Leica Offers Cost-Effective Lightbar Guidance

Kurt Lawton

If you’re seeking a cost-effective start in precision guidance, Leica wants you to check out their new mojoMINI 3D lightbar guidance system.

The Leica mojoMINI lightbar comes with the Leica SmartAg antenna and GLIDE technology for improved in-field accuracy. Plus, the easy-to-use 4.3-inch, touch-screen display has multiple guidance options, including AB parallel, A+ heading, contour and pivot guidance for use in many field types.

“The mojoMINI can be installed in minutes and is so versatile that growers can get daily use out of the display,” said Peter Bailey, product manager. “Plus the easy-to-follow 3D display greatly reduces the operators’ time to learn the system while increasing in-field guidance accuracy over traditional LED lightbar systems.”

The Leica mojoMINI lightbar system complements the current line of mojo auto-steer products, including  the Leica mojoGLIDE console with 6- to 8-inch (15- to 25-cm) pass-to-pass accuracy and the original Leica mojoRTK console with repeatable 2-inch (5 cm) accuracy.

Company Announcement, Displays, Equipment, GPS, Guidance, Leica Geosystems

Trimble Expands EZ-Office Software Capabilities

Kurt Lawton

If you’re looking to easily map and manage your field data, Trimble offers their new 2010 AgGPS EZ-Office software suite of products, designed and developed by FarmWorks, a division of Trimble.

EZ-View, EZ-Office and EZ-Office Pro focus on data management in the office while EZ-Office Mobile software runs on the Trimble Nomad or Juno SB handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) computers in the field.

“The new EZ-Office software products help take the stress out of the vital, but often tedious record keeping and data management tasks for crop growers,” said Erik Arvesen, vice president and general manager for Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “These records are not just the foundation data for making precision farming practical and more productive—for some operators, they can be the legal records required by government agencies, landlords and farm management firms.”

Trimble EZ-View software is a free application that allows farmers to easily view and print basic reports from data collected by the Trimble EZ-Guide® 250, EZ-Guide 500 and FmX™ integrated display.

Trimble EZ-Office 2010 combines powerful mapping with ease-of-use and enhanced importing and exporting functionality.

Examples of crop and field management data that can be collected and stored by EZ-Office software include:

  • Guidance line data from Trimble displays
  • Precise areas tilled, planted or sprayed
  • Specific “as-applied” data showing how much seed, fertilizer, and crop protection chemical has been applied
  • Yield data can be imported from the FmX display as well as many other popular systems
  • Google Maps™ background images and support for other imagery

Trimble EZ-Office Pro 2010 includes all the features of EZ-Office plus additional tools for information analysis:

  • Flexible formula-based prescription map generation
  • Automated multi-year yield map averaging for discovering consistently high and low yielding areas of a field
  • Integration of financial data with precision farming operations for profit map analysis

Trimble EZ-Office Mobile 2010 enables farmers to map field operations data, such as field boundaries, farm drainage tile lines, field obstacles and weed infestations, while on foot, in a pickup truck or from an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).The field imagery tool allows crop scouts to utilize the built-in GPS receiver and digital camera on the Nomad or Juno SB handheld computers to capture geo-referenced photos of problems such as weeds and insects.

The EZ-Office 2010 software suite is now available through Trimble’s agriculture distribution channel. For more information, including the location of your nearest Trimble reseller, call 1-800-865-7438 or visit www.trimble.com/agriculture. The EZ-Office software is designed and developed by Farm Works Software, a division of Trimble.

Company Announcement, Harvesting, Planting, Software, Spraying, Trimble

Outback Adds Boom & Planter Controls

Kurt Lawton

The new Outback AutoMate works with all Outback Guidance products to control sections of a boom or planter–while claiming a very quick ROI.

The AutoMate allows you to manage up to 10 different sections of your boom and multiple planter sections. This automation results in drastic savings associated with application costs. The system recognizes both pre-defined applied zones and/or previous coverage areas. The AutoMate is designed for simple, hands-free operation. Simply set-up the unit and the system will automatically turn on and off sections when covering areas already applied. The system will also turn sections back on automatically on unapplied sections, eliminating skips.

Like all Outback products, the AutoMate is engineered to expand with your growing GPS guidance needs.

Company Announcement, Equipment, Fertilizer, Planting, Spraying

5-Year Farm Equipment Depreciation Ends in 2009

Kurt Lawton

Insights WeeklyThere’s still time to earn quicker depreciation—as well as a 50% first year deduction—by investing in tools of precision farming if you buy and take possession of the equipment by December 31, 2009.

“Machinery is normally depreciated over 7 years, but a one-year legislative change for 2009 allows for 5 year depreciation,” says Rob Holcomb, University of Minnesota Extension Educator in Ag Business Management. “For 2010 it reverts back to 7 years.

“For example, if a farmer buys a $100,000 tractor, his first-year depreciation using straight line figuring would be $7,142 using 7 years, versus $10,000 on 5 years. Granted, this won’t make a huge impact, but it does help,” Holcomb says.

There’s also a maximum dollar limit deduction you can claim under Section 179. “That amount is $250,000 for 2009, but drops to $134,000 in 2010,” he adds.

50% Bonus. In addition to the 5-year depreciation, machinery and other qualified property (see Farmer’s Tax Guide link below, Chapter 7) are eligible for a 50% bonus depreciation in 2009. “Next year, this bonus will only be available for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer, transportation property, and certain aircraft ,” Holcomb says.

Should a farmer invest now? Holcomb says it largely depends on the tax bracket of the individual, how much pre-buying he does before year’s end, and numerous other factors. “And due to narrower margins this year, there’s a general assumption out there that 2009 won’t wind up being as profitable as 2008 or 2007. So it’s best to get with your tax advisor in early December,” he says.

The accelerated depreciation schedule may not be extended again, according to Paul Kindinger, president and CEO, North American Equipment Dealers Association (NAEDA). In fact, the measure almost didn’t pass this year. “If the economic stimulus package works, Congress will likely have less enthusiasm for an accelerated depreciation tool because it costs the U.S. Treasury and is supposed to be a temporary tool,” he adds.

For more information:
2009 Farmer’s Tax Guide (IRS Publication 225)

Section 179 Deduction

Section 179 Calculator

IRS explanation of Section 179 Deduction

Ag Leader, Equipment, Financing, sustainability

Grains Council Photo Contest

Cindy Zimmerman

corn harvestThe U.S. Grains Council (USGC) asked farmers and others to submit photos of this year’s harvest and despite the slow pace this year they have already gotten some good ones.

This photo is captioned “John Nienhiser makes his way into the fields with modern technology on the Nienhiser Family Farm near Chapin, Ill.” This is definitely one of those years where precision technology more than pays for itself.

If you have any harvest photos to share, the deadline for the USGC contest is December 1. Every photo is an entry for a free USGC meeting registration for the 7th International Marketing Conference and 50th Annual Membership Meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Feb. 13-17, 2010.

The Council will assume the rights of submitted entries for use in publications and online. Entries must be JPEG files. Submit your entries along with your contact information and brief photo captions via e-mail to thegrainboard@grains.org by Dec 1. You may also mail entries in a CD or jump drive to Melisa Augusto at 1400 K St. NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005.

Check them all out here on the USGC Flickr photo album.

General, Harvesting

Variable-Rate Saves Cotton Nitrogen Costs

Kurt Lawton

Cotton farmers, working with Clemson University, are achieving 30 to 50 percent nitrogen savings by side-dressing–without losing any yield, according to a recent report in Southeast Farm Press.

For the past three years Clemson researchers at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C., have been testing three different options for variable rate application of side-dress nitrogen on cotton. In 2007 and 2008 they reduced total nitrogen use by 30 percent with no yield loss. In 2009, they upped the ante to saving 50 percent on nitrogen use.

The proof of the 50 percent reduction will come after cotton is harvested and yield and quality numbers are in, but so far tests on the research station and with cooperating farmers look good.

“If you look at cotton prices, they are about the same as in 2003. However, if you look at the price of nitrogen, despite a drop in price this year, it is still near record highs. The recession has kept prices low, but we don’t know where nitrogen prices will go next year,” says Clemson Researcher Wes Porter.

Porter is a graduate student working with Ahmad Khalilian, a Clemson University Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering and guru of precision agriculture for a number of years.

For the past three years Khalilian, Clemson Extension Precision Ag Specialist Will Henderson and a group of dedicated graduate students have tested variable rate technology for use in applying nitrogen and other fertilizers on cotton.

Porter says there are three routes a farmer can go to apply variable rates of nitrogen to cotton. The first is the simplest and least costly: A nitrogen ramp calibration strip (N-RCS) can serve as a simple guide to nitrogen use.

Read more here.

Conservation, Cotton, Equipment, Fertilizer, GPS, Remote sensing

New RTK Module Receives Tower or Cell Signals

Kurt Lawton

For growers interested in the ability to receive RTK correction from either a radio base station and a cell modem connection to CORS or TopNET, Topcon offers the new AGI-3 receiver.

Topcon Precision Agriculture (TPA) has released a new Real Time Kinematic (RTK) module for the Topcon AGI-3 receiver that includes the capability of receiving data from a radio base station or cell modem connected to GSM networks. The new AGA3928 module replaces the current AGA3677 module.

This new RTK module includes both an internal, spread-spectrum 915 MHz modem for receiving data from a radio base station and a US GSM cell modem for receiving data from cellular data networks such as CORS or TopNET.

CORS networks provide a tremendous cost saving alternative for operators needing RTK correction and the number of available networks is increasing. Since these capabilities are now built into the AGI-3 RTK system, users do not have to purchase additional hardware or modules in order to use CORS networks or GSM.

GSM functionality can be activated by purchasing a data plan and SIM smart card from a GSM service provider.

Existing AGA3677 RTK modules cannot be upgraded to include GSM support. For current users choosing to upgrade by replacing with the new AGA3928 module, firmware installed on the GX-45 console must be version 2.02.18 and version 3.3A5 on the AGI-3 receiver.

Company Announcement, GPS, Guidance, Satellite

Topcon Launches On-The-Go Crop Nutrition Sensor

Kurt Lawton

Topcon introduces their version of a crop sensing system called CropSpec, but instead of reading the crop from sensors mounted on a boom (like GreenSeeker and OptRX), it features top-of-cab mounted sensors that read larger areas on both the right and left sides from the tractor/sprayer.

Working with Topcon’s core competency in optics and in cooperation with Yara International (the world leading manufacturer of nitrogen-based fertilizers), Topcon engineers designed CropSpec as a powerful crop canopy sensor. The Topcon system utilizes a two-sensor system (left and right side of the cabin) that allows a farm operator to monitor plant conditions and apply fertilizer and other inputs only as needed.

“This system will help revolutionize and simplify variable rate applications,” said Michael Gomes, director of agriculture business development. CropSpec sensors measure spectral reflectance using light from pulsing laser diodes focused on the plants. The reading can be correlated to measure chlorophyll content, which is closely linked to nitrogen in the plants. Scanning the crop creates a map to indicate relative canopy vigour.

The information can then be analyzed to determine crop areas that need treatment, construct prescription maps for later application, or immediately provide variable rate application enabling variable rate application in real time.

CropSpec, Gomes said, “allows farmers to perform real-time analysis of crop needs and meet those deficiencies immediately as they are traveling through the field. In other words, variable rate fertilizer applications are performed at the same time actual nitrogen readings are taken, based upon crop need.”

Used with Topcon’s X20 console (System 200), CropSpec links to Topcon’s Maplink program, the industry’s leading variable rate control (VRC) program for liquid sprayers or granular spreaders. The sensors measure nitrogen levels and Topcon’s X20 controller executes that prescription immediately, controlling the output of fertilizer in one pass.

“This provides the benefits of variable rate application,” Gomes said, “in a simple one-step process, reducing the complications typically associated with VR and can reduce both cost and waste associated with blanket fertilizer application.

“The return on investment of CropSpec is extraordinary,” Gomes said. “It is possible to pay for the technology in a single growing season from the savings in fertilizer costs, coupled with the benefits of providing the correct amounts of fertilizer where it is needed most.

Company Announcement, Fertilizer, Remote sensing, Spraying

Six New Products From Ag Leader Technology

Kurt Lawton

Insights Weekly

Last week, Ag Leader Technology made a big splash by announcing their new precision farming technology collaboration with AutoFarm. Along with that big news, they also launched six new products. Here’s a brief look.

INTEGRA™ Display
• Rugged, moisture-resistant design featuring a 12.1-inch full-color touchscreen with high-definition mapping.
• Core functionality includes: built-in manual guidance, full-screen mapping, planter and application control, yield monitoring, real-time data logging and automated steering.
• Four video camera inputs for better view of equipment for operation and safety.

ParaDyme™ Automated Steering

• Dual-antenna roof module provides automatic steering control with sub-inch accuracy.
• Logic 7D™ technology tracks pitch, roll and yaw as well as vehicle position and heading at all times.
• Integrated cellular communication capability allows operators to request help for in-field technical support.
• Compatible with INTEGRA™ or EDGE™ display.

OptRx™ Crop Sensor System
• Mapping and data collection as well as real-time variable rate application of agrochemicals, specifically nitrogen.
• Sensors communicate with the applicator to put less nitrogen on healthy corn plants and more nitrogen on weaker, nitrogen-deficient corn plants.
• Collect information, including vegetative index, to measure the impact of nutrients, water, disease and other growing conditions on crops.

EDGE™ Display New Features
• Manual Guidance – built-in, full-featured guidance system including on-screen lightbar showing cross-track error and pass number.
• Serves as the user-interface for OnTrac2 – Ag Leader’s new economical and easy-to-install assisted-steering system.
• Supports Ag Leader’s new advanced automated steering solution – ParaDyme™.
• Interface to the NORAC UC5™ Spray Height Controller – monitor and control boom height functions as well as view an on-screen coverage map.

OnTrac2™ Assisted Steering
• Cost-effective assisted steering solution to help eliminate skips and overlaps, lower fuel consumption and reduces operator stress and fatigue.
• Simply latches on and off for easy transfer across multiple brands and types of vehicles.
• The high-torque, positive gear drive delivers the turning power needed for demanding of agricultural vehicles.

L160 Lightbar
• Companion lightbar designed to aid in guidance operations using the INTEGRA or EDGE display.
• Easy-to-read display shows cross-track error, pass number and degree heading; offers 16 multicolor LEDs.
• Can be mounted on the windshield or dash, allowing operators to monitor guidance by looking straight ahead while keeping their display within easy reach.

Ag Leader, Company Announcement, Displays, Equipment, Fertilizer, GPS, Guidance, Harvesting, Insights Weekly, Planting, Satellite, Spraying

Case IH Supports UW-Platteville Precision Farm

Kurt Lawton

Case IH and Ritchie Implement teamed up with University of Wisconsin-Platteville (UWP) to benefit agricultural students and their studies of precision agriculture.

“Access to new Case IH agriculture equipment will be a tremendous asset to Pioneer Farm – the precision farming solutions will greatly increase the productivity of our operations,” says Phil Wyse, director of Pioneer Farm. “But more so than that, this partnership advances the mission of Pioneer Farm – to enhance the agricultural education experience for students on campus and for agriculturists throughout the surrounding communities. That’s what we’re really excited about.”

Pioneer Farm, the university’s 430-acre working farm, boasts some of the best soil in southwest Wisconsin. The gently rolling fields, managed with conservation in mind, rotate between corn, oats and alfalfa, and those crops help support the farm’s dairy, beef and swine enterprises. A combination of new Case IH tractors, hay tools, skid steers, tillage implements, a planter and a combine, delivered in early 2010 and each year thereafter, will be used in the farm’s day-to-day operations. The equipment allows students and farm visitors to see the productivity-enhancing benefits of Case IH equipment in real-world applications.

“With the support of Ritchie’s and Case IH, the UWP Pioneer Farm is able to make use of cutting-edge farming technology,” Wyse adds. “We applaud Ritchie Implement and Case IH for this valuable partnership.”

“Students and university researchers will get to see, run, test and learn all about the newest innovations in production agriculture first-hand,” explains Ron Ritchie, president of Ritchie Implement Inc., a Case IH dealer with locations in Barneveld, Cobb and Darlington, Wis. “Our goal is not only to broaden ag students’ educational experience and better prepare them for their farming careers, but also to enhance educational opportunities for active producers locally, regionally and across the state. We’re excited to be part of that important effort.”

As part of the agreement, Case IH product specialists will be available to support classroom instruction and participate in student clinics and shared community activities such as University Field Days with hands-on field demonstrations.

Company Announcement, Research, Resources, University