Auto Section Control Justification
A critical aspect of developing the Bourgault ASC system included an agronomic study to develop a true picture of the financial benefits of sectional control.Bourgault Auto Section Control Logo
The Bourgault Agronomy Team conducted a 3 year study where they compared yields and costs vs profits from plots with two different seeding scenarios:
  • A normal pass with the drill placing seed and fertilizer (single seeded).
  • A double pass with the same drill, effectively doubling the tillage, seed and fertilizer to simulate seeding overlap (double seeded).
The three year study was conducted in 2009, 2011 and 2012 (2010 tests were lost due to excessive moisture).  Typical area seeding and fertilizer rates were used. Values for inputs and crop prices used corresponded to the applicable year of the study.
Data Collected
 
2009
2011
2012
Crop:
2 row Barley (Kendal)
Wheat HRS Unity
Canola, 73-45 RR Dekalb
Seed Date:
May 20th 2009
May 18th 2011
June 5, 2012
Harvest Date:
Sept 25th 2009
Sept 10th 2011
Sept 24, 2012
Test:
Single
Double
Single
Double
Single
Double
Seed Cost (per acre):
$8.00 x 2 bu  = $16.00
$8.00 x 4 bu  = $32.00
$12.00 x 1.5 bu  = $18.00
$12.00 x 3 bu  = $36.00
$9.00/lb x 4.7 lbs  = $42.30
$9.00/lb x 9.4 lbs  = $84.60
Nitrogen Cost (per acre):
60 lbs  x $0.60/lb    = $36.00
120 lbs  x $0.60/lb    = $72.00
60 lbs x $0.53/lb    = $31.80
120 lbs  x $0.53/lb    = $63.60
Blend of 90 lbs N, 8 lbs K, & 16 lbs S = $68.02
Blend of 180 lbs N, 16 lbs K, & 32 lbs S = $136.04
Potassium Cost (per acre):
NR
NR
NR
NR
Sulfur Cost (per acre):
NR
NR
NR
NR
Phosphate Cost (per acre):
20 lbs x$1.00/lb = $20.00
40 lbs x $1.00/lb = $40.00
20 lbs x $0.68/lb $13.60
40 lbs x $0.68/lb $27.20
25 lbs x $0.69/lb $17.25
50 lbs x $0.69/lb $34.50
Notes:
 
Sprayed with fungicide; field received hail prior to heading.
Over 2” of rain received within 48 hours of seeding. **
Total Input Cost (per acre):
$72.00
$144.00
$63.40
$126.80
$127.57
$255.14
Lodging:
0%
40%
0%
0%
-
-
Yield (bu/acre):
85
98
56
63
31
37
Grain Price:
$3.44/bu PRO
$7.00 (SK, 13.4% protein) PRO
$14.00
Gross Income (per acre)
$292.40
$337.12
$392.00
$441.00
$434.00
$518.00
Net Return (per acre):
$220.40
$193.12
$328.60
$314.20
$306.43
262.86
Lost Profit (per acre):
 
$27.28
 
$14.40
 
$43.57
 
** Soil testing determined that 38 lbs of nitrate was available in the top 12” of the field.  Soil moisture levels were ample to excessive until the time of harvest.  Wind damage after swathing was significant; this reduced the harvest strips to 447 feet.
Using the data collected from three different crops over three separate years, the overlap area is out producing the single seeded test, but when the input costs are factored in it is clear that the profit level is lower when overlap occurs.
Section Control Payback
Determining an exact payback formula for section control is difficult, as variables including input costs, commodity prices, and growing conditions will either increase or reduce the effectiveness for sectional control to contribute to the farms profitability. Therefore, we have developed an example that will illustrate clearly how the ASC option can contribute to the operation’s bottom line.
Example Field
The sample field depicted is taken from an actual ½ section that was seeded with a system equipped with an X20 Bourgault Topcon controller. Using this map, it was calculated that 300 acres would be covered if seeded with a single section 65’ drill, 278 acres if seeded with a 65’ drill with section control consisting of 8 sections, and 272 acres if overlap was theoretically zero.  For this example, an 8-section drill will apply 8% less total product than a drill without section control.
Bourgault Auto Section Control Field Example
Example Field
We will use a 5000 acre farm with land very similar to the ½ section example shown above.  This example should be an exaggeration, as there is not a single pass without an obstacle for the entire mile length of the field.  It should provide a greater justification for section control than the average field.
Hardware Costs
  • GPS Equipment: Improved GPS correction over WAAS correction is required to maximize section control value.  The cost difference of an Omnistar correction capable terminal to a WAAS only terminal is approximately $2200 more.  (An additional cost to unlock Omnistar is $1700, and a 3 month Omnistar XP subscription is approximately $500.  The long term static accuracy provided by Omnistar XP is 4 inches.)
  • Section Control:  The Bourgault ASC option for a 3320 at 66 feet with double shoot granular is $26,762 (2015 list price).
  • Total Investment:  $30,662 plus $500 for the Omnistar subscription.
Bourgault Auto Section Control Option
Test Results Applied
Based on the results of the tests performed preformed from 2009 - 2012, a 5000 acre farmer who has a field rotation of 1/3 barley, 1/3 wheat and 1/3 canola and achieving a reduction of overlap of 8% would retain about $11,500 of income each year that normally would be lost to overlap.  Not factoring in any additional costs to maintaining the sectional control system, the cost of the ASC option and the GPS upgrade should be met in just under 3 years.  It is important to point out that this is only an example scenario.  Each farm will vary depending on size, topography, and typical field shapes.
Realistic Payback
Section Control will pay for itself over time; however it is important to keep in mind that every sectional control system will reduce, but not completely eliminate overlap. Regardless of which system is being promoted, it is critical to consider these important factors for a true pay back analysis:
  • Double seeded areas may out produce single seeded areas, as was the case in all three years of our study;
  • Section control will not eliminate overlap completely, as can be implied by some competitors examples;
  • Payback period may be shorter or longer depending on growing conditions, application rates, and timing of seeding.
Other benefits sectional control can provide are more even maturity and reduced chance of lodging.
ASC –Effective Profit Retainer
It is important to study the information that is presented to ensure that scenarios used for justification are based on realistic examples.  The Bourgault Auto Section Control system is an effective option that will reduce overall input costs to keep more dollars in farmers pockets.  These clear benefits will make ASC a standard on many Prairie farms.
This article is based on an earlier article published in the Spring 2015 Cutting Edge magazine.