops and increase yields.”

Based on Kevin’s initial review, the InnerPlant technology could reduce treatment costs substantially, since it will be able to mitigate damages to an entire field.

For example, if InnerPlant identifies a corner of field, Kevin said a farmer could simply target that specific area.

“You can be more proactive and take care of that corner of the field before it spreads to the whole field, so you don’t have to treat the whole field,” he said. “You are not spraying the entire field so it’s better for the environment and consumers and it also saves money.”

New technology also helps the farmers stay competitive on the world stage, Kevin said.

InnerPlant is currently still in the trial phase with some farmers testing the platform.

“The technology in the farm space is ever-changing, there is new technology coming down the line all of the time,” said Kevin, who admits he sometimes finds the advancements “overwhelming.”

Deep agriculture roots
Malchine Farms, 27402 Malchine Rd., Waterford, served as the venue for the 2022 Racine County Breakfast on the Farm.

Since 1854, six years after Wisconsin became an official state, the farm has been in the same family.

While Malchine Farms primarily focuses on corn and soybeans, with a 50/50 split between the two crops, the property also grows some wheat.

Mike Malchine’s son, Ryan, will represent the seventh generation to work on the land.

“We have been around for quite a while,” Kevin said.

Comments are closed.