Input Costs Increase Precision Interest

Cindy Zimmerman

Hoosier Ag TodayIndiana farm broadcaster Gary Truitt – voice of the Hoosier Ag Today radio network – recently did an interview with Purdue ag economist Bruce Erickson about how higher input costs are making many farmers take a second look at precision.

Hoosier Ag TodayErickson told Gary that the change in the farm economy has spurred a renewed interest in precision farming. “Couple of major things that drive precision technologies are saving input costs and increasing yields,” Bruce said. “With both higher input costs and high grain prices, we have the potential to make precision technologies more profitable.”

Bruce says that they are seeing a bit of an uptick in adoption of precision, more in the “on the go type things that you get with individual nozzle shut offs and the planter row control and even in guidance systems. If you can shave off a little cost when diesel is $4 a gallon, those things really start to become more profitable.”

Listen to Gary’s interview with Bruce here:
Listen to MP3 HAT report (10:00 mp3)

Audio, Farm Broadcast Reports, General

Wireless Water Sensing Solutions

Chuck Zimmerman

Smart CropsPrecision applications are showing up in all kinds of agricultural applications. Here’s a new report from On World about utilizing wireless sensing solutions to manage water usage.

Facing a water shortage crisis and the demands of a global economy, farmers are turning to wireless sensing solutions to save labor costs, increase yields, improve quality, and conserve water, according to a recent report by ON World. The emergence of standards based short range radios, advanced network protocols, and the availability of low cost backhaul technologies, have made wireless sensor systems an affordable competitive advantage for farmers/growers.

“As drought conditions worsen in areas such as California and Australia, vendors can barely keep up with the demand,” according to Mareca Hatler, ON World’s director of research. Smart irrigation systems can save 30% of a farm’s water bill while increasing production yields by 20%.

ON World’s recently published report, “Wireless Sensor Networks for Smart Crops” analyzes the drivers and return on investment for adopting wireless crop monitoring solutions for several crop types. It includes global and US Total Potential market size forecasts, in-depth profiles on the top six wireless crop monitoring vendors, analysis on WSN technologies such as IEEE802.15.4 and mesh networking including several power and performance simulations using the wsnSimulator™.

Industry News

Valley Introduces GPS Ready Control Panels

Cindy Zimmerman

Valley IrrigationValley Irrigation has introduced the industry’s first line of GPS Ready irrigation control panels. The GPS Ready PRO2 Pivot Control Panel and GPS Ready AutoPilot Linear Control Panel currently are available from Valley dealers. The GPS Ready Select2 Pivot Control Panel will be available later this year.

Valley Irrigation“All of our computerized control panels will be GPS Ready, which means producers will be able to easily take advantage of the benefits of GPS technology,” Valley Irrigation’s Rich Panowicz says. “Producers need to be able to manage precision application of water and fertilizers. GPS Ready control panels for center pivots and linears can help producers do just that. With the high costs of fuel, fertilizer, water and other inputs, it’s important for producers to incorporate these tools that will help their bottom line.”

The GPS Ready control panels from Valley Irrigation differ from other control panels on the market because they perform all of the necessary GPS position calculations right in the control panel, therefore eliminating the need for external computers on the machine.

They also are compatible with different types of GPS receivers, including WAAS-enabled receivers. This means producers can pick the GPS receiver with the accuracies necessary to meet the required management needs.

Equipment, Irrigation

Showing Precision Guided Tillage at Farm Science Review

Chuck Zimmerman

Jamie BultemeierThe Farm Science Review is taking place in London, OH and I got to attend the precision ag field demos yesterday and found John Deere on the job.

I spoke with John Deere’s Jamie Bultemeier (pictured on the left). He was conducting a precision tillage demonstration. Jamie’s an agronomist by training so he focuses on crop production as it relates to seeding, tillage, sprayers and GPS equipment.

In his demonstration he was tying two of those together. He says they have a John Deere 2510S strip till rig being guided by John Deere RTK sub inch accuracy steering to allow for repeatable planting next spring. After running down a row a little ways he stopped to talk with farmers and they commented on how moist the ground was even though there had been little rain of late.

Questions he gets asked a lot include, “How should I set it? What fertilizer should I use? What kind of attachments should I put on?” He says he’s spoken with about an equal number of farmers who are using the technology and those who aren’t yet.

You can listen to my interview with Jamie using this link: Jamie Bultemeier Interview (mp3 file)

I also caught Jamie doing an end of the row run during his demonstration which you can watch here:

If you’re interested you can see a lot of pictures I took at this year’s show in this photo album: Farm Science Review Photo Album

Audio, Precision Ag in the News, Tillage, Video

Aligned Farming Enhances Precision

Laura McNamara

Measuring progress is key to determining which farming techniques are more profitable than others for growers. Clay Mitchell, a farmer in NE Iowa says aligned-farming is a precision farming technique that allows growers to measure their progress, particularly compared to angled-farming.

“What’s special about aligned farming systems is that it allows us to measure them,” Clay said. “We can finally observe how we are doing. It’s very difficult to do that in angled farming systems.”

Clay says aligned farming systems help farmers actually achieve their target rates. Plus, he adds, in his research, aligned farming systems compacted the ground less, touching the earth 17 percent of the time as compared to the conventional 85 to 100 percent ground contact.

“It’s a really powerful solution to compaction,” Clay said.

I interviewed Clay about his work with aligned farming and how it can work with raised-bed farming and even strip-till farming. He also commented on how precision played an important role in mitigating crop loss from this year’s flooding. You can listen to my interview with Clay here:

Clay Mitchell, a farmer in NE Iowa

Audio, Research

Auto-Steer Compliments Skip-Row Farming

Laura McNamara

Specialized farming practices paired with specialized farming technology can mean “special” results for farmers if you ask Robert Klein. Robert is an Extension Cropping Systems Specialist with the University of Nebraska in North Platte. He says when it comes to seeding and planting plots for crop performance evaluation, using GPS-RTK Auto Steering technology with skip-row planting methods can boost yields.

Robert explains that moisture benefits from skip-row planting in corn, for example, optimizes crop performance and results in crops that are less stressed and won’t be delayed. But, he adds skip-row planting can create time-consuming challenges for growers. That is with the old method. Farmers could spend up to two hours in the field flagging routes with a system no more modern than using a measuring tape. But, Robert says, using RTK Auto-Steer technology cuts the skip-row planting process down to minutes.

“We’ve seen in one case as I showed the results, yields that went from 40 bushels per acre to over 80 bushel per acre by using the skip row system,” Robert said.

Plus, he adds, farmers will have perfect rows that make harvesting easier.

“Another example is where a farmer had had 60 bushel on dry land corn using the regular 30-inch row planting,” Robter said. “With plant two, skip two he moved that to 100 bushels per acre. And he said that’s really a nice way to do it. In fact, that farmer says, ‘I think I finally figured out how to plant dry land corn in western Nebraska.'”

I interviewed Robert about his research shows that precision techniques work seamlessly with skip-row farming. You can listen to my interview here:
Robert Klein, the Extension Cropping Systems Specialist with the University of Nebraska in North Platte, Nebraska

Audio, Conservation, Equipment, GPS, Research, Resources, Software, University

Precision FIT with Pioneer

Laura McNamara

Pioneer is offering a new, free service that it says can give farmers more: more information and more uses for that information. Pioneer Hi-Bred’s FIT mapping combines GPS data with a free mapping service offering farmers detailed information about their crops, where they’re growing their crops and whether they’re growing them in way that maximizes their resources. Did I mention it’s free?

I caught up with Lisa Baumhover at the 2008 Farm Progress Show and we talked about just what FIT mapping does offer farmers and how easy it is to use. You can listen to my interview with Lisa here:

Lisa Baumhover, Spatial Data Analyst for Pioneer

Audio, Events, GPS

The “Stars” Have it with Precision

Laura McNamara

Farmers wanting to ease into precision technology have new equipment options from John Deere. The ag machinery company has unveiled three new products within its GreenStar line. John Deere says the GreenStar Lightbar, GreenStar 2 Display 1800 and the StarFire 300 Reciever are meant to help operators get started with precision farming. The new gadgets can also help enhance older systems. John Deere has launched its SeedStar 2 monitoring system.

The GreenStar Lightbar offers 27 tracking LEDs to guide the farmers operating precision steering systems in the field. John Deere says operators should steer their tractors based on what lights illuminated. Green means you’re on track. Red means you’re not. Each red light means operators are off by four inches.

Farmers looking for a little more pizazz, but still want a tool that’s easy to understand should consider the GreenStar 2 Display 1800. The new, 7-inch display features state-of-the-art, full-color screens meant to help farmers manage GreenStar applications. The display can be used for AutoTrac and on-screen mapping.

If growers are looking for a new receiver for their GreenStar systems, John Deere’s new StarFire 300 should offer them an economical option. The satellite WAAS receiver boasts 13-inch accuracy and mounts easily with a magnet.

The SeedStar 2 monitoring system combines what used to be on two monitors down into one full-color display. The system can be used on planters and air seeders to help growers improve accuracy and cover more acres in less time.

I spoke with Kim Fletcher, Marketing Representative with John Deere Ag Management Solutions. You can listen to the interview here:
Kim Fletcher, Marketing Representative for John Deere AMS talks about new GreenStar products and SeedStar 2

Audio, Dealers, Equipment, GPS

RowCommand and RowSense Offer Guidance for Planters and Combines

Laura McNamara

AutoTrac guidance is no longer just for tractors. Farmers can now use assisted steering technology on combines. John Deere‘s AutoTrac RowSense gives growers the ability to use precision guidance on the combines for harvesting corn. Mechanical feeler data from new row sensors located on the corn heads are integrated with GPS data from John Deere’s StarFire Receiver to give growers tighter steering control. RowSense can manuever around curves, through waterways or through weedy areas.

This spring farmers can harness “technology for efficient planter row control” with John Deere’s new RowCommand. The new technology lets farmers efficiently plant on the go with automated control. John Deere says the RowCommand will help growers reduce their seed input costs while also eliminating yield drag associated with double-planting. RowCommand can help growers reduce overplanting in point rows, John Deere says, while also helping them maximize placement .

I spoke with Ag Management Solutions Marketing Representative Kim Fletcher about the RowSense and RowCommand. You can listen to the interview here:
Kim Fletcher, Marketing Representative for John Deere AMS talks about RowCommand and RowSense

Audio, Dealers, Equipment, GPS

John Deere Offers New “Toys” for Precision

Laura McNamara

John Deere has recently announced that it’s offering a slew of different precision agriculture products. Some are available now and others are scheduled to be released in the spring or fall of 2009. Kim Fletcher, Marketing Representative with John Deere Ag Management Solutions has been hosting several live presentations showcasing many of the new products and some old favorites at the 2008 Farm Progress Show John Deere exhibit. I managed to grab video of one of her presentations. Check out the video below. I’ll also be posting a couple interviews with her about the products in the next few days.

John Deere RowCommand: New Technology for Efficient Planter Row Control
John Deere AutoTrac RowSense
John Deere GreenStar Lightbar, GreenStar 2 Display 1800 and StarFire 300 Reciever
John Deere SeedStar 2 Monitoring System
John Deere iGuide

John Deere Precision Ag Products from Laura McNamara on Vimeo.

Dealers, Displays, Equipment, GPS, Video