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Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014

Technology not just for white-collar workers

Thursday, October 17, 2002

CHARLESTON -- When a piece of machinery breaks down for Donny DeLine, all he has to do is hit the speed dial button on his cellular phone, and in seconds he's in touch with a dealership, tracking down a part.

And when it's too windy to spray in the daytime, a global positioning system helps guide DeLine through his field at night.

The 32-year-old Mississippi County farmer is living proof that lap tops and cell phones aren't only for white-collar workers anymore.

"Using these tools simplifies farming large areas, helps me keep contact with my employees and helps me keep track of the input of my crops" DeLine explained.

A graduate of Arkansas State University, DeLine said technology use is something that was pressed into him while receiving his education. Now it's something that has become a way of life for him and other area farmers.

"I think more of the younger, aggressive farmers are using the technology versus the older farmers who are probably more set in their ways," DeLine noted.

DeLine estimated between 10 and 15 percent of farmers in the area use technological tools. Just like Internet navigating has gained popularity with farmers, so will GPS-use and other devices, he assured.

Two-way radios, yield monitors in combines for moisture testing and lap tops for record keeping are other tools DeLine uses to monitor his farm.

Stephen Lankheit is another farmer who believes benefits far outweigh the cost when it comes to farm technology.

Even the machinery is a lot better and bigger than it was years ago, Lankheit, 35, recalled. "My dad farmed in the 1950s, and what took him three or four passes in a tractor, now only takes one trip," he said.

For DeLine, it's the GPS that has made the biggest impact on farming, he said. "It's got a lot of possibilities," he said.

Matthew Morrow, a farmer in Mississippi and New Madrid counties, said there are all kinds of global positioning systems. GPS map out fields and download information to generate a map of the farm, he said.

For example, one section of the field may yield 180 bushels and other another section may only yield 160 bushels. With information from GPS, farmers can determine how to spread their fertilizer, Morrow explained.

GPS allows farmers -- and any landowner, for that matter -- to map out the important features of their property like roads, irrigation systems, gates and even patches of dry grass. The recorded information can be used to manage the land most efficiently.

"With GPS, I'm able to make more bushels per acre, and I use it to guide my fertilizer," Lankheit said.

Thanks to the technology, Lankheit, who farms in Mississippi and Scott counties, said he has saved money on materials, labor and fuel. His net profits have increased.

"With technology, I can get more work done with less labor," Lankheit said. "I can't wait to be able to put a tractor in the field and let in run on its own -- and I really believe that will be possible some day."

DeLine keeps his lap top with him at all times. "Some farmers will carry a scratch pad around with them, but for me, it's easier to enter it in the system and not worry about losing the paper," he reasoned.

Lankheit also keeps records on his lap top. "I use the computer religiously," he said. "If I need records from years ago, all I have to do is pull up the file of the year I need and in minutes, I have everything I need."

An ID code number is used for each of Lankheit's fields and he updates his information annually, he said.

"We did without cell phones and computers for years, but I wouldn't want to go back," Morrow said. "The technology is too valuable."