Precision Agriculture And Texas Denim Jeans

Kurt Lawton

Kudos to the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Lubbock, Tex., for launching a new company that is selling eco-friendly denim jeans from cotton grown using the efficiencies of precision farming.

The company Denimatrix will produce jeans in Guatemala made from cotton produced by 25,000 grower-members of American Cotton Growers (ACG) who are focused on developing quality fabric using sustainable practices. To buy them, visit

American Cotton Growers-or ACG-and its farmer-owners are focused on developing high quality denim fabrics for our customers with minimal impact on the environment. We produce an average of 37 million yards of denim annually, enough to make 26 million pairs of jeans, every yard of which is grown, spun, dyed, and woven from the cotton our members produce. This denim process is a true, homespun phenomenon – American cotton literally created from field to fabric.

ACG meets or exceeds all regulations administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. In all possible processes throughout the mill, we use the best available technology to apply the principles of reduce, re-use and recycle and to avoid production of hazardous waste.

Our stewardship carries all the way from the field to the fabric. We like to call it SAFE denim-Sustainable, American and Friendly to the Environment. For us, it’s not just a fad; it’s a multi-generational commitment to ensure our children and grandchildren can farm the land.

We’re protecting our ecosystems for these future generations by remaining good stewards of the land, air and water. We value doing the right thing, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time, and it requires the use of new technologies.

We continually embrace new technologies in irrigation to reduce the volume of water used to grow our cotton. Compared to 25 years ago, our farmers now use 45 percent less water to grow cotton.

Technologies like Integrated Pest Management systems use beneficial insects to control pests and reduce human and environmental exposure to chemicals while lowering input costs. Today, the number of pesticide applications required to produce cotton is half of what it was just 20 years ago.

Advances in seed breeding and farming practices have greatly reduced the amount of chemical inputs required to grow cotton, resulting in substantial environmental benefits.

Precision agriculture uses aerial and satellite infrared photography to identify problem spots in our fields and apply inputs only where they are needed via global positioning systems.

These technologies have dramatically reduced the land area required to produce enough cotton to meet world demand. In 1926, U.S. farmers planted more than 44 million acres and produced almost 18 million bales. By 2004, U.S. cotton acreage totaled just under 14 million acres which produced more than 23 million bales. In other words, an additional 30 million acres are available for food production, conservation and wildlife habitat.

ACG and its 25,000 farmer-owners are committed to continually improving our denim manufacturing processes and farming practices. Sustainable agriculture is the ability of a farm to produce food and fiber indefinitely with minimal impact on the environment.

We don’t need to be told to take care of the land for our children and grandchildren because we learned that from our own parents and grandparents. It is our generational commitment to Sustainable, American and Friendly to the Environment.

Company Announcement, Conservation, Cotton, Farmers, sustainability

Precision Air Seeding From Raven & Seed Hawk

Kurt Lawton

This fall, a new line of precision application and planter section control will be offered on the Canadian Seed Hawk line of seeders, controlled by Raven’s Viper Pro, thanks to a collaboration by the two companies.

The first of these solutions combines fertilizer and seed section control from Raven with patent-pending seeder technology from Seed Hawk. Known as Sectional Control Technology(TM), this system will virtually eliminate costly seed and fertilizer overlaps automatically for the customer.

“By working together, our two companies can provide seeding solutions faster and more effectively,” says Pat Beaujot, President of Seed Hawk. “We can take advantage of expertise and existing products from both companies and offer better products that deliver significant value to our customers.”

Matt Burkhart, General Manager of Applied Technology Division at Raven Industries, adds, “This new collaboration further demonstrates Raven’s commitment to expand its product line into seeding and planting applications.”

This system will be offered through Seed Hawk dealers starting this fall, and both companies plan to offer more solutions in the future. “With a good working agreement in place, our companies can share ideas freely, which will lead to faster solutions,” Beaujot explains.

Company Announcement, Equipment, Fertilizer, Planting, Precision Ag in the News

Precision Farming Adoption in England

Kurt Lawton

Survey of arable farmers in England show only 35% have even looked into what precision farming could do for them, according to a recent story in the UK farm magazine Farmers Weekly.

Fertilizer price rise is driving greater interest, as precision applications of typical fertilizer and lime are touted to save approximately 30%. SOYL Ltd, an independent company that provides precision farming advice and services to growers in England and Scotland, is busy promoting GPS-based soil sampling, variable-rate fertilizer application, and a wide-array of manufacturers and technology.

Isobus plug-and-play technology is the buzz-phrase around manufacturers of precision-farming kits, according to SOYL’s Simon Parrington.

“Everyone in the industry is now talking about plug and play – it’s the way forward in my view. If you’re upgrading any of your arable kit, from combines to cultivation equipment, you must talk about compatibility with dealers and reps.”

There are three areas that farmers looking into precision farming should investigate:

  • Sampling. Precision-sampling fields pinpoints data that can be used to variably apply fertiliser. SOYL has has already precision-mapped 15% of the entire UK cropped area, giving 750,000 soil samples that provide an idea of variation nationally.
  • Tackling technology. There’s a mind-bending array of manufacturers and options for kit that will apply variable rate. John Deere is the market leader with its Greenstar system, while for implements, Kverneland leads the way with more ISO-ready implements than any other manufacturer.
  • Research and best practice. A recent HGCA survey shows only 35% of arable farmers have even looked into what precision farming could do for them. The HGCA. Be PRECISE project aims to bring precision farming to a wider audience and arm growers with the know-how needed to get the best out of the technology.
Education, Farmers, International

Precision Farmer Of The Year

Kurt Lawton

The PrecisionAg Institute, formed and managed by CropLife Media Group, just announced their 2009 precision agriculture awards that include a top farmer, crop advisor, educator and legacy award winners.

Farmer of the year is Robert Blair, who is not your typical dryland Idaho farmer. While his passions rank family and farming first, he is also staunchly dedicated to promoting precision ag for the betterment of all farmers.

In addition to farming 1,500 acres of wheat, peas, lentils, garbanzos, alfalfa and cows, he taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho during the 2008 fall semester and has also started a precision ag business called PineCreek Precision. The company is centered on Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) – small, autopilot-controlled planes (less than 20 pounds) that can be used to gather imagery. Blair, the first farmer in the United States to own and fly a UAS on his own farmland, decided to make a prototype airframe in 2008. Today he is a national leader in the promotion of UAS for agriculture, and is the first person in the U.S. to file a petition to the FAA for commercial use. Not even Boeing, Lockheed, or other aircraft businesses or organizations had done that. He has traveled on his own dime to Washington, D.C. to try to make commercial UAS rules that are sensible for end users. He has spoken around the country at different venues on UAS use in ag.

Robert is a board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, Lewiston Chamber Ag Committee, U of I/WSU Legume Virus Project, Idaho Farm Bureau LASR Committee, Nez Perce County Farm Bureau President, CEO Coalition on Transportation member, Governor Otter’s Kitchen Cabinet (Advisory Group), IGPA Alliance for Rail Competition National Representative, and taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho.

He is helping the University of Idaho to expand its precision ag program and is also promoting agriculture by doing TV interviews for a new farm program in our area. His leadership and ability to bring things together are excellent and promotion of ag and precision ag is at the front of everything he does.

Robert hosts a precision ag field day each year and 2009 will be the third. His on-farm experiments with fertilizer, varieties, and different equipment has opened the eyes of many farmers in the area to the benefits of precision ag. Besides the economic benefits, he emphasizes the environmental stewardship aspects precision ag brings. He touts the benefits of precision ag records for proving environmentally safe tillage, application, and record keeping.

Check out the other recipients of 2009 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence.


Company Announcement, Education, Farmers, Industry News, Precision Ag in the News

Trimble Acquires NTech & GreenSeeker Technology

Kurt Lawton

Trimble expands its precision agriculture solutions offering by acquiring NTech, a leading provider of crop-sensing technology GreenSeeker and WeedSeeker.

NTech products use optical sensing and variable rate application to apply only the inputs needed to maximize crop yield. The GreenSeeker nitrogen application system determines the health of a plant in real time and delivers the optimum amount of nitrogen. The WeedSeeker automatic spot-spray system senses the presence of living plants, allowing targeted and controlled herbicide application.

The systems are typically utilized with Global Positioning System (GPS) solutions and flow and application control products, both of which are supported by Trimble’s precision agricultural portfolio of products.

“Trimble’s focus is to provide complete agriculture solutions – from machine guidance and automated steering to application control. The acquisition of NTech gives Trimble customers even more ways to save on fertilizer and herbicide costs while reducing their impact on the environment,” said Erik Arvesen, vice president and general manager for Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “By applying the right amount of inputs for optimum plant growth, farmers can manage for maximum efficiency and avoid over-applying fertilizer or herbicide.”

“GreenSeeker and WeedSeeker solutions are breakthroughs for variable rate application. Our technology offers farmers innovative solutions to help control fertilizer and crop protection products, which ultimately drive costs,” said Ted Mayfield, NTech’s chief operating officer. “We are excited to join Trimble and believe that our combined technologies will provide farmers with enhanced solutions to more efficiently manage control applications in the field.”




Company Announcement, Equipment, Fertilizer, Precision Ag in the News, Spraying, Trimble

Farmer Blogs About Need For Technology Adoption

Kurt Lawton


Borg Farm family and friends enjoy a campfire break from the rigors of 24/7 farming

Borg Farm family and friends enjoy a campfire break from the rigors of 24/7 farming

Debbie Borg blogs about issues of technology and food from her Borg Farm base near Allen, Nebraska. In a recent post of “Random Thoughts,” she spoke of the great achievements of agricultural technology and the production efficiencies it has helped achieve.

Agriculture’s efficiency just seems to keep getting better and many of the activists groups want us to go back to the ‘old ways’. Why is it, after only a few days our computer needs to be updated, but farmers aren’t suppose to update to new technology. Read here that “To produce one billion kilograms of milk in 2007, we need 20 percent less cows, 25 percent less feed, 10 percent less land. In 2007, we produced 40 percent less methane and 56 percent less nitrous oxide compared to 1944. The reason for that is improved efficiency, and these are huge gains.

The Ad Council is teaming up with HSUS to launch a three-year, $80-120 million effort to change the way Americans view shelter pets and boost adoption rates of homeless cats and dogs across the country. Maybe why this campaign is being developed is that too many people have forgotten that pets are an animal that must be cared for daily. Unlike farmers and ranchers who have chosen a field of work that requires a commitment 24/7. Not everyone is designed to be a farmer or rancher–it takes special character and commitment. 

Hats off and and kudos to Debbie (who’s Twitter handle is “iamafarmer2”) and Borg Farms for adding realism to the technology and food debate, and to Nebraska Corn Kernels blog also for highlighting their efforts. It’s awesome to see farmers take a more active role in helping promote their cause — to educate some consumers who think hobby farms and free-range livestock can feed a growing world. 

And to that end of helping educate consumers and speaking up for agriculture, check out Michele Payn-Knoper’s blog called “Cause Matters.”

Education, Farmers, sustainability

Precision Feeding Aims To Reduce Environmental Risks

Kurt Lawton

To help reduce excessive nitrates from manure, Penn State research is focused on reducing manure nitrogen by 30-50% and phosphorus by 40-60% by precision feeding dairy cattle. 

The Chesapeake Bay Commission has determined that, by far, the most cost-effective way to minimize the environmental impact of the large volumes of manure generated within the estuary’s watershed is by adjusting feed formulation for poultry and livestock, says Virginia Ishler, nutrient-management extension specialist in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Until recently, the focus has been on dealing with manure and its nutrients post-excretion,” she said. “However, now we are focusing on research and on nutrition programs to better balance nitrogen and phosphorus being fed to dairy cows. The feeding management — or how the ration is implemented and presented to the cows — can greatly affect nutrient levels and utilization. But that is just one component.”

The other component of the new enlightened management approach, Ishler explained, is utilizing as much home-grown feed as possible, especially forages, to minimize nutrients being imported onto a farm.

With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ishler and research assistant Erica Cowan also are collaborating with the University of Maryland on a project in the Monocacy Creek watershed. In the Pennsylvania portion of the watershed, in Adams County, a Penn State team is monitoring dairy farms to determine the correlation between precision feeding and financial health.

“Every three months, ration information is collected, and total mixed ration and feed/forage samples are analyzed,” said Ishler. “We are also testing milk and monitoring urea nitrogen. Reports are sent back to the producer and their nutritionist after every sampling period to show where the herd is in relation to nitrogen and phosphorus goals.”

In southwestern Pennsylvania, Ishler and Indiana County extension educator Eugene Schurman are working with 12 dairy producers and their nutritionists, collecting nutrition and feed-management information every other month. This project is funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, a USDA competitive grants program supporting agriculture that is profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities.

Conservation, Dairy, Fertilizer, Research, sustainability

Precision Planting Saves Thousands Of Dollars

Kurt Lawton

It’s nice to see the general media cover agriculture from a positive technology standpoint. This recent story in the Janesville (Wisc.) Gazette highlights how precision agriculture tools help farmers cut costs. 

Chuck Pope uses global positioning software in the cab of his tractor as a guide as he plants thousands of acres of corn in Walworth, Rock and Jefferson counties in Wisconsin.

The equipment isn’t new, but it’s becoming more common as farmers look for ways to cut costs.

As Pope rounds the corner in a field, a little image of a tractor lines up with a pre-programmed line on a computer monitor in the cab of his John Deere.

He hits a switch and lowers the 90-foot-wide planter. He flips a switch on the back of the steering column, and the tractor takes over, steering itself and following the GPS line up the field.

It’s not a brand new concept to use data tracking software and Global Positioning Systems to maximize crop yields. Pope’s been doing it for 10 years.

Precision planting shaves 2 to 3 percent off Pope’s seed costs. That adds up to savings of $8,000 to $15,000 per year, he said.

Education, Farmers, GPS, Precision Ag in the News

New Leica Auto-Steer Offers Free 6-8 Inch Accuracy

Kurt Lawton

The new mojoGLIDE console from Leica Geosystems is claimed to offer a revolutionary new dual-frequency GLIDE positioning technology that provides 6- to 8-inch accuracy with no subscription fees and no base station. And if you buy the console, display and auto boom section control for your sprayer before JUNE 30th, you can save $4,500.

Leica’s mojoGLIDE console retails at $7,990 and is fully upgradable to RTK accuracy with an unlock code. Once the unlock code is purchased, the console can be used with a personal base station or on a CORS network. No additional hardware or upgrades will be required to obtain RTK accuracy.

“The mojoGLIDE console is the only low-accuracy auto-steer system that comes with all the necessary components to upgrade to RTK accuracy, eliminating the need to purchase additional radios, antennas, or cell modems,” said Trevor Mecham, North American business manager for Leica’s Ag Group. “Like the mojoRTK, the mojoGLIDE console is quick and easy to install and comes with Leica Geosystem’s patented 9-axis terrain compensation for the best performance in the most difficult terrain.”

The dual-frequency L1/L2 GLIDE technology can be added to existing mojoRTK consoles allowing users to operate without the base station during field preparation, spraying or other work that does not require RTK accuracy.

“We think our customers will see a lot of value in the mojoGLIDE console since there is no subscription fee and it is completely upgradable to RTK accuracy with the purchase of a single unlock code, which can be purchased and delivered via Virtual Wrench™,” said Darin Sothers, North American sales manager for Leica’s Ag Group.

Leica’s remote service and support tool – Virtual Wrench – can be used with the mojoGLIDE console allowing customers to get quick support in the field with a touch a button. Virtual Wrench also allows users to add advanced guidance options, RTK accuracy or other software upgrades to their console.

Company Announcement, Equipment, GPS, Leica Geosystems, Spraying

Satellites Show Ozone Cutting Soybean Yields

Kurt Lawton

Losses of up to $2 billion per year (10%) in soybean yield is due to rising surface ozone, according to satellite measurements by NASA, as outlined in a recent study

Above a threshold concentration, ozone inhibits photosynthesis and reduces yield in soybeans, one of the more sensitive crops to high surface ozone levels. On the left are plants that have been exposed to “clean air” and are healthy, while on the right are plants exposed to ozone that are showing injury.

The study, presented at the American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly meeting, May 24 in Toronto, is based on five years of soybean yields, surface ozone, and satellite measurements of tropospheric ozone levels in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. It revealed summertime ozone concentrations consistently exceeded threshold levels at which crops are negatively affected. The states, three of the biggest soybean producers in the U.S., account for a large chunk of the country’s $27 billion annual soybean crop. The study estimates damage to the soybean crop – by a yield reduction of approximately 10 percent – of at least several hundred million in some years in those states alone, and possibly more than $2 billion nationwide. 

Climate change scenarios present numerous global problems for agriculture in this century, with the probability of more severe and extended droughts. But there’s also the strong likelihood that as cars, factories and power plants both here and abroad continue to change the fundamental chemistry of the air, the altered atmosphere will negatively impact the biological processes of important crops. 

“In the 19th and early 20th century, background surface ozone concentrations were relatively low so that an increase of 25 percent, (5 to 10 parts per billion), didn’t affect living organisms,” said Jack Fishman, a research scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “But now, we’ve crossed the line where you can expect to see modest increases in surface ozone result in crop growth being stunted.” 

Since the early twentieth century, surface ozone levels in rural areas in the Midwest have doubled, Fishman said. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that surface ozone concentrations will rise another 25 percent by 2050. In the southern region of the three states studied, peak daytime concentrations often surpassed 60 parts per billion. And so the yields in the southern region definitively suffered. In the northern region of the area studied, averaged concentrations were nearly 20 percent lower, and the impact of ozone was less. 

“Background conditions are rising. Precursor emissions are rising,” said Elizabeth Ainsworth, a professor of crop biology at the University of Illinois. “This is likely to get worse in the future and impact a greater area of the Midwest.” 

Education, GPS, Industry News, Research, Satellite, Soybeans, sustainability