New Crop Forecast Tool for Precision Agriculture

Kurt Lawton

Billed as the true next generation agricultural information product, CropForecaster service combines satellite imagery with biomass and leaf area variables. It can produce daily imagery that tracks and predicts crop development and growth from planting to harvest.

CropForecaster is the combined work of ZedX, a Pennsylvania-based leading developer of internet agricultural decision support services, and France-based Infoterra, a subsidiary of EADS Astrium company who is a leading global provider of geo-information products and services. Together these companies have over 40 years of high level information technology experience in agriculture.

Why CropForecaster? Costs of advanced satellite imagery have kept it out-of-reach for most agricultural uses. Likewise, use of advanced agrometeorological models has been limited by spatial data availability and uncertainties. CropForecaster overcomes the limits of these two approaches and transforms them into a powerful decision support service.

This service will provide an unprecedented day-by-day, detailed quantification of crop production. The service is designed to keep you focused and informed of current and future state of a crop.

For more details on what this service can offer, check out this presentation. It outlines various maps — from planting date and progress, to acreage, crop stage, crop condition, yield and more.

Aerial Imagery, Company Announcement, Industry News, Satellite

Precision Farming Data Will Pay

Kurt Lawton

The early pioneers of precision agriculture technology were often frustrated–not unlike the initial stages of any technology. The data gathered could produce impressive yield maps, but the knowledge base to glean better management decisions from them was lacking.

Today, those pioneering growers have a treasure trove of data that can possibly be manipulated into zones–leading to improved management decisions. Corn & Soybean Digest magazine recently profiled Wisconsin grower Mike Cerny, who has GIS-mapped data since 1994, after buying his first yield monitor in 1987.

Cerny worked with University of Wisconsin agronomist, Joe Lauer, to layer soil data, nutrient maps, elevation maps and real-time planting maps to analyze his 12 years of data. Then they developed 50-meter data cells within 300 acres to find ways to improve his bottom line.

“We wanted to find out if, by doing this, we could predict what the yield would be in the sixth year in each cell,” Lauer says. “Bottom line, we found that we could predict the next year’s performance.”

In corn, for example, the six-year analysis showed a consistent, 26-bu. difference between high-yielding and low-yielding cells. That was a bit of a surprise, Cerny says, because the cropland was “all one soil type, with little elevation variance and fairly uniform fertility. That’s not where you’d expect to see much difference, and yet we did.” So these stable-, high- or low-yielding zones could be candidates for special management, Lauer says.

Cerny is using the data to vary corn plant populations within fields. “We do know that plant density influences yield dramatically,” Lauer says. “And we know there are different optimum populations in different yielding environments.”

What decisions helped Cerny improve efficiency using precision ag technology?

  • Changing seeding rates given high and low producing areas (but not sure if adding profits yet)
  • Adding tile (big profit improver)
  • Variable rate fertilizer (good environmental benefits, and perhaps added profits, but jury still out)

For all the details, check out this valuable story.

Corn, Farmers, GPS

The Future of Automated Crop Production

Kurt Lawton


A team of robots sharing watering and harvesting tasks. Photo from MIT.

A team of robots sharing watering and harvesting tasks. Photo from MIT.

An autonomous gardener robot that uses sensors and computers to water, fertilize and harvest fruits and vegetables is under development by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students of computer science and artificial intelligence labs (CSAIL).

While the long-term goal of this specific research project is to develop such automation for greenhouses, imagine the uses for monitoring fields of grain. This type of precision agriculture system would deliver the right amount of water and nutrients exactly when needed, as well as harvest at the perfect time.

I wrote an in-depth piece about this wild world of robotics in agriculture, which you can read about in an upcoming issue of Successful Farming magazine–which we’ll showcase here on, too.

Equipment, GPS, Research

Are You Using Your Precision Farming Data?

Kurt Lawton

Remember your first yield monitor, when all you did with it was watch the numbers spin wildly across your fields. Heck, even when one took the next step to map the data, few knew how to use it to make improvements.

Using technology to it’s fullest extent takes time, education, practice, and a good advisor. And the technology of precision agriculture is a prime example.

At a recent grower meeting in Wall Lake, Ia., it was noted that nearly 40% of Iowa farmers have access to variable rate seeding technology, but only about half of them use it, according to Monsanto’s John Jansen, quoted in a Farm News report.

“Farmers also continue to struggle with managing the data from their yield monitors in a meaningful way.

“Based on what farmers tell me, seven out of 10 download information from their monitor to their home computer, but only about one in 10 actually do anything with the data,” Jansen said. “However, accounting for different soil types in a field and getting the right planting populations will be the key to boosting yields in the years ahead.”

As precision farming continues to evolve, better in-season satellite technology will help farmers maximize their crops’ potential during the growing season, Jansen added, who noted that Monsanto is entering the imagery technology business by working with Colorado-based EarthMap Solutions. “New expertise in geographic information systems and remote sensing will help us improve seed production and provide better agronomic information to growers.”

Education, Equipment, Farmers, GPS

Extreme Precision Application Needed

Kurt Lawton

Precision farming technology that controls sections of your planter, sprayer and fertilizer spreader are key to the “extreme precision” needs of farmers, says Iowa grower Clay Mitchell, as reported recently in Farm Industry News.

This young farmer, who avidly practices many forms of precision agriculture and blogs about it at The Mitchell Farm, is not a fan of variable-rate technologies yet. He says there’s a greater need to improve uniform application first, especially with fertilizer applicators.

In an article titled “Future of Farming Technology,” he writes that variable-rate application “is and will be for a long time, hampered by voodoo yield-response estimates that can cause more harm than good.” He says there are notable exceptions, such as pivot irrigation field corners, but mostly, uniform applications are far more desirable.

Technology trends that Mitchell sees as valuable include:

  • Technologies that will detect, map and replace tile lines
  • Auto steering will become standard
  • Individual planter row and nozzle control need to be standard
  • Water management will undergo a revolution change
  • Data transfer from vehicle to computer will become automated
  • More operating data will be captured and mapped, such as fuel use
  • Communications tools and monitoring technology will become wireless
Equipment, Farmers

New Map & Guidance Display from Leica

Kurt Lawton

Get accurate real-time visual display of every field application with the new iNEX Maping & Guidance Display from Leica Geosystems. This large touch-screen display works with the Leica mojoRTK auto-steer system, or can be used as stand-alone guidance system with most GPS receivers.

The display comes with field data management software to store multiple vehicle setups. It records data from all fields, which can be easily transferred to a computer. In addition to AB parallel guidance, you also get A+ Heading and Adaptive Curve options for year-to-year repeatability.

“Combining mapping, data management, and auto-section control technology in the iNEX display with the Leica mojoRTK has given us the opportunity to reach more of the market with the tools they need to save on input costs right now,” said Trevor Mecham, North American business manager for Leica’s Agriculture Group. “We remain committed to building tools and technology that are easy to use and fit the needs of U.S. farmers.”

To ensure that customers only pay for the features they want and need, the Leica iNEX comes with a suite of standard guidance options, but offers optional upgrades. Those producers who require advanced guidance options or auto-section control can add just the options they need. Plus, when used with Leica’s mojoRTK, the iNEX can be upgraded remotely at any time via Leica Geosystems’ unique remote service and support tool – Virtual Wrench(TM).

Upgrade options for the iNEX include three advanced guidance options – Pivots, Contours and Replay. Replay is a guidance option unique to the iNEX that allows users to “replay” advanced guidance patterns on the most unique fields.

Additionally, auto-section control can be added to the iNEX display providing automatic on/off for spraying and planting applications.

Retail price is $4,995, and is available from Leica’s network of premium resellers.

Company Announcement, Displays, Equipment, Leica Geosystems

Raven Helps Growers Work Smarter

Cindy Zimmerman

RavenSmart is the key word for Raven Industries’ precision agriculture products.

SmartBoom, SmartRow and SmartSteer were the newest products on display for growers visiting the recent Commodity Classic trade show. “SmartBoom will shut your sprayer sections off automatically,” said Raven’s Ryan Molitor. “SmartRow is the same box, you just switch out a cable and it works for the planter sections.”

“SmartSteer attaches directly to the steering wheel for assisted steering,” Ryan says. “The great thing with SmartSteer is that you don’t have to take the steering wheel off to install it – it snaps right on to the steering wheel. Very affordable and simple to use assisted steering” And Ryan says all the products work with Raven’s new Cruizer guidance system.

Listen to an interview with Ryan from Commodity Classic, conducted by ZimmComm reporter Joanna Schroeder: [audio:]

Audio, Equipment, Events

New GreenSeeker Precision Products To Save Fertilizer

Kurt Lawton

GreenSeeker, the optical-sensing system from N-Tech that applies the right amount of Nitrogen based on plant readings from on-the-go sensors, offers several new products.

  • The GreenSeeker RT200-4 Variable Rate Application and Mapping System uses four sensors across an applicator rig that is 60 ft. wide or smaller. Suggested list price is $18,500.
  • The GreenSeeker RT150-3 Mapping System produces high-quality real-time vigor maps using three sensors. It can be upgraded to the RT200 variable-rate capabilities, and it lists for $13,000.
  • The GreenSeeker RT Commander Pro Software Upgrade allows users to combine historic data with real-time field data to optimize prescription rates in field management zones.

I wrote a story on this concept for Progressive Farmer magazine, called “Crop Sensors Come of Age.” Check it out.

Company Announcement, Corn, Equipment, Farmers

Farmers Win Precision Ag Technology at Commodity Classic

Kurt Lawton

Hats off to PrecisionAg magazine and its owner, Meister Media Worldwide, for giving away precision farming equipment to growers for the past 14 years!

The following lucky growers will soon be putting these new precision tools to work–which they won at the recent Commodity Classic in Grapevine, TX.

  • David Farmer, D.F. Ranches, El Nido, CA – InSight Display from Ag Leader.
  • Jeff Tate, Tate Farms, Meridiaville, AL – UC4+ Spray Height Controller from NORAC.
  • Heather Mohr, Mohr Farms, Burnside, IL – DGPS Subscription from OmniStar.
  • Brenton Peters, L & S Peters Farms, Bringhurst, IN – DGPS Subscription from OmniStar.
  • Ray Becker, T-R Farms, Lancaster, KS – DGPS Subscription from OmniStar.
  • Keith Fuller, Fuller Fertilizer, Sutter, IL – The ACCU-RATE Controller from Rawson Control Systems.
  • Jeff Filinger, Cuba, KS – Centerline 230BP from TeeJet.
  • Rod Gillen, Muller Farms, Boswell, IN – EZ-Guide 250 from Trimble.

“It’s certainly a thrill to bring the PrecisionAg Giveaway program to agriculture, and it really fits our mission to make precision technology understandable and accessible,” says Paul Schrimpf, group editor of the CropLife Media Group’s PrecisionAg branded media, including PrecisionAg Special Reports, the PrecisionAg Buyer’s Guide and “For 14 years, leading precision technology companies have participated in the Giveaway program, giving the winners an opportunity to discover the benefits of precision agriculture products and practices. We congratulate the winners and wish them the best as they integrate these products into their operations.”

Commodity Classic, Company Announcement, Equipment, Precision Ag in the News