The Modern Harvest: Managing "by the square foot instead of by the field"

Oct 1, 2015

This program originally aired on November 17, 2014.

This year, U.S. farmers are bringing in what is expected to be a record breaking harvest. On this edition of River to River - the modern day harvest.

Host Ben Kieffer joins Johnson County farmer Jim Sladek, of JCS Family Farms, in his combine to process rows of corn, finding out what’s unique about this harvest season and how farmers plan ahead for fluctuating corn prices, climate change, and equipment hazards.

Running the combine is the best job. Beats the hell out of sitting at a desk. - Jim Sladek

In the second half of the show, Harvest Public Media reporters Amy Mayer and Grant Gerlock share their thoughts and expertise about the many challenges facing the modern farmer, including the importance of data gathering and how farm data is used.

"Now, you're starting to see a lot of technologies come to the market that allow you to manage by the square foot instead of by the field," says Sladek. "The question is, what do you do with that information?"

Iowa has produced the largest corn crop in the U.S. for almost two decades
Credit Emily Woodbury

Gerlock says farmers worry about data sharing in the same way that internet users worry about their privacy.

"There are lots of different companies that are offering these services, where you can upload your information, they can analyze the data, compare it to climate and soil information, and come up with different suggestions for next year," says Gerlock.

"[Farmers] love that advice, but what they're concerned about is what else might be done with that data."

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Interested in learning more about how combines work? Check out IPR's video below, from Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury's day on the farm.