Quantifying soil spatial variability doesn’t do a farmer any good unless they are able to respond to that variability. Dr. John Fulton, Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University, joins the FarmBits Podcast to discuss variable rate application technology and effective input management methods for responding to spatial variability.
Source: Erdal Ozkan, OSU Extension
I had an article in last week’s CORN newsletter encouraging growers to fine tune and calibrate their sprayers. I had mentioned that the next couple of weeks may be the last best time period to do this since planting season is just about to start. There would not be any better time to do this than now. The next day I got an email from a grower asking me this question that I get often: “I have a rate controller in the cab that regulates the flow rate of the sprayer regardless of the changes in sprayer ground speed. So, should I still calibrate the sprayer to find out the application rate?”. The answer is, Yes, you should. Although the rate controllers do an excellent job with regulating the flow rate of nozzles to keep the application rate constant, a manual calibration at least once a year is needed to ensure the rate controller is functioning properly.
Here is why we should confirm the accuracy of rate controllers: Unfortunately, electronic controllers usually cannot detect flow rate changes on each nozzle on the boom, and none can detect changes in spray pattern. If a nozzle is plugged, or extremely worn out, the rate controller cannot tell us this is happening. It will still try to maintain the constant application rate by changing the system pressure and force other nozzles to spray less or more to overcome the problem in one or several nozzles. If the ground speed sensor works based on revolutions of the tractor wheels, the ground speed determined may not be accurate, because of the slippage that may occur under some ground conditions. Even the tire pressure being off just a few psi may change the tire revolutions per minute leading to erroneous travel speed readings. Finally, Controllers don’t show changes in spray patterns that may happen when a nozzle is defective, plugged, or worn-out. So, we will have to continue manually checking the flow rate of the nozzles, and visually observing the changes in spray patterns until the technology is developed to do these observations remotely, and on-the-go.
As I mentioned in the article in last week’s CORN newsletter, it usually doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to calibrate a sprayer, and only three things are needed: a watch or smart phone to record the time when measuring the nozzle flow rate or the travel speed, a measuring tape, and a jar graduated in ounces. Please take a look at the Ohio State University Extension publication FABE-520 for an easy method to calibrate a boom-type sprayer. Here is the URL for this publication: http:// ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-520
Not knowing limitations of rate controllers may create serious problems. I already mentioned how smoothly the rate controllers keep the application rate the same regardless of changes in travel speed. However, this convenience comes at a cost if the controller is forced to make drastic changes in the application rate as a result of too high or too low of a travel speed. As you know, to achieve best results from pesticides, the application rate, as well as the droplet size must remain relatively unchanged during the entire spraying. When sprayer speed goes up, to maintain the pre-set application rate, the controller requires the system pressure to go up to increase the nozzle flow rate. This, unfortunately results in more drift-prone droplets coming out of the nozzle, especially if the nozzle used is designed for low application rates within the recommended pressure ranges. Conversely, when the sprayer slows down, the opposite happens: the controller forces the system to lower the pressure, in order to reduce flow rate of nozzles. This will result in production of larger than the desired size of droplets, leading to inadequate coverage. If you are spraying Dicamba or 2,4-D herbicides, you need to pay even more attention to operation of rate controllers. As you know, only a small number of nozzles at specific ranges of pressure can be used to spray these products. Significant changes in ground speed may force the rate controller to make significant changes in spray pressure that may be outside the allowable legal pressure range required to spray these herbicides. Without you realizing it, you may find yourself in violation of the label. Make sure the nozzle size selected will allow the controllers to make necessary changes in the flow rates while still staying within a safe, applicable and allowable pressure range.
The following virtual programs are available next week.
MONDAY, MARCH 8
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
TUESDAY, MARCH 9
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
10:00 am to 11:00 am
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
THURSDAY, MARCH 11
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
8:00 am to 8:30 am
8:30 am to 3:30 pm
9:00 am to 11:00 am
10:00 am to 11:30 am
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
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FRIDAY, MARCH 12
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
10:00 am to 11:30 am
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
The Ohio State Digital Ag Team’s Ag Tech Tuesday webinars are continuing this month! The online February series will cover results from several 2020 eFields trials and be held each Tuesday starting at 10:00 EST for 1 hour. There will be plenty of time for participants to ask questions. The following provides details for the 2021 Ag Tech Tuesday sessions.
2021 AG TECH TUESDAY: EFIELDS RESULTS
- February 2 – Improving Profitability in Corn Production
Weather and Climate Trends, Aaron Wilson
Irrigation, Amanda Douridas and Will Hamman
Corn Seeding Rates, Chris Zoller
SmartFirmer Seeding Rate, Elizabeth Hawkins
- February 9 – Pushing Soybean Productivity in Ohio
Boots on the Ground, Laura Lindsey
Local Boots on the Ground Results, Mary Griffith
Foliar Fertilizer, James Morris
Soybean Seeding Rates, Ken Ford
Sulfur on Soybeans, John Barker
- February 16 – Tech to Improve On-Farm Efficiency
Manure On-the-Go Sensing, Chris Shoup
Yield Monitor Data, Alysa Gauci
Virtual Reality and Field Demonstrations, Brooke Beam
Equipment Technology, Andrew Klopfenstein
- February 23 – eFields Small Grains, Forages, Soil Health, and Water Quality Results
Production Budgets and Custom Rates, Barry Ward
Winter Annual Forages, Jason Hartschuh
Barley Cohort, Eric Richer
Hemp, Lee Beers
Soil Health Testing, Boden Fisher
Source: John Barker, Amanda Douridas, Ken Ford, John Fulton, Mary Griffith, Will Hamman, Elizabeth Hawkins
January 5, the first virtual Precision University event, is quickly approaching. Be sure to register today so you do not miss out on important information to help you improve spring performance. The 2021 focus is “Tackling Spring Operations with Reduced Working Days.” Speakers from around the country will share their research and experience centered on the challenges farmers face during spring with changing weather patterns.
January 5 – Gambling with Planting Decisions – Dr. Aaron Wilson (Ohio State University Extension) and Dr. Bob Nielsen (Purdue University). 1 CCA CM Credit.
January 12 – Improving Fertilizer Efficiency with the Planter Pass – Matt Bennett (Precision Planting Technology) and Dr. John Fulton (Ohio State University). 1 CCA PAg Credit
January 19 – Pre-season Crop Protection Decisions – Dr. Mark Loux and Dr. Scott Shearer (Ohio State University). 0.5 CCA PM and 0.5 PAg Credits.
January 26 – Sprayer Technology to Improve Field Performance – Dr. Joe Luck (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). 1 CCA PAg Credit.
There is no cost to attend Precision University, but registration is required. For more information or to register, visit http://go.osu.edu/PrecisionU. If you have any questions about the Precision U sessions, please feel free to contact Amanda Douridas (Douridas.email@example.com).
By John Fulton (Associate Professor), Chris Wiegman (graduate student), Erdal Ozkan ( Professor), and Scott Shearer (Professor), Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have become a common technology in agriculture. As of early 2019, there were around 1.3 million registered drones in the U.S. and over 116,000 registered drone operators within the commercial sector. Within agriculture, drones have been mainly used for scouting purposes. Today, uses of drones include collecting remotely sensed imagery, tissues samples, and water samples. Spraying with drones is also available through some manufacturers.
Drone spraying has been used Southeast Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea for several decades. In fact, the use of this type of spraying in Japan can be traced back to the 90’s. Currently, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of drones used in these countries, mostly in rice production that requires applications done when the field is flooded with water, making entry of motorized vehicle to the field impractical. Drone spraying has also been considered as the most effective and safe way to treat crops grown in steep hills.
Drone spraying is becoming increasingly available for specialty crops and row-crop production. Here is the U.S., drone spraying was approved in 2015, but under strict policies in the state of California. The Yamaha RMAX from Japan was the first drone sprayer tested in California prior to approval. Most recently, drone manufacturers such as DJI (https://www.dji.com/) have started offering high payload rotor drones that include sprayers. Spray applications using drones has arrived in Ohio as well.
Spraying with drones is a unique practice since it is conducted autonomously. Drone sprayers are equipped with almost all the parts of any other sprayer: a tank, a pump to push liquid through the hoses to the nozzles, filters and a pressure gauge. But there are limitations, mostly on the size of these components because of the power required to keep the drone sprayer in flight mode for a reasonable time.
Source: DTN/Progressive Farmer
Many of you who have attended our Central Ohio Agronomy School or Precision Ag Symposium have heard Scott Shearer talk about robotic equipment completing our field work.
It is now a reality.
A remote-controlled Kubota M5660SU tractor plants soybeans last week at Bellcock Farms near Sac City, Iowa, while another identical unit heads to the seed tender for a refill. Sabanto, an autonomous technology company, is seeding soybeans in Iowa and Illinois this spring. (Progressive Farmer photo by Matthew Wilde)
Effective decision-making requires lots of intellectual resources. Not long ago, the only room for improvement in agriculture was enhancing farming machinery technology and chemical supplement formulas. Now it’s been expanded to the digital field.
What can farmers do to improve their land-use efficiency?
The modern approach suggests using accurate material distribution such as variable rate application techniques, precise weather prediction, and remote sensing for advanced problem-spotting. Satellite monitoring technologies (and crop analysis platforms in particular) are a simple yet cost-efficient entry ticket to the future of farming. Digital tools along with satellite analytics prove especially efficient for big farmers due to good benefit-cost ratio and opportunity to save on scouting. However, it also suits small growers, providing them with a relatively cheap entry to the enterprise-level tech.
Increase profits from your field with crop monitoring platforms.
How satellite imagery and analytics help precision farming transformation?
The most obvious benefit remote sensing and monitoring platforms in particular provide is the comprehensive information that drives field management decision-making. Constantly updated data regarding vegetation health and moisture levels, for example, can point out to spots that need extra watering or fertilization (or have too much of those).
Satellite imagery is also irreplaceable in advanced farming machinery for guidance and variable rate application. For instance, the EOS Crop Monitoring platform features machine learning algorithms that automatically detect and divide fields into crop type category (currently available for Eastern Europe only), calculate field area, and display all the recorded satellite data regarding the field performance and local climate over the past few years upon request. Moreover, it enables to make crop production predictions so that one can make better management decisions.
Machine learning algorithms? What do they have to do with farming?
Satellite imagery takes lots of time to analyze manually, which is why developers train neural networks to automatically recognize the objects’ properties like crop type, field boundaries, and more. The EOS company has proved the data reliability with their comprehensive research and neural network training during the development of the Crop Map project. Crop Map was intended as a part of the World Bank and European Union cooperation with the government of Ukraine to support the agricultural sector transparency in the country. These algorithms helped revealing over 10 million acres of unauthorized land usage area.
- What can EOS Crop Monitoring tell about your field?
- With this platform, you can at least facilitate the following:
- being up-to-date with the state of your crops remotely;
- being aware in advance about weather changes and risks such as cold or heat stress;
- optimizing fertilizer application rates;
- field scouting;
- measuring precise field area;
- forecasting yields.
- How is that possible?
The application allows choosing specific fields to analyze. Then, all the relevant data will be automatically gathered and displayed. Field health information is being monitored through spectral analysis via NDVI, NDSI, and other indices. Precipitation measurements help to assess the soil moisture level while weather indicators (such as wind speed, cloud cover, temperature, and air humidity) will define if that field requires extra care. It can also point out the dependence of culture development on precipitation and temperatures. Interactive graphs with historical weather changes info as well as the forecast for the following days will contribute to field works planning and scheduling. Also, reviewing culture growth historical data allows comparing the regional metrics for yield performance from other fields and forecasting total production volume.
Are there any real cases of using this technology?
EOS Crop Monitoring was the product of choice for Agroprosperis Group (controlled by the American NCH Capital), the largest producer and exporter of wheat, soya, corn and other cultures in the Black Sea region. The company offers financial, growing, storing and exporting services for farmers.
Over the past year, the company has been looking to put Variable Rate Application into practice. By using the satellite imagery they have determined the most productive fields. The decision was to increase the dosage of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize the potential of these fields.
The old strategy implied putting fertilizers evenly distributed among all fields instead of multiplying the output from the best fields and spending fewer resources overall. Plus, 5000-7500 acres of croplands is a huge territory to look after manually. This is why using satellite imagery and crop monitoring was a commercially right decision for the company, as its top-management stated.
How to calculate potential profit from using satellite monitoring?
We know that the average yield in the US from one acre of wheat is around 48 bushels (1306 kg). Let’s review a hypothetical situation. If a 500-acre farm produces 340 tons of crop and the price will average $190 per ton, this field’s owner can lose over $6 000 of income if just 5% of that field fails.
To sum up, satellite analytics and crop monitoring platforms provide an easy and cost-efficient entry into the smart farming trend. Not to mention the fact that they indeed make the life of a farmer easier. And a farm more profitable if the provided information is being used correctly!
“The question is not if a farmer is going to adopt technology, but how and when they are going to adopt technology.” – Dr. Scott Shearer
Check out this article from Ohio’s Country Journal on technology in agriculture featuring Dr. Shearer here: