Bryan and Beth Foster – and Beth’s father Michael Harris – farm 8,000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton near Roper. They seize opportunities to use new technology to optimize production. The farm is a family operation that includes the Fosters’ children Peyton, Clara Tate and Henry.

Bryan and Beth Foster – and Beth’s father Michael Harris – farm 8,000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton near Roper. They seize opportunities to use new technology to optimize production. 

Fourth-generation farmer Phillip McLain checks real-time stock and crop markets from the tractor cab. He uses wireless data transfer to monitor field applications, whether spraying or harvesting. And hands-free steering in the tractor cab makes a good day of planting corn better by the end of it.

“The technology in farming has changed a lot,” says McLain, who farms with his father and uncle on their family grain farm about 40 miles north of Charlotte. “If my grandfather were alive, I don’t know if he would be mad or happy. I think he would be confused. It’s such a huge leap from where we were back then. It’s been a leap for my dad and uncle, but they have adapted to it and taken in the technology. They enjoy the benefits of the technology – the ease of use, the reduced operator fatigue. They recognize the benefits and appreciate them.”

McLain Farms has progressed over time, he says. For generations, his family has farmed the best way they knew how. Today, technology takes efficiency, productivity and environmental awareness to a whole new level.

The farm is a family operation that includes the Fosters’ children Peyton, Clara Tate and Henry.

The farm is a family operation that includes the Fosters’ children Peyton, Clara Tate and Henry.

Technology Part Of Daily Routine

Second-generation farmer Beth Foster uses technology so much she doesn’t stop to think about it. At 6:30 every morning, an app called Climate provides a 24-hour weather summary for each of her fields. Whether rain, temperature or heat units, Foster stays on top of the weather impacting her crops and fieldwork schedules throughout Washington and Tyrrell counties in eastern North Carolina.

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“All of us have some sort of app on our cellphones that we reference while we are out in the field,” says Foster, who grows corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton with her husband, Bryan.

All of their tractors and harvest machines contain computer screens that show and record real-time field data. Auto-guidance technology allows hands-free steering in the field. Global-positioning satellites communicate with sections of the planter and sprayer to prevent overlap when planting seed or applying crop protection products. Satellites also guide fertilizer applications to precisely place varying rates of fertilizer across areas of a field where soil tests deem those nutrients are needed.

“We don’t want to buy and use more than we have to,” Foster says. “The technology comes at a cost, but it also saves us with fertilizer and chemicals.”

Her crop adviser, Frank Winslow, uses a weed identification app on his phone to diagnose unusual weed problems and how to treat them. He says that farm technology runs the gamut, from electronic and computer technology to even seed. Evolving biotechnology breeds plants with improved weed control options, greater stress tolerances, and disease resistance for improved productivity potential and reduced environmental impact.

Bryan and Beth Foster, along with her father, Michael Harris, farm about 8,000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton near Roper, North Carolina. They are adept in the use of technology to optimize their farming techniques. Kids from oldest to youngest are, Peyton Foster (12), Clara Tate Foster (8), and Henry Foster (3). They are adept in the use of iPad based applications to

Smart Machines Improve Field Work

McLain praises John Deere’s Machine Sync, which allows his harvesting combine to control the grain cart that the combine unloads into on the move. At planting time, this technology tool allows two tractors with planters to plant perfectly parallel and not overlap any rows in the same field.

All the while, the harvest data, planting progress reports, and spray and fertilizer information transmit to cloud storage. The built-in modems in all the farm machines means McLain accesses his farm’s vital data from anywhere with an Internet connection. They even use technology to monitor how a tractor has been used, which helps determine ways to reduce fuel use and equipment wear.

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His next move brings an unmanned aerial vehicle to the farm’s technology toolbox. This bird’s-eye view would scout for crop health issues that may require treatment.

“The small tidbits of efficiency that you pick up pays off over time,” McLain says. “There is a lot of neat stuff out there, and it’s only going to get better.”

Her crop adviser, Frank Winslow, uses a weed identification app on his phone to diagnose unusual weed problems and how to treat them. He says that farm technology runs the gamut, from electronic and computer technology to even seed. Evolving biotechnology breeds plants with improved weed control options, greater stress tolerances, and disease resistance for improved productivity potential and reduced environmental impact.

GPS technology

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