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For farmers there are two nerve-wracking times of year: planting and harvesting. One puts your money into the ground and the other takes it out. What happens in between often depends on the weather.
In August 2020, Bart Harris witnessed something different. Something now considered "once-in-a-century". A derecho storm ripped through the Midwest, devastating farm fields and destroying tens of millions of acres across multiple states. Known for their long-lived, straight-line winds, a derecho is a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms with potential damage rivaling tornadoes and hurricanes.
Harris, a corn and soybean farmer in Perry, Iowa, had fields flattened and was considering his options when harvest rolled around in October. Fortunately for Harris those crops had been planted using John Deere's new guidance and mapping software known as AutoPath™."In a normal year, AutoPath would have been a nice comfort to have," Harris said. "But we wouldn't have been able to harvest all of our crop without it this past year. There were people in the area that hardly harvested anything—if anything—because it was all destroyed."
How it works
AutoPath is John Deere's latest precision software that automatically creates guidance lines for an entire field without the operator having to set the lines manually. AutoPath begins when the very first pass in a row crop field (corn, cotton, soybeans) is taken in the spring.
"What makes AutoPath different from other products on the market is that it knows the location of every row of crop in the field," Glen Oetken, product marketing manager, said. "The first pass defines that, either in planting or strip tillage. Every application after precisely follows these rows, the entire year."
Oetken said AutoPath accounts for the differing row widths of equipment—from planters to sprayers to combine heads—and counts the rows and does the math for the farmer.
"AutoPath not only gives customers guidance lines for the entire field, including around terraces, waterways, and odd-shaped parcels, it also gives them proper starting points." he said. "It's foundational technology that has created a lot of excitement—probably the most I've seen in a long time."
So, what could have happened for Harris without AutoPath? He said there was talk of making an insurance claim and getting paid for the bushels the farm didn't get, which does not make his operation whole. It can end up being money lost because the insurance locks in at the current commodity price. Last fall corn sat at about $3.50 a bushel. Today it approaches $6 a bushel.
"There's a lot of profit there that wouldn't have been there if we didn't get to harvest," Harris said.
Harris is now telling anyone who will listen about his experience.
"A lot of people were curious as to why we harvested all our acres and how we did it because we were going through stuff that people never would have even tried," Harris said. "I explained to them what AutoPath was and what it did for us. (Farmers) determine where they start on that very first pass of the spring and then AutoPath does the rest. It is really kind of amazing."