Precision Update: Midwest Adoption

Melissa Sandfort


This spring, CropLife® magazine and Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business conducted a survey of crop input dealers for the 12th consecutive year to see which precision technologies were being used by dealers, what type of precision services they were expecting to offer in the future, and how precision farming customers were impacting their businesses. As in previous years, a survey was sent to 2,500 CropLife dealership readers to “take the pulse of the industry” with respect to precision farming.

This year, results are focusing on the Midwest dealerships who responded.

How Midwest Dealers Are Using Precision
The most common precision technology this year was GPS guidance systems with manual control/lightbar, by 75% of respondents, followed by precision technologies being used to provide services to growers. Rising to third place this year were GPS guidance systems with auto control/auto steer for fertilizer/chemical applications (used by 30% of the responding dealerships). Over one-quarter of the respondents (27%) used both types of GPS guidance systems, while 22% of the dealerships didn’t use either type of guidance system.

The biggest growth in technology in the last three years has been in GPS guidance systems with auto control/autosteer. In 2004, only 4% of the dealerships in the Midwest were using autocontrol/autosteer technology. Last year, 22% were using the technology and by this year 30% of the Midwestern dealerships were using it. The use of other precision technologies has more or less leveled off from 2005 to 2007.

e9d6.jpgDealers are still expecting to add precision services in the next two years, with continued growth expected through 2009. The biggest growth expected is in fieldmapping with GIS, with 56% of the Midwestern dealerships expecting to be offering the service by 2009, up from 45% in 2007. Satellite imagery is also expected to grow substantially in the next two years, from 18% of the dealerships offering the service by fall of 2007 to 27% by 2009.

Precision technology appears to be here to stay in over three-quarters of the retail dealerships in the Midwest. The biggest growth currently is in use of the technology within the dealership instead of in services offered to customers. GPS guidance systems with autocontrol/autosteer continue to show the most rapid growth, though sensors (both on-the-go and mounted sensors) may be starting their growth in adoption as well. With the boom in ethanol production, a key strategic question is the impact of more corn acres on precision agricultural services (and vice versa).

Where are the opportunities? Where are the challenges? This story is one to follow in the 2008 CropLife/Purdue precision agriculture survey. Content courtesy of PrecisionAg, a Meister publication.

Dealers, Research

Information is key

Melissa Sandfort

While new precision farming tools such as global positioning system (GPS) and guidance technology have recently gained much attention from growers, it’s the collection, storage and analysis of field data that may have the greatest impact on farming operations. That’s because the availability of accurate information for most businesses, including farming, can lead to better management and input decisions over the long term.

“The accurate collection and analysis of the data generated from precision farming technologies can be the most important part of the entire package,” says Kayla Reynolds, product marketing manager for John Deere Ag Management Solutions. “While guidance, GPS, variable rate application and other precision tools are important in the physical production of each year’s crop, it’s the use of field data over time that can really drive farm productivity and profitability into the future,” Reynolds adds.

Field, yield and soil maps, along with crop and input information and other data, can be collected easily and accurately with many of today’s precision farming systems. In many cases, much of this data can be aggregated and overlaid to help producers understand the dynamics of their fields and farming operations.

8fe8.jpgThe documentation features of these systems make it convenient to tie in accurate data with guidance and other precision tools when conducting normal field operations from planting through harvest. It also allows the collection of information on weather and field conditions, hybrid/variety data, seeding rates, product and operator information and much more. For some producers this information-intensive management provides the missing link in what technology offers in precision farming.

The GreenStar™ system from John Deere with its Apex desktop software, for example, is a popular precision farming program. This system allows producers to collect, store and retrieve a wide variety of farm data from numerous operations into one easy-to-use program.

Some of the most common documentation features include:
• Yield mapping
• Field boundaries
• Planting information
• Field application and operational documentation
• Harvest documentation

For producers involved in growing identity-preserved crops or crops that need detailed documentation of inputs, or who are looking for that competitive edge, these precision farming technologies can be very useful tools.

“Access to highly detailed agronomic and production information for each individual field can help growers more fully utilize the capabilities of this technology,” adds Reynolds from John Deere. “It provides the intelligence behind the technology that helps growers further optimize the productivity and profitability of each field.”

Education, General, Software

Find value in variable-rate precision fertility

Melissa Sandfort

GPS-based variable-rate fertilizer application has become more mainstream in the past decade, thanks to research, technology, retailers’ promotion of the practice and growers’ success with it.

But according to site-specific leader Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, the economic return has been modest at best due to added labor, test and equipment costs. Higher energy and fertilizer prices make variable rate more attractive, says the Purdue ag economist, but he’s unsure whether it will dramatically change the profit picture.

His best advice:

– Variable-rate lime applications are good value.

– If you have fields with geo-referenced data points of yield along with soil sample data points by management zone (random samples by soil type, not grid), then you’re better able to gain value from variable-rate N, P and K.

– Realize that cost savings and yield increases won’t always accompany site-specific fertilizer management.

– On fields you own or fields where you have longer-term lease agreements, build geo-referenced maps of yield, fertility and in-season attributes (drainage problems, weeds, insects, hybrids/varieties, etc.) and learn how to use history to make smart management decisions.

– Experiment with aerial crop sensing and other in-season research projects that could boost your bottom line.

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Most experts agree that the next wave of on-the-go sensor technology — which will detect various nutrient levels, organic matter, soil texture and more — will truly help improve the value of variable-rate farming, especially when combined with RTK auto-guidance.

Content courtesy of Kurt Lawton, Farm Industry News.

Farm Industry News E-newsletter

History Channel Profiles High-Tech Farming

Melissa Sandfort

logo_HC.gifThe History Channel’s program, Modern Marvels, has featured several episodes on high technology farming practices.

Programs on precision farming are available on the History Channel’s Web site, and provide a good overview of practices such as automatic steering, on the go sensor technology, modern tractors, and global positioning systems. To access the videos, click here.

Content courtesy of Paul Schrimpf, PrecisionAg, a Meister publication.


Texas Precision Ag Event

Melissa Sandfort

The Precision Ag Expo will be held Sept. 6, at the Ollie Liner Center in Plainview, Texas. It is sponsored by the Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA) and co-sponsored by USDA-ARS, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Cooperative Extension, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University, West Texas A & M University, International Plant Nutrition Institute, National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants and the Texas Farm Bureau publication, Texas Agriculture.

TPPA.JPGThe Precision Ag Expo will be a day-long event that will begin at 8 a.m. The Expo agenda will include both classroom style presentations and “hands-on” demonstrations and discussions in the field. This will be great opportunity for all involved in farming to learn about the latest precision ag practices and products from those that are leaders in working with this new technology.

Todd Staples, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, has been invited to present the “Welcome” which will be followed by the presentations and field demonstrations. There will be an overview of precision ag and the benefits it may offer West Texas farmers. Other topics will include use of guidance systems, monitors and equipment to measure soil and crop variables. Information on data collection and use will be discussed. Another presentation will be on irrigation management. A group of farmers also will discuss their experiences with precision ag and the benefits it offers their farming operation.

Continuing Education Credits (CEU’s) will be offered during the Expo for Texas Department of Agriculture Commercial Pesticide Applicator License and for Certified Crop Advisers.

Click here for more information.

Education, Events

Precision Ag Education Meeting

Melissa Sandfort

The ASA-John Deere program represents an education-based partnership that encourages producers to both figuratively and literally “Reach For The Stars” with global positioning satellite technology and support systems that will save resources and advance farm management practices to new heights.

ASA LOGO ® 120ppi x 63ppi.jpgThe ASA, in partnership with John Deere Ag Management Solutions, invites all growers, regardless of the color of their equipment, to take advantage of a special opportunity to learn more about precision ag systems. Visit the ASA Web site for meeting times and dates.

The state soybean association president will welcome growers and provide opening comments at the meeting. An ASA Executive Committee member will then give a presentation on how precision ag is helping to meet global demand for U.S. soy, followed by a University Extension speaker who will provide an overview of precision ag systems, and a John Deere AMS consultant who will present information about precision ag equipment and farm management software. Panel discussion to follow.

On-site registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be served at 12:00 noon. Equipment demonstrations will follow lunch until about 2:30 p.m. There is no charge to participate, but pre-registration is encouraged so we can more accurately estimate how much food to prepare.

Education, Events, Reach for the Stars

FIN TV Touts OptiGro

Melissa Sandfort

tv_landing_head.JPGJodie Wehrspan, Farm Industry News TV, spoke with Jeff Kaiser, manager for John Deere Agri Services about the OptiGro system. While more farmers are going to corn on corn acres, input costs are increasing and profit opportunities are being stretched, OptiGro, an aerial remote sensing program that shows crop stress, helps to manage input costs for this growing season.

The crop consultant gets the aerial image back in a couple of days so the data can be used this season to write a prescription that will drive variable rate controllers. Visit your value-added reseller for more information or visit John Deere Agri Services online. It’s not too late to get the most for your money.

Content courtesy of Farm Industry News. Click this link and scroll down to view the video.


Photos from the Field

Cindy Zimmerman

Roger 1I got an email yesterday from Roger Godwin, our Reach for the Stars winner in Georgia. That state, as you may know, has been extremely dry this season which kept Roger from planting in a timely fashion. But, he now reports that enough rain has fallen that he has gotten out in the fields:

“We only got 2 tenths of an inch from Barry, but we got an inch and a half over the next ten days. My son Walter and I have been busy planting peanuts, cotton, and soybeans since. It is now Father’s Day and we have parked our planting unit along with the additional 8-row planter and tractor we rented from a neighbor. Besides, we are out of moisture again. We still have about 200 acres to finish planting. We are looking for showers to return around Wednesday.”

Roger 2He says what he likes best about the system is the record-keeping. “When you have to track all these chemicals and when you grow cotton, you have to keep track of every acre they go on to,” he says, and the system makes it much easier for him to do that. “You’ve got a little computer card and when you get ready to download it, you go and download it and you got a computer record.”

“I’ve been checked 3 or 4 times by the EPA for my chemical usage and all I have to do is go to the computer and print out a report,” he said. “And I can’t understand why any farmer that’s ever been checked is not using a system like this.”

Roger 4Roger also sent us these nice photos of his John Deere precision ag equipment and plans to send more. Roger is using the GreenStar™ AutoTrac™ Assisted Steering System with an AutoTrac Universal Steering Kit, a StarFire™ iTC receiver, and a John Deere SF2 signal activation; a GreenStar™ 2 System, which includes a GreenStar Display 2600 and preloaded GreenStar Basics software; and GreenStar Apex Farm Management Software.

Thanks, Roger.

Listen here to Roger’s comments about record-keeping here: Listen to MP3 Roger Godwin (1 min mp3)

Stay tuned to for more interviews throughout the 2007 growing season with the Reach for the Stars winners.

Audio, General, Reach for the Stars, Satellite, Software

Precision Ag Conference Features “Farmer Day”

Cindy Zimmerman

InfoAg July 12th has been designated “Farmer Day” at the InfoAg 2007 International Precision Farming Conference which will be held July 10-12 in Springfield, Ill.

They are featuring a special Thursday only registration fee of $75 to attract producers from around the country to the event. The program includes producers talking about their experience with precision tools, consultants sharing their findings from on-farm trials and determined data analysis, and researchers providing practical tips for top production systems. The closing session will feature two distinguished panelists to discuss the impact on cropping systems management with the shift to broader adoption of fuel production crops.

Some highlights of the program include auto guidance, wireless technologies, high-tech scouting for rust and aphids, variable-rate nitrogen, leveraging the precision investment, remote sensing applications, and tips for maximizing PDAs and laptops.

The conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield, Illinois. Registration and more information is available on-line.

Education, General

UNL Expert on OptiGro System

Cindy Zimmerman

Randy Koenen Randy Koenen of KTIC/KWPN/Rural Radio Network in West Point, Nebraska recently interviewed Jim Schepers, USDA-ARS soil scientist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about the OptiGro imaging program available through John Deere Agri Services.

Schepers“In years like this with lots of excessive rainfall, what happens is nitrogen losses,” Schepers says. “Too much water for two or three days will trigger de-nitrification.”

He explained to Randy how OptiGro can help correct the situation. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” he said. “If you can look at your entire field, that helps you start to synthesize what’s happening in terms of nitrogen losses and crop responses. This is where an aerial photograph can help you identify where you’ve got the problems and maybe why they’re there.”

Is it cost effective? Schepers says, “About a dollar an acre, that’s about a quarter of a bushel of corn – so, it’s not much.”

Listen to Randy’s interview with Jim here: Listen To MP3 Randy interview with Jim(2:55 min mp3)

Audio, Farm Broadcast Reports, General, Satellite