Ag Future Bright For Next 10 Years

Kurt Lawton

Iowa State University agricultural economist Wally Huffman is very optimistic about the next 10 years in agriculture.

Dramatic price fluctuations, increasing demand, the food vs. fuel debate, and other events of the past year may have food producers wondering which way is up.

Despite these recent uncertainties, ‘up’ is precisely the direction an Iowa State researcher believes agriculture is headed for at least the next 10 years.

Huffman, professor in agricultural economics and Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences, predicts supply will go up, demand will go up, and real prices of grain and oilseeds also will go up.

“Supply is going up, and demand is going up,” he said. “I think they will grow at a similar pace. There will be occasional spikes due to bad weather and abrupt restriction in crude oil production, but prices will come down. When they do, they will come down to similar levels to what they are now in real terms, and those are pretty good prices.

“For the past 100 years, on average, real agricultural product prices have been falling as technology has been allowing supply to increase faster than demand,” he said.

But for the past decade, demand has been rising as quickly as supply, he added.

Huffman also believes that rapid improvement in plant genetics, thanks to biotechnology, will rise much faster than in the past 50 years.

“In the case of corn, since 1955 the average rate of increase in Iowa crop yield has been two bushels, per acre, per year,” said Huffman. “That’s an amazing accomplishment starting from about 65 bushels, per acre, per year in 1955, up to about 165 bushels, per acre, per year now.”

Huffman thinks the future will be even better.

“From 2010 to 2019, corn yields are going to increase quite substantially, maybe at four to six bushels, per acre, per year,” he said.

Much of the increase will be due to genetic improvements in hybrid corn varieties associated with new, multiple stacking of genes for insect protection and herbicide tolerance that will permit a major increase in plant populations.

These improvements are the result of corn that has been genetically modified (GM) to have certain desirable traits.

Also, better equipment, improved farm management, and reduced- and no-till farming will contribute to rising corn yields in the Midwest.

Other commodities have also improved yield and will likely see continuing increases, according to Huffman.Soybean yields in Iowa also are increasing, although less dramatically than corn, says Huffman.

Read Huffman’s full report “Technology and Innovation in World Agriculture: Prospects for 2010-2019.”


Precision Technology A Must To Feed The World

Kurt Lawton

To feed a growing population, we need increased sustainable and global efforts with precision irrigation, fertilization, mechanization and genetically modified crops that improve yields, says a report released today by Deutsche Bank in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050,” says David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today. Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.

“There will come a point in time when we will have difficulties feeding world population,” says Zaks, a graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and processes of global agriculture.

Although unchecked population growth will put severe strains on global agriculture, demand can be met by a combination of expanding agriculture to now marginal or unused land, substituting new types of crops, and technology, the report’s authors conclude. “The solution is only going to come about by changing the way we use land, changing the things that we grow and changing the way that we grow them,” Zaks explains.

The report notes that agricultural research and technological development in the United States and Europe have increased notably in the last decade, but those advances have not translated into increased production on a global scale. Subsistence farmers in developing nations, in particular, have benefited little from such developments and investments in those agricultural sectors have been marginal, at best.

The Deutsche Bank report, however, identifies a number of strategies to increase global agricultural productions in sustainable ways, including:

  • Improvements in irrigation, fertilization and agricultural equipment using technologies ranging from geographic information systems and global analytical maps to the development of precision, high performance equipment.
  • Applying sophisticated management and technologies on a global scale, essentially extending research and investment into developing regions of the world.
  • Investing in “farmer competence” to take full advantage of new technologies through education and extension services, including investing private capital in better training farmers.
  • Intensifying yield using new technologies, including genetically modified crops.
  • Increasing the amount of land under cultivation without expanding to forested lands through the use of multiple cropping, improving degraded crop and pasturelands, and converting productive pastures to biofuel production.

“First we have to improve yield,” notes Zaks. “Next, we have to bring in more land in agriculture while considering the environmental implications, and then we have to look at technology.”

Bruce Kahn, Deutsche Bank senior investment analyst, echoed Zaks observations: “What is required to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population in a warming world is to boost yield through highly sophisticated land management with precision irrigation and fertilization methods,” said Kahn, a graduate of the Nelson Institute. “Farmers, markets and governments will have to look at a host of options including increased irrigation, mechanization, fertilization and the potential benefits of biotech crops.”

The Deutsche Bank report depended in part on an array of global agricultural analytical tools, maps, models and databases developed by researchers at UW-Madison’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. Those tools, including global maps of land supply for crops and pasture, were developed primarily for academic research, says Zaks. The Deutsche Bank report, he continues, is evidence that such tools will have increasing applications in plotting a course for sustainable global agriculture.

Company Announcement, Conservation, Education, Industry News, International, sustainability

Southern Growers Find Precision Farming Pays

Kurt Lawton

Using GPS guidance and precise metering systems to cut P and K rates 40 to 50% while maintaining good yields is catching on in the south, according to a recent piece in Delta Farm Press magazine.

Glenn and Rodney Mast who farm near Columbus, Miss., say precision farming technology is helping them achieve such efficiencies. “When you put the fertilizer into the bed, it’s right where the plants need it. It gives every plant an equal opportunity for the nutrients needed for good growth.

“With GPS and minimum till, we’re able to go back and bed in precisely the same place each year, and we believe we’re building up fertility levels in the rooting zone with lower rates than if we were broadcasting.”

Rodney says they’ve seen the practice become widespread over the past 10 years in the Midwest, where they have relatives, and “I don’t understand why it hasn’t been more widely adopted here in the South. As expensive and risky as farming is nowadays, we’ve got to try things that can help us cut costs and be more efficient.

“To that end, banding has worked extremely well for us, but the biggest advantage is in more efficient application rates. Every university study we’ve seen, from Minnesota to Florida, and even in the United Kingdom (where it has become widely-used because of environmental restrictions), has shown the practice is tremendously more efficient and effective.

“In addition to the direct savings for input costs and the reduction in manpower hours, we’ve experienced no yield loss. These advantages, combined with the accuracy that GPS equipment can provide, are among the reasons why almost the entire Midwest has gone to strip-till over the past 10 years.”

GPS has been termed “the killer application” for farmers utilizing no-till/minimum-till and fertilizer banding practices, because its ±1-inch accuracy gives them unparalleled precision in placement of fertilizer and seed.

Corn, Cotton, Farmers, Fertilizer, GPS

Your Comments On GM Ethanol Corn Requested

Kurt Lawton

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking comments until July 6 on the proposed petition to deregulate genetically modified (GM) corn that improves ethanol production.

The petition for deregulation, submitted by Syngenta Seeds Inc., is in accordance with APHIS’ regulations concerning the introduction of genetically-engineered organisms and products and is available for the public’s review and comment. As part of the decisionmaking process, APHIS also has prepared a draft environmental assessment and plant pest risk assessment for review and comment.

Reopening the comment period will allow interested persons additional time to prepare and submit comments on the petition.

APHIS will make a determination of nonregulated status if it can conclude that the organism does not pose a plant pest risk. If APHIS grants the Syngenta Seeds petition for deregulation, the genetically-engineered corn and its progeny would no longer be regulated articles. The product could then be freely moved and planted without the requirement of permits or other regulatory oversight by APHIS.

APHIS is responsible for protecting U.S. agriculture and the environment from animal and plant pests. APHIS regulates GE products in cooperation with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration. In compliance with agency policy, Syngenta Seeds submitted a food and feed safety and nutritional assessment summary to FDA for this genetically-engineered corn. EPA is not involved in evaluating this genetically-engineered corn because it has not been engineered to produce a pesticide or to be tolerant to an herbicide.

APHIS has safely regulated genetically-engineered organisms since 1986 and has overseen the deregulation of more than 70 products.

This notice was published in the June 4 Federal Register. APHIS is seeking comment on the petition, the EA and the revised plant pest risk assessment. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 6. Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0016, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0016. To submit a comment online, click here.

Ag Group, Corn, Ethanol, Farmers, sustainability

New Precision Weather Growing Degree Days Tool

Kurt Lawton

Track your current and past Growing Degree Days (GDD) to help with crop scouting for pests using a new tool developed through the joint efforts of Monsanto and The Weather Channel.

Since the January launch of The Weather Channel’s ‘Agriculture News & Forecast’ web page, growers who used the site requested the addition of a GDD calculator. To access the tool, simply enter your zip code (or sign in to your Weather Channel home page) and click the Growing Degree Days Calculator link.

“The growth and development of crops is directly impacted by the growing degree days, and having this information available can help farmers make better informed management decisions,” said Boyd Carey, lead of technology development for Monsanto. “TWCi has created an easy way for growers to run those calculations to compare different years at a given location. In a spring like this one where we’ve had so much rain and so many cloudy days across our agricultural production areas, this tool could prove useful immediately.”

Farmers can compare two different years’ GDD (as far back as 2003) for the same date range and location. Additionally, each calculation — one of the most complex on — includes the 30-year-average GDD for the selected dates and location, alerting farmers to the typical GDD for the selected time frame and location. The calculator uses both forecast and 30-year climatology data from The Weather Channel, allowing for past, present or future calculations. The calculator draws from the most accurate weather data available, using proprietary TruPoint technology created by The Weather Channel. TruPoint forecasts allow for future weather information accurate up to 2 kilometers (1.24 miles). This technology combines traditional weather observations with even more data to create forecasts for more than 1.9 million locations — literally filling in the gaps of the reporting systems used by other providers.

Company Announcement, Corn, Cotton, Education, Farmers, Irrigation, Resources

Agri ImaGIS Teams With Farm Market iD

Kurt Lawton

Data on farmers and fields will now be aided by satellites.

Farm Market iD, a leading provider of farm-level U.S. agricultural data, announced today the signing of a joint venture agreement with Fargo, North Dakota-based Agri ImaGIS.   The joint venture agreement between Farm Market iD and Agri ImaGIS creates co-development and co-marketing arrangements for Farm Market iD, a comprehensive database of U.S. farms, allowing the combined team to bring to the agricultural market a new and unique set of GIS [geographic information system] and geo-spatial products and services associated with sites in the database.

Farm Market iD is a company of Telematch, Inc., a leading marketing intelligence solutions company.  The announcement comes less than a month after closing the acquisition of Farm Market iD by Telematch.

“This exciting opportunity with Agri ImaGIS demonstrates our commitment to Farm Market iD and the agribusiness community,” said Peg Kuman, chief executive officer, Telematch.   “We are investing early and aggressively into new and robust technologies that will continue to position Farm Market iD as the leader in quality farm data and database solutions.”

According to Lanny Faleide, president, Agri ImaGIS, “With FMiD’s proprietary data that identifies grower and farm detail, along with its geo-coded Common Land Units (CLUs), and Agri ImaGIS’s proprietary satellite imagery archive and Web-based GIS products, we plan to offer growers and marketers the unique opportunity to map individual farms, identify the crops and acreages for each field and to know precisely who owns and operates each farm.   It is truly revolutionary in scope.”

“We are already in discussions with a number of leading ag suppliers about testing and licensing this unique enhancement of our database,” said John Montandon, co-founder of Farm Market iD who remains with Telematch as an investor and consultant. “This is a transitional moment for the company in several ways, and it certainly represents a major step forward in our intelligence offerings in support of farmers and to the agricultural marketplace. With Telematch stepping up immediately to support such innovations for Farm Market iD, we are excited about the practical applications that our joint venture with Agri ImaGIS will produce.”

Aerial Imagery, Company Announcement, Farmers, GPS, Industry News, Satellite

Precision Air Hoe Drill from New Holland

Kurt Lawton

Precision seed placement of small-seeded crops with an air hoe drill has been improved. With durability and innovation reflective of its Flexi-Coil heritage, New Holland’s new P2070 precision air hoe drill provides the ultimate in precision seed placement with adjustable individual opener depth control. It works up to 70-feet wide, yet folds into a compact, narrow package for transport.

“Everyone talks about how important seed placement is, especially with small-seeded crops,” says Ed Barry, New Holland Cash Crop Marketing Manager. “The P2070 places the product exactly where you want it, every time.”

Each opener on the P2070 follows terrain independently of the frame to closely follow the contours of the ground. Patented individual opener depth control provides 0″ to 2″ seeding depth in 1/8″ increments. A single bolt on each opener has an indexed slotted design which makes it easy to adjust depth.

Even in the toughest conditions, the true parallel link design maintains consistent seed depth through the complete operating range of each individual opener. Fully adjustable packing force (adjustable from 275 lbs. – 550 lbs.) and trip force (adjustable from 135 lbs. to 215 lbs.) provide the operator with exceptional control. The single-shank, double-shoot minimum disturbance opener provides 1-7/8″ lateral separation and 7/8″ vertical separation between seed and fertilizer. Spacious frame-to-ground clearance affords superior trash flow that is unmatched in the industry.

The P2070 is available in 50′, 60′ and 70′ working widths, with either 10″ or 12″ spacing. The P2070 air hoe drill’s innovative fold-back design allows it to be folded into a 17’9″ wide x 16’6″ high envelope equal to or smaller than the 4WD tractor pulling it for safe and easy transport.

A unique tow-behind hitch design allows the air cart to follow the same tracks created by a typical 4WD tractor in the field, as well as during transport. This smaller turning radius makes tight-implement turns at headland corners easier.

Company Announcement, Equipment, New Holland, Planting, wheat

National Safety Month On The Farm

Kurt Lawton

Now that kids are home from school, it’s always a good time to remind your employees (and yourself) about the importance of safety on the farm. Kubota sent out a good reminder recently of tractor and utility vehicle safety.

Ten Commandments of Tractor Safety
1. Know your tractor, its implements and how they work
2. Use ROPS and seat belts whenever and wherever applicable
3. Be familiar with your terrain and work area – walk the area first to be sure and drive safely.
4. Never start an engine in a closed shed or garage
5. Always keep your PTO properly shielded
6. Keep your hitches low and always on the drawbar
7. Never get off a moving tractor or leave it with its engine running
8. Never refuel while the engine is running or hot
9. Keep all children off and away from our tractor and implements at all times
10. Never be in a hurry or take chances about anything you do with your tractor

In a recent safety podcast from Kubota VP Greg Embury, he offers excellent safety reminders. “It’s important for all equipment operators – especially utility vehicle drivers and riders – to wear seatbelts, and help promote safe operating practices with family and friends.  Safety is something that we should think about all year round, and National Safety Month provides us all with an excellent reminder to brush up on our safety practices before we use tractors, lawn and garden equipment, construction equipment and utility vehicles.”

Listen here:
recent safety podcast

And for more on safety in agriculture, especially protecting our kids, check out Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. Excellent teaching resources here!


Farmers Promote Ag With Precision Communications

Kurt Lawton

The blog Nebraska Corn Kernels highlighted a recent TV report on how a few farmers are using Twitter to benefit their operation and dispel agriculture myths among consumers. 

In a longer “extra” video segment (go here and click on “Farmer Brandon Hunnicutt on Twitter”), farmer Brandon Hunnicutt also talked with the reporter about how he uses social media to help educate and promote agriculture with those consumers who are anti-agriculture. And in a previous blog post, writer Mike Howie highlighted other farmers who tweet.

To learn more about Twitter and how to sign up, check out this story on CNET. And check out YouTube for “Twitter in Plain English” or “How To Use Twitter.”

Education, Farmers, Industry News, sustainability, Video

Outback System Guides Brazilian Sprayer

Kurt Lawton

Stara, one of the world’s largest agricultural implement manufacturers based in Brazil, has teamed up with Hemisphere GPS to add Outback guidance,  auto steering and boon control to their newest self-propelled sprayer called Gladiador.

 “Hemisphere GPS products help elevate our sprayers among the precision farming industry and contribute to our goal of offering factory-installed precision agriculture solutions to our customers,” says Cristiano Paim Buss, Director of Technology for Stara. “Hemisphere GPS’ commitment to technology and innovation provides us with an extensive product portfolio that continues to support our advanced technology offerings.”

By combining the Outback Guidance products from Hemisphere GPS with Stara implement innovation, the new Gladiador sprayers have achieved an unprecedented level of work autonomy. Gladiador sprayers use the Outback S3 guidance system to provide precision guidance and a wide array of job management options. The Outback eDrive TC GPS assisted steering system automatically steers the sprayer, eliminating driver error and providing uniform treatments

In addition, Outback AutoMate allows the operator to independently control various sections of Gladiador’s massive 27 meter boom to dramatically reduce skips and overlaps and to reduce application waste. Also, available as an option to the customer is the Outback BaselineX RTK system which offers base station support for higher accuracy positioning.

Company Announcement, Equipment, GPS, Spraying