By Nyasha Mudukuti, AGCO Africa Ambassador 2016
Under the theme “Vision of the Future” AGCO held a farm mechanisation event between the 6th and 8th of April 2016 at its Future Farm in Zambia. l had the opportunity to take part – and when I arrived l thought for a moment l was not in Africa. It was the most majestic agricultural place l have ever been to and it reminded me of the farms l once saw in Iowa, USA. For me, to see this farm in Africa was like a wakeup call to the African agriculture sector. In short, it’s just a state of the art farming center.
With ever-increasing pressure for greater efficiencies on the farm, Stephen Sork decided to take charge of every variable he could. In the process, he switched much of his farm equipment to AGCO brands, as well as expanding his GSI-made grain storage and handling facilities.
Steve, who owns and operates Sork Farms in southeast Illinois with his father, Ernie, likes the ability to do nearly everything—planting, harvesting, spraying and fertilizing—in-house. These days, AGCO tractors and sprayers are integral to making it all happen.
A former Deere customer, Steve first tried a Challenger track tractor nearly 10 years ago and was sold on the concept and the results. “We really liked them,” says Steve. “Their ability to reduce compaction in our 20-inch rows has meant no emergence issues with corn or soybeans.”
Steve, who owns six Challenger tractors and two RoGator® 1100 sprayers, says he’s also seen a savings in total fuel use, as well as increased comfort. “These machines are a really smooth ride over rough terrain, whether going over a ditch or working through washouts.”
The quest for greater efficiency and control, however, didn’t end with tractors and sprayers. Over the past 10 years, the Sorks have nearly doubled the storage and handling capacity on their farm.
In addition to stronger bin designs from GSI that can be built taller than previous models, their system features GSI En-Masse conveyors and a Hi-Flight pit conveyor. Now, the Sorks’ handling system moves grain faster and with less damage than augers or air systems.
Most farmers view seeding as the most important task they complete each year. With few exceptions, the old axiom, “How you start is how you’ll end,” holds true in crop production. If seed is not planted at a uniform depth, into moisture and with proper seed furrow closure, it will come up erratically at best. Poor spacing and uneven emergence are two major yield limiters that must be avoided. At the same time, it’s important to get the crop in the ground in time to take advantage of the growing season, while there is still moisture for the crop to germinate and emerge. In addition, many growers are expanding their acreage to spread fixed costs and improve profitability, which puts even more pressure on the need for efficiency and accuracy at seeding. Fortunately, both the Sunflower 9800 series single disk drill and the White 9800VE series planter lineup combined with the power and precision of Fendt tractors solve these problems with ease.
A flat grassy patch atop the sloped wooded pasture on his western North Carolina farm affords Dave Everett sumptuous views of the Big Sandy Mush Valley and several 4,500-foot-plus peaks beyond. Fooled by Dave’s presence in the pasture in the early afternoon, a handful of cows begin bellowing, anticipating a meal.
Dave and his wife, Kim, tend to their farm and their 30-head of cattle with the help of their Massey Ferguson 1540 with 4WD, which allows them to manage the steep inclines of their hilly pastureland with ease.
In addition to farming, the Everetts have helped restore and preserve the fields, woods and streams that spread out below their pastures. “We said that we want this farm to be recognizable to folks who lived here 100 years before us,” Dave says.
In the bucolic Sandy Mush area, such preservation efforts are not as easy as they may sound. The region—actually two valleys with several coves in each—is within 15 miles of the bustling mountain tourist mecca of Asheville. Nearby mountains and valleys are prime targets for vacation and second home developments consisting of 3,500-square-foot “cabins.” Kim and Dave themselves first used the area as a getaway when living near Washington, D.C.
Simply put, the value of the land in the area is worth a lot more for development than it is for farming or open space.
For AGCO customer Barry Schmitt, the disastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan hit close to his Olds, Alberta-based business. “We were shipping hay to one of our customers in Japan when the tsunami hit,” says the owner of Barr-Ag, a hay producer and export company.
According to Schmitt, he and his staff had been in communication with the customer like normal, then, suddenly, nothing. As news of the catastrophe and its scope began to break—some 16,000 people were killed and it caused a nuclear reactor meltdown—Schmitt feared the worst. “These are friends of ours who we go and see, and talk to. We were worried.”