Topcon Launches On-The-Go Crop Nutrition Sensor

Kurt LawtonCompany Announcement, Fertilizer, Remote sensing, Spraying

Topcon introduces their version of a crop sensing system called CropSpec, but instead of reading the crop from sensors mounted on a boom (like GreenSeeker and OptRX), it features top-of-cab mounted sensors that read larger areas on both the right and left sides from the tractor/sprayer.

Working with Topcon’s core competency in optics and in cooperation with Yara International (the world leading manufacturer of nitrogen-based fertilizers), Topcon engineers designed CropSpec as a powerful crop canopy sensor. The Topcon system utilizes a two-sensor system (left and right side of the cabin) that allows a farm operator to monitor plant conditions and apply fertilizer and other inputs only as needed.

“This system will help revolutionize and simplify variable rate applications,” said Michael Gomes, director of agriculture business development. CropSpec sensors measure spectral reflectance using light from pulsing laser diodes focused on the plants. The reading can be correlated to measure chlorophyll content, which is closely linked to nitrogen in the plants. Scanning the crop creates a map to indicate relative canopy vigour.

The information can then be analyzed to determine crop areas that need treatment, construct prescription maps for later application, or immediately provide variable rate application enabling variable rate application in real time.

CropSpec, Gomes said, “allows farmers to perform real-time analysis of crop needs and meet those deficiencies immediately as they are traveling through the field. In other words, variable rate fertilizer applications are performed at the same time actual nitrogen readings are taken, based upon crop need.”

Used with Topcon’s X20 console (System 200), CropSpec links to Topcon’s Maplink program, the industry’s leading variable rate control (VRC) program for liquid sprayers or granular spreaders. The sensors measure nitrogen levels and Topcon’s X20 controller executes that prescription immediately, controlling the output of fertilizer in one pass.

“This provides the benefits of variable rate application,” Gomes said, “in a simple one-step process, reducing the complications typically associated with VR and can reduce both cost and waste associated with blanket fertilizer application.

“The return on investment of CropSpec is extraordinary,” Gomes said. “It is possible to pay for the technology in a single growing season from the savings in fertilizer costs, coupled with the benefits of providing the correct amounts of fertilizer where it is needed most.

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