Computerized sensors, automatic sprayers, and even one day, driverless, GPS-guided tractors might seem pretty realistic in the world of precision agriculture. But a researcher in Texas is looking to take the technology to the next level. In this article from Texas A&M, Dr. Alex Thomasson, an agricultural engineer for the school, says he wants to develop sensors and computer hardware and software that can evaluate the status of individual plants in real time, as the tractor moves across a field automatically.
Thomasson is currently working on a system that will be able to aid plant breeders in sorting through the thousands or even tens of thousands of plants for the development of new varieties.
[One of Thomasson's partners in the venture, Dr. Bill Rooney] and other breeders have been working on new varieties for years. Whether produced by conventional plant crosses or genetic manipulation, the first selections of any breeding program rely a great deal upon observable characteristics of individual plants – what’s called “phenotyping.”
“A major limitation in the genetic improvement of energy crops is the collection of large, good quality phenotypic data,” Thomasson said. “Traditional plant phenotypic measurements rely on humans, and are slow, expensive and subjective.”
Eventually the group wants to develop sorghum for energy production that has good yields, tolerates drought, and uses nitrogen efficiently. To get there, they are developing a variety of sensors to include:
Down-looking six-band, multi-spectral camera.
Down-looking thermal imaging camera.
It wasn’t a red carpet event, but some farmers still really shined as Commodity Classic went to the movies last week with a sneak preview of the feature length documentary “Farmland,” which will debut later this month.
The media was allowed to watch, but not report on, the movie – but we are able to meet and talk with some of the stars who took part in a press conference at Classic with the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). The guy in the middle here is not one of the stars, that’s USFRA Executive Director Randy Krotz. He said this movie really helps further USFRA’s goal of bridging the gap between consumers and food production.
“Farmers are the most trusted entity in the food chain from a consumer’s perspective,” he said, adding this film “is really creating a venue for farmers to speak directly to consumers and bridge that generational gap that has been created over the past several decades.”
The four pictured here, from left to right around Randy, are David Loberg of Nebraska, Ryan Veldhuizen of Minnesota, Leighton Cooley from Georgia, and Brad Bellah of Texas. Listen to them talk about themselves and their experiences with film director James Moll in the making of “Farmland.” – Farmland Movie Press Conference
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
Imagine getting your work done at twice the speed you normally do! Producers attending this year’s Commodity Classic in San Antonio got to see more of John Deere’s new ExactEmerge planting system, which allows planters to be accurate at speeds up to 10 MPH. Kelby Krueger, product specialist with Deere’s Seeding Group, explained to Leah on the trade show floor that is quite revolutionary, considering that’s about twice as fast as farmers are used to planting using the old seed tube systems.
“The slower you go, the better your seed placement. Well, that doesn’t work very well when you have tight planting windows or when you’ve got rainstorms coming,” he said, pointing out that with ExactEmerge, you don’t have to choose between fast and accurate; you get both. “It controls the seed through the whole entire process from the meter, through a brush belt delivery system, and places it in the bottom of the trench.”
Kelby said they used high-speed video to see seeding errors with tube systems. They’ve been actively testing the new system in customer fields for the last three years, in a variety of conditions. In fact, for no-till operations, they found ExactEmerge really works well because it is built to stand up to rough conditions.
As expected with technology that doubles the speed at which you can get something done, ExactEmerge brought plenty of questions from farmers attending Commodity Classic.
“People are taking the time to come down here, try to understand how this system works, because they understand how revolutionary this will be for their farming operation,” Kelby said.
Listen to more of Leah’s interview with Kelby here: Kelby Krueger, John Deere
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
It seems like a pretty common sense idea in weed management: cleaner soybean fields will equal better yields when harvest time comes around. But Bryan Young, a professor of weed science from Purdue University who conducted the BASF-sponsored learning session, “Clean Fields, High Yields: The Keys to Solving Your Weed Problems in 2014,” at Commodity Classic told the farmers attending that they have to break it down into three steps: 1. Accept the reality of what is going on in your fields (especially as it pertains to weed management); 2. Develop a plan; and 3. Put that plan into action.
“In accepting reality, you need to acknowledge when you might have resistance and stay ahead of it,” he said, adding that denial is the biggest problem many farmers have. He said if producers start off with the right mindset, they might not have to face regret later on. “I’ve never talked to a grower who’s had resistance that’s said to me, ‘Well, I wouldn’t have done anything different.’”
Once you accept the fact that you’ve got weed resistance, Bryan said you need to put together a plan to fight that resistance, admitting it’s complicated, but if you understand the different herbicides and the best sites of action for the weeds you have, developing what you are going to do starts to come into order. He added, though, you have to look at the full picture of all the variables that you might be facing.
Finally, you need to put the plan into action. Bryan said growers need to have a Plan A, B and C ready, because you have to be adaptive. Continue reading
They’ve been innovating ever since John Deere himself introduced the first steel plow nearly 180 years ago that transformed the American Great Plains into the world’s food basket it is today. Now the good folks at Deere have shown off their latest innovation at Commodity Classic in San Antonio: FarmSight.
“Farmsight is our approach to how we think technology and farming can come together in a whole new way to help farmers be more productive, spend more time with their families, make more money and overall have a better experience as farming moves into the future,” Rachelle Thibert, manager of integrated solutions at Deere, explained to Leah in an interview from the trade show floor. She said it comes down to planning, and the technology in FarmSight helps gather, move and share data so better informed decisions can be made. “It can save them time, save them money, and eventually produce some better results when they’re actually trying to market that grain.”
Rachelle added that FarmSight brings more information into the cab at a higher resolution allowing farmers to use the data to be more efficient in their operations. And by listening to what farmers have told them about what they want and need to know, the decisions made are more effective. Since the information gathered and stored in the cloud, producers can access it and make adjustments or even monitor other operators on their farm to make sure the job is being done right. In addition, Deere has made it easy to use so less time is lost learning or teaching how to use it.
The ability to use FarmSight has been embedded in John Deere machines since 2011, but Rachelle said they’ve developed kits to retrofit a long line Deere equipment going way back. “There’s probably some way we can light up your fleet that’s green with this technology,” she said.
There’s more ideas on the horizon Deere will be testing and putting out in the fields, but for now, growers can get things started with a MyJohnDeere account to help them have a better bottom line.
Listen to more of Leah’s interview with Rachelle here: Rachelle Thibert, John Deere
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
More information means greater efficiency out in the field, and that’s why our friends at John Deere were glad to show off their latest line of 7 and 8 series tractors to the farmers attending Commodity Classic in San Antonio. Leah caught up with Jarrod McGinnis, Deere’s marketing manager for these machines. He told her one of the biggest features for both series is the new CommandView III Cab that features better seating, a quieter cab, and a new CommandARM and CommandCenter Display, which really turns that tractor into a mobile office.
“We’re trying to get more and more integration into that screen, so the first thing we did is make it a 10-inch screen, so you can see more at a glance,” Jarrod said, joking that it’s so easy to use a dad could do it … whether it’s him referring to his 70-year-old father or his 11-year-old daughter referring to Jarrod himself. “We want that technology to be very friendly, easy to use, [and put] a lot of technology right there at your fingertips.”
He said the 7 series of tractors just started shipping out to customers in the last couple of weeks, so they’re looking forward to hearing from those farmers when they really start going in the fields. Specifically on the 8 series, they get the new cab and bigger engines, just like the 7s, and they also have larger rear tires, new easy-changing wheel weights, and improved LED lights. Both of these new tractors are expected to help a producer’s bottom line.
“With the CommandCenters, since it’s easier to learn, they spend more time working and less time learning themselves or training another operator,” plus Jarrod said remote access allows those farmers to share information with experts who can help right there in the field.
Listen to more of Leah’s interview with Jarrod here: Jarrod McGinnis, John Deere
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
An idea that started back when he was just an elementary school student has led a Tennessee high schooler to picking up a substantial scholarship that he says will help him further his own energy business. Caleb Brannon of Puryear, Tenn. was selected as the recipient of the 2014-2015 ASA Secure Optimal Yield (SOY) Scholarship, a $5,000 award presented to an outstanding high school senior who has achieved high academic and leadership requirements, and is planning to pursue a degree in an agriculture-related field at an accredited college or university.
“I’m really thankful to the American Soybean Association and BASF who were so generous in this scholarship,” he says. Brannon, a senior at Calloway County High School, will pursue a degree in agricultural business at Murray State University, Murray, Ky. beginning this fall. He already has his very own business, Brannon Agri-Energy, a company focusing on cellulosic ethanol that he actually thought up way back in the fifth grade!
“Our family farm was in a partnership with the University of Tennessee to grow switchgrass in a pilot program to be bailed and put in a coal-fired plant [in Alabama].” While other area farmers gave up after a few years, it led Brannon to researching other crops for what is now his cellulosic ethanol business, finding his own markets.
He adds that the scholarship money will free up what he would have spent on college to invest back into his business. But he says this is more than just his future; it’s the Nation’s future.
“I want to help our country become just a little bit more energy independent. That’s really important to me.”
Listen to Cindy’s interview with Brannon here: Interview with BASF SOY Scholarship Winner
BASF at the 2014 Commodity Classic Photos
Members of the National Corn Growers Association are at Commodity Classic in full force this year, as part the more than 7,000+ corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers who have come to San Antonio. President of NCGA, Martin Barbre, a farmer from Illinois, outlined some of his group’s priorities in this coming year, including their work with a couple of partnerships, the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food and the Soil Health Partnership.
“The goal of the [Coalition for Safe Affordable Food] is to seek a federal solution that would establish standards for the safety and labeling of food and beverage and products made with biotech ingredients,” pointing out that GMO issues have been hot in the last few years, and a hodge podge of state regulations would only cloud the issue for producers and consumers. “If we get a myriad, a patchwork of state laws, how would I as a corn grower in Illinois if I’m shipping corn out to Indiana or down the Mississippi certify [my crop].”
The Soil Health Partnership has the support of Monsanto and the Walton Family Foundation and relies on a science advisory council made up of government and university experts as well as environmental groups. “These are just examples of many of the coalitions we’ve been able to work on.”
Another big topic for the corn growers is the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), particularly what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply. Barbre said he’s proud of the outpouring of support his NCGA members have given in the form of thousands of calls and letters to the EPA and White House to reverse what they see as bad proposal.
“We’ve done our part so far. It’s an uphill battle, but we’ll keep our pressure on the Administration,” he said.
The new Farm Bill was welcomed by the NCGA, with Barbre calling it a law that makes sense, focusing help for growers when they need it, helping conservation efforts, saving taxpayers’ dollars and feeding the hungry.
Listen to more of Barbre’s remarks here: NCGA Press Conference with Martin Barbre
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
Mark your calendar and make plans to attend InfoAg 2014 this summer in St. Louis! This premier precision agriculture event for producers, consultants, and the crop production industry will be held July 29-31 at St. Louis’ Union Station Hotel. Organizers are featuring four tracks of concurrent sessions with two tracks repeating to allow attendees to hear more of the presentations while offering a wide variety of topics.
The conference has also teamed up with PrecisionAg to offer an expanded exhibit hall, the PrecisionAg Tech Center.
With 101 booths, the PrecisionAg Tech Centera at InfoAg provides buyers with a wide variety and selection of vendors. The conference understands and supports the role of exhibitors. Dedicated times for exhibits are part of the program. The exhibit hall brings together speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. It is made for networking!
More information and registration is available here.
Producers will now be able to monitor variable rate irrigation (VRI) remotely from their computer, tablet or smartphone. MyAgCentral is now offering the second of its new end-to-end solutions for agriculture, giving growers a simple and affordable way to leverage VRI through the MyAgCentral dashboard.
DN2K [parent company of MyAgCentral] partners with Precision Cropping Technologies (PCT) as a VRI prescription provider, AgSense as a supplier of irrigation telematics solutions, and Prime Meridian as a MyAgCentral service provider, to deliver this fully integrated VRI workflow solution. MyAgCentral’s online service makes it easy for growers and irrigation providers to order VRI agronomic related services and deliver irrigation prescriptions to pivots in the field.
The VRI solution, delivered through the MyAgCentral dashboard, allows agronomic service providers to easily upload the soil electroconductivity and topographical data necessary for processing through PCT’s industry leading VRI software solution. Customized prescriptions optimizing water and power resources for specific fields and crops are delivered seamlessly back to the grower’s MyAgCentral account. Without leaving their MyAgCentral dashboard, growers and service providers can push VRI prescriptions to any AgSense telematic equipped center-pivot. PCT’s VRI prescriptions can also be ordered through MyAgCentral for many other OEM and third party centerpivot telematic systems.
“This end-to-end VRI management solution connects all the dots and brings together the people needed to support growers through the entire VRI process,” said Susan Lambert, CEO of DN2K. “Growers can now take full advantage of VRI, optimizing inputs and increasing yields whether they’re in their office or mobile.”
Partner companies in this venture say this will give farmers better access to the right prescriptions in irrigation operations.
A better simulation model will give producers a better predictor of when weeds will develop herbicide resistance. An article in the journal Weed Technology talks about how the model will predict when rice fields’ biggest scourge, barnyardgrass, will become resistant to two widely used herbicides – propanil and quinclorac.
[The] model that can analyze the simultaneous evolution of resistance to herbicides that inhibit the acetolactate synthase (ALS) and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase) enzymes. The model assumes the use of Clearfield rice, a commercial brand of rice cultivars that is resistant to certain ALS-inhibiting herbicides.
Using data from three locations in the rice-growing Mississippi Delta region of eastern Arkansas, the computer simulation model creates weed management scenarios across 1,000 hypothetical rice fields. The model takes into account three stages of growth—dormant seedbank, emerged seedlings, and mature plants—and extends over a 30-year period.
The simulation shows that if an ALS-inhibiting herbicide was used alone in three annual applications, weed resistance would develop within 4 years. Weed management that used both ALS- and ACCase-inhibiting herbicides reduced the risk of barnyardgrass developing a resistance to the ALS-inhibitor, but found a higher risk for the weed developing resistance to the ACCase-inhibitor by year 14. Resistance to both of these herbicide types when used together was predicted by year 16.
An important discovery during the study showed that if farmers don’t stop using an herbicide soon after resistance evolves, the resistance can be accelerated for the next herbicide alternative employed even if it provides a different mode of action. The researchers suggest focusing on minimizing the weed seedbank and diversifying management techniques with timely applications of herbicide.
Our friends at Syngenta have been honored with a product that cuts down on the amount of tillage producers have to do. Their CruiserMaxx® Beans insecticide/fungicide seed treatment won No-Till Product of the Year for 2013 at last month’s 22nd annual National No-Tillage Conference in Springfield, Ill.
“We are honored to have CruiserMaxx Beans recognized as the seed treatment No-Till Product of the Year,” said Wouter Berkhout, Seedcare product lead at Syngenta. “Recognition from these farmers speaks volumes about the early-season pest protection and results that CruiserMaxx Beans consistently provides to soybeans.”
Paid subscribers and readers of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide selected CruiserMaxx Beans for this award. Many of these voters are farmers who have firsthand experience with the nominated products. Matt Rausch from Winamac, Indiana is one such farmer.
“We do a lot of no-till soybeans following corn, and I think we get a lot of early-season protection from pests with CruiserMaxx Beans,” said Rausch. “We also see a lot better stands. There are definitely a lot more soybeans, and they are better-looking compared to areas that are untreated.”
Syngenta officials went on to say that this honor is just another example of their “commitment to provide seed treatments that will enable soybeans to start strong and ultimately allow farmers to grow more soybeans.”
Headquartered in North Dakota, the folks at Superior Manufacturing sure know something about grain bins able to stand up to the rigors of wind and snow. They let us know a little bit about some of their capabilities that include bins ranging from 1,850 to more than 1 million bushels, all backed with the industry’s only lifetime warranty.
While the most common causes of bin damage are high winds and heavy snow, Superior builds its roofs to withstand wind gusts of up to 90 mph and 37-pound snow loads per square foot. Roof features include 31Ž2-inch-deep rigidized roof ribs that are secured together by wind rings in a single resilient unit. Individual pipe pieces come together and further fasten the roof and its wind rings by clamping a locking bracket at every roof rib. These brackets give added security and durability because they eliminate the twisting and displacement common with expansion bolts.
Superior’s roof sheets run from the sidewall sheets to the top peak ring to keep the entire roof in one unit, rather than an apron design, which leaves weak points in the roof. Further, roof panels are bolted to the sidewall sheets in four locations to ensure there are no weak points. These bolts provide security and reinforcement at crucial structural points of the bin.
Superior also offers the largest vent size in the industry. The 20-by-20-inch vents increase airflow and reduce condensation to allow grain to dry faster. The vents are punched out of the steel, which prevents moisture from leaking into the bin. Unlike others that use metal vents that can rust, Superior uses poly vents, which are better suited to outdoor conditions.
Superior forms its Herculok® floors without removing steel. The end product is a floor that is 12 percent heavier and twice as strong as competitors’ bins. The bins come with deep rib floor supports that have proven to be four times stronger than the supports in competitive brands.
Superior bins come standard with plenty of more features that could be just perfect for your operation. Check out their entire line enhanced for safety and performance at www.superiorbins.com.
The growers of the Nation’s biggest crops will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.
“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”
“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”
The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.
Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.
Wrapping up our coverage of the recent MapShots Customer Conference in Atlanta, Ga., where customers got the chance to see of John Deere and MapShots’ AgStudio software, which provides crop management applications for the agriculture industry. Looking back on the time filled with presentations and question-and-answer sessions, Tim Taylor with MapShots said he was excited by the number of attendees.
“The interaction and the chance to meet not only new customers, but some of our older existing customers,” he said. He was glad to show off the new features in AgStudio and how it applies to attendees’ own businesses. Plus, he was really pleased by the customers’ reaction to all of the partner companies they had come to the gathering.
Another feature of this conference was how well education flowed in both directions. And Tim said he got lots of feedback from the folks who attended.
“We always get a lot of feedback,” Tim chuckled. “There’s nothing like standing up in front of a group, teaching how to use the software to expose some weaknesses. We think highly of our customer base, and we always leave here with good ideas. Their input goes to improving the software.”
You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Tim here: Interview with Tim Taylor, MapShots
You can find Chuck’s photos from the event online here: 2014 MapShots Customer Conference Photo Album