Trimble and Tru Count Increase ROI

Cindy Zimmerman

TrimbleAt the 2009 Commodity Classic recently, Trimble Navigation was helping growers see how precision provides them with a good return on their investment.

Sid Siefken with Trimble says guidance by itself makes a grower more efficient, but Trimble’s acquisition of Tru Count late last year has increased a grower’s ROI. “Tru Count does the automatic row shutoff systems for corn planters and that coupled with guidance can really increase your return on investment,” Sid says. “We’ve had farmers come up to us at the show and said it was probably quickest pay back of any technology they ever used.’

Sid says one farmer in particular who planted 4000 acres of corn used 28 less bags of seed corn with Tru Count air clutches combined with guidance. “Very few times in agriculture that you can get that direct amount of tangible savings driven back to the bottom line,” said Sid.

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

Audio, Commodity Classic, Equipment, Events, GPS, Software, Trimble

New Holland Teaches Precision Land Management at Classic

Chuck Zimmerman

Mike HarveyYou could go to school and learn about precision land management in the New Holland booth at this year’s Commodity Classic. Mike Harvey was teaching when I stopped by. He says the mobile teaching trailer provides a place for growers to see their monitors and even operate a simulator.

The trailer can be configured in various ways and is also used for dealer and operation training. The trailer has heat and air conditioning so it can be used year round.

When it comes to this year’s Classic Mike says interaction with growers was great. He says they’re really impressed with the ability to look at a machine in their booth and then come into the trailer to learn about all the controls.

You can listen to my interview with Mike here: [audio:]

Audio, Commodity Classic, New Holland

Innovation Awards For New Holland At SIMA

Kurt Lawton

New Holland Agriculture captured a gold and silver medal for the company’s impressive NH2 hydrogen-powered tractor and the advanced EasyDrive transmission innovations at the recent SIMA Farm Show, held every two years in Paris, France.

New Holland’s Energy Independent Farm and NH2 tractor concept offers farmers autonomous future. The Energy Independent Farm concept has far-reaching benefits for its customers, allowing them to create, store and use power in a convenient format. Central to the concept is the ability to produce electricity from natural, environmentally-friendly sources and then reuse that electricity in a convenient and practical way. The impressive hydrogen-powered NH2 tractor is just one part of a greater vision to free farmers from the volatile cost of fuel.

The first tractor in the world to be powered by hydrogen, the concept is a natural fit with New Holland’s Clean Energy Leader position, which saw the company lead the industry with its support for 100% biodiesel without complicated servicing programmes or reduced machine performance.

Based on the popular T6000, the experimental NH2 tractor replaces the traditional combustion engine with hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity. Compressed hydrogen drawn from a tank on the tractor reacts in the fuel cell with oxygen, drawn from the air, to produce water and electrons. The electrons are harnessed in the form of an electric current, which drives electric motors to power the tractor’s drivetrain and auxiliary systems.

“Farmers are in a unique position to benefit from hydrogen technology. Unlike many people, they have the space to install alternative electricity generation systems, such as solar, wind, biomass or waste, and then store that power as hydrogen. Apart from the environmental benefits, such a system would allow customers to become energy independent and improve their financial stability” said Pierre Lahutte, New Holland’s head of Global Product Marketing, Tractors & Telehandlers.

New Holland also received a Special Mention award for its Intelligent User Interface, a fully-automated combine optimization system.

The 25 SIMA Innovation Awards in 2009 were selected from 154 innovations submitted by exhibitors at this prestigious international show.


Technology Makes 120 Foot Planter Possible

Cindy Zimmerman

John Deere DB 120The John Deere DB120 was too big for the John Deere booth at Commodity Classic this year, but there was still lots of interest in this new machine that offers standard technology features that can help growers be more productive than ever before

The DB120 has 48 row units, 30 inch centers and is a full 120 foot wide. Base technology equipment includes Central Commodity System (CCS) with Refuge Plus™, Variable Rate Drive, RowCommand™, SeedStar™ 2 Monitoring, and Pneumatic Down Force.

John Deere Rob RippchenJohn Deere seed division marketing manager Rob Rippchen says the CCS and Refuge Plus™ provides 125 bushel of seed capacity for the planter. “You can plant somewhere between two and a half and three hours before needing to refill,” said Rob. “SeedStar™ 2 Monitoring was our upgraded monitoring system that was introduced last summer that gives growers a good interface in the cab and controls the majority of features on the planter from the seat of the tractor.”

Technology is making it all possible, said Rob. “If auto guidance wasn’t available, you probably wouldn’t see a 120 foot planter. If RowCommand wasn’t in the market place, where you can shut off individual row units automatically, you probably wouldn’t see a 120 foot planter. So, it’s really the technology that enables us to take that next step in planter productivity.”

All this for only $345,000 list price. Not a bad deal for large volume growers who are planning on adding more acreage.

The DB120 was introduced at the National Farm Machinery Show last month, where we shot a little YouTube video you can view here.

Listen to Rob talk about the DB120 at Commodity Classic here: [audio:]

Audio, Commodity Classic, Equipment, Events, Software

Educate The Public On Precision Farming Values

Kurt Lawton

Hats off to Adrian, Michigan Daily Telegram for helping the general public grasp how satellite-based GPS systems help farmers. And kudos to Tom Van Wagner, the local district USDA-NRCS conservationist, and to local growers for highlighting results from precision farming.

As Van Wagner was quoted…“Agriculture is big business,” he said. “We sometimes read about agriculture and how (farmers) are polluting and causing all these problems. But farmers are stewards of the soil. They have to be concerned about erosion and water quality.”

Local grower Blain Baker made the same statement that I’ve been saying for years about investing in technology…“Prices (for commodities) were up last year, so we thought it’d be a good time to get some new technology,” he said. Blain also talked about efficiencies with their planter and fertilizer application.

One of the devices he uses is a GPS-based automatic shutoff system that turns the planter on and off depending on where the field has already been planted. Avoiding double-planting saves on seed costs, which is important at the best of times and especially critical given the way the price of corn seed has shot up. “It‘s gone from $100 a bag to $300 a bag in three years,” Baker said. Plus, by making sure there aren’t too many plants in one place, yield is improved.

The Bakers also use an automatic clutch system that uses grid sampling to improve fertilizer application. The field is sampled in 2.5-acre grids, the soil is tested in each grid, and the “prescription” for fertilizer is input into a computer. The rate of application varies according to what’s needed in each location.

“Say on a 40-acre field, you put 6,000 pounds (of fertilizer) on,” Baker said. “But when you grid-sample, you might have put 2,000 pounds on.”

And how did Baker respond when asked about the investment in all these tools of precision agriculture. “We feel pretty comfortable we’re getting our money back. The payback is pretty quick,” he said.

Have you thought about educating the local media at your farm to help them and their consumer readers grasp the value of technology and stewardship on today’s farm?

Conservation, Education, GPS, Precision Ag in the News

Precision Technology Improves Sustainability

Cindy Zimmerman

A new tool to measure sustainability shows how precision technology and practices have helped improve the efficiency of U.S. farmers.

The Fieldprint Calculator was introduced last week at the Commodity Classic by Field to Market, The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

doug goehring“I do have to say that I like this tool for many reasons,” said Doug Goehring, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat in North Dakota. “First and foremost, it demonstrates how U.S. ag production measures up when it comes to sustainability. In some respects, we’re probably at the top of the game globally.”

“It’s amazing,” Goehring says. “Just looking at technology – we have variable rate seeding, variable rate fertilizer application, variable rate chemical application, we have GPS, new tools and equipment being designed that are much more efficient in the field.”

“When you look at our industry overall in the United States, for what we produce and the amount of energy that we consume to do that, we are very responsible,” said Goehring.

The Fieldprint Calculator was developed with input from a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, economists and conservation groups, to help farmers evaluate natural resource use on their operation compared to industry averages. These measures could help improve production efficiencies and profit potential.

The calculator will be available at beginning March 15 for grower testing and feedback.

Listen to Doug’s comments at Commodity Classic here: [audio:]

Commodity Classic, General, Precision Ag in the News, Research, sustainability

Bright Future for Precision Farming Field Techs

Kurt Lawton

Ask any grower who is succeeding with the various tools of precision agriculture, and you’ll hear about the importance of the local dealer’s field technician–such as John Deere’s AMS Technician program.

For anyone interested in this growing job field, check out Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology, which offers a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree in Precision Agriculture Technology.

Graduates from the new program will be prepared for a higher level of agriculture, in which most new jobs require skills in GIS, GPS, and remote sensing in addition to the familiar disciplines of agronomy, plant science, and agri-business.

OSU Institute of Technology students will be learning to use GPS and GIS technologies to provide detailed information to farmers on their crop’s health status, irrigation and fertilizer need, plus warn of attacks by insects or weeds.

OSU Institute of Technology’s program is designed to meet the needs of two types of students: those who want to earn an associate’s degree in agriculture with high employment potential; or those who want to complete their first two years of an agriculture degree, then transfer to OSU’s Stillwater campus to earn their bachelor’s degree.

To learn more about this program, check out the information guide.

Dealers, Education, University

Make Plans for Agritechnica

Cindy Zimmerman

Representatives from the world’s largest agricultural machinery exhibition were talking with farmers at the Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas this week about planning a visit to Hanover, Germany in November.

Agritechnica, which is held every odd year, attracts 340,000 attendees from all over the world to visit more than 2000 farm machinery exhibits. This year the event is scheduled for November 10 -14.

Annette Reichhold (left) and Dr. Malene Conlong, with conference organizer DLG, tell me that Agritechnica is considered the global agricultural “gathering point” and is often the chosen venue for manufacturers to unveil new innovations.

“Precision farming was a special topic in 2003 at Agritechnica,” said Annette. “So its a very important focus at the event.”

But Agritechnica is more than just an equipment show. “We bring together farmers from all over the world, we have special forums, we have conferences where farmers actually get together to talk about global issues,” said Malene. This year the special focus is on soil and water issues. “We are presenting some of the potential solutions to those issues in various parts of the world.”

Listen to my interview with Annette and Malene here: [audio:]

Audio, Equipment, Events, Farmers, General, Industry News

Growers Learn More About APEX

Cindy Zimmerman

A record number of growers are attending the biggest ever trade show at the 2009 Commodity Classic this week in Grapevine, Texas. No economic crisis here!

John Deere Ag Management Solutions representatives have stayed busy talking with growers interested in upgrading – or even just starting out – with precision technology that can help them save money on input costs and increase productivity. One way to do that is with APEX software which allows producers to visualize farming practices and productivity of past years and use that information to make important decisions for the next production year and beyond.

I did a little YouTube video with Sarah Davis of John Deere AMS explaining some of the ways the APEX software can help producers.

Commodity Classic, Software, Video

Precision Fertility Research For Wheat

Kurt Lawton



It’s great to see more federal research, especially in the often neglected crop of wheat, to help growers understand why yields can vary greatly across 80 acres.

As precision farming tools continue to tell us, such in-field yield variation has to do with the soil–its physical, chemical and biological characteristics. Thanks to cooperation between USDA-NRCS and M&M Cooperative in Sterling, Colo., dryland wheat growers will gain further understanding into the best ways to apply precision agriculture.

The Sterling Journal Advocate reports how technologies can improve over-application. The high cost of fertilizer and environmental concerns, stemming from fertilizer over-application, are prompting many farmers to look for ways to maximize return on their fertilizer dollars. Today, new technologies are available that allow us to identify and respond to spatial variations in soil: Global Positioning Systems, Geographic Information Systems and variable rate applicators. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the best ways to apply these technologies is lacking.

M & M Cooperative has been instrumental in planning, funding, and implementing research to investigate soil electrical conductivity (EC) as a basis foridentifying management zones — areas within a field that are similar in soil characteristics and production potential. Field maps of EC can be made easily and economically by integrating GPS and GIS technologies with commercially-available EC sensors, such as the Veris Sensor Cart (Veris Technologies, Salina, Kan.).

Farmers in the central great plains will benefit from learning optimal N-rates for different EC management zones with regard to yields, conservation and grain quality.

Precision Ag in the News, Research, wheat