Rising input costs, fluctuating commodity prices, unstable weather patterns-it's a tough world out there for growers these days.
But for progressive-minded ag producers, there exists a wide-array of high-tech devises ready and waiting to help.
According to a 2007 Ohio State University study, more than half of today's growers are utilizing some sort of precision ag equipment such as automated guidance systems, GPS or computerized soil and moisture sensors.
Here are just a few of the new products and trends now available.
Phone: 800-TRIMBLE (874-6253)
Trimble's newest offering to the tech world is AgGPS FmX integrated display. The latest edition to the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) line-up has the capability of working as either a stand-alone manual guidance system or as part of an automated system.
The FmX display allows operators to guide vehicles and pull-behind implements, vary crop inputs, map fields and view video on a 12.1-inch screen. It has two receivers and optional 450 or 900 MHz radios for real time kinematic (RTK) applications.
"The FmX will help farmers gain efficiencies across their complete farming cycle," said Erik Arvesen, Trimble's general manager of agriculture.
Trimble has also added 110 new models to a list of machines that are compatible with its AgGPS Autopilot platform kits. The hydraulically controlled automated steering system can now be used on 450 models and more than 18 brands of tractors, combines and sprayers.
The new technology enables farmers to move the products from one machine to another and a way to affordably update older equipment.
By connecting the Autopilot system directly to the power steering system, the farmer can guide the vehicle through a variety of field patterns via the in-cab display.
In addition to straight row, curves and pivots, Trimble's T3 terrain compensation technology will guide equipment through slopes and rough terrain, correcting for roll, pitch and yaw.
For those who prefer a steering-wheel mounted devise, Trimble's EZ-Steer 500 assisted steering system is also available for an expanded list of models.
Covering more ground faster is the goal of the AutoFarm OnTrac2 GPS Assisted Steering System. The GPS system provides hands-free operation and easy instillation.
"The OnTrac2 system is designed to be installed without removing the steering wheel and with a minimum of tools," says Deanne Malott, AutoFarm product marketing manager. "In fact, with optional switch kits, transferring the unit from one vehicle to another requires no tools and takes just minutes. Plus, it's designed to give customers true hands-free GPS assisted steering at a visual guidance price point."
And its high-torque positive gear drive enables it to handle the turning power needs of even the most heavy-duty ag vehicles.
"I like having one screen and one switch box in my cab," says Melvan Vanlandingham of Plainview, Texas, of the Raven's new Switch Pro. The device eliminates consoles from the cab by consolidating several devices into one. When plugged into the Envizio Pro or Viper Pro field computer, Switch Pro provides single-screen control of single product control (liquid or NH3), 10-boom section control, speed sense control and AccuBoom boom section control.
Automatic on-off section control is ideally suited for all spray equipment and the device is easily installed using an existing cable, making for easy upgrade. And the Raven SmartSteer assisted steering system takes the stress out of driving, making it quick and painless to improve operating efficiency and performance. Pair SmartSteer with Cruizer, Envizio Pro or Viper Pro for a quick-to-install steering system uniquely designed to keep the user on line and simplify driving. Optional vehicle transfer kits make moving SmartSteer from cab to cab a breeze-and the steering wheel doesn't even have to be removed.
The unique direct gear drive found in SmartSteer completely eliminates unwanted slippage for improved accuracy and reliability. SmartSteer is even kind to your ears as one of the quietest assisted steering products on the market.
The winning combination of Cruizer and SmartSteer can best be described as simple, affordable, and portable. Matching SmartSteer with Cruizer will achieve the most user-friendly, cost-effective steering and guidance system on the market today.
Simplifying display and product coordination is the goal of new John Deere products marketed under the GreenStar line. The GreenStar Lightbar helps the operator guide machinery with a simple LED display. It is easily transferable from one piece of equipment to another, regardless of brand.
The GreenStar 2 Display 1800 features full-color screens for a variety of JD precision ag systems, all accessed with touch button ease.
John Deere has also added a new satellite receiver, the StarFire 300. It, too, is compatible with all other JD systems and is billed as ideal for the precision ag beginner.
Confused as to which high-tech gadget will help your operation? That's where companies like Precision Partners come in.
Using cutting-edge technology like GPS systems, variable-rate application controllers, yield monitors, auto steering systems and other tools, combined with weathered experience, Precision Partners can custom design a plan that can increase yield, reduce nitrogen use and improve overall efficiency.
Precision Partners management systems can also aid in drainage planning, yield mapping and variable-rate seeding.
Lindsay's FieldNET, a breakthrough web-based, real-time irrigation management system, allows growers to manage pivots from a remote location. The system can be accessed by internet or phone and enables growers to monitor and manage pivots, check a pivot location or status and monitor water usage. A text message warning system notifies the grower of pivot status changes.
FieldNET was cited by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) as an innovation that saves growers time and money.
"We're honored to be recognized for our efforts to improve farm productivity," said Dirk Lenie, vice president of marketing for Lindsay. "Our engineers and product managers take pride in developing the best solutions for growers across the country and the world."
Phone: 877-4CASEIH (422-7344)
For more than a decade, Case IH's Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) have served as industry leader in helping farmers use technology throughout the entire crop production cycle.
With Case IH AFS Desktop Software producers can perform a variety of tasks to enhance their precision farming operation. The software can generate yield maps, as-applied maps and prescription maps; manage, view and edit data collected from a variety of precision data sources; as well as record fuel usage, engine efficiencies and individual operator performance.
Phone: 866-UNDERHILL (863-3744)
With Underhill's 2Wire Control System, irrigation system installation and operation becomes easier and less expensive. Instead of a complex system of wires, 2Wire sends signals to all valves in the system over just one pair of wires.
With 2Wire, each valve in the system has its own unique address. Signals are sent to each address from the controller telling it when to open and close.
The system is compatible with several controllers by using a universal decoder module, enabling users to continue with familiar controller programs and can manage up to 63 stations per controller.
Phone: 800-LOGGERS (564-4377)
Onset has introduced its first wireless environmental sensor product family, HOBOnode Wireless Sensors. Its real-time monitoring and alarms, combined with HOBO data logger reliability and wireless convenience, mark a jump to the next level of technology, and make the sensor system ideal for research as well as production.
With HOBOnode, as many as 50 solar-battery-powered sensors can be linked to transmit air temperature and soil moisture data to a receiver interfaced with a PC. The sensors have a 1,400-foot line-of-site transmission range that can be extended with repeaters.
Sensors are the size of a small flashlight, and therefore easily installed. Accompanying software enhances the product by displaying real-time graphs and providing text messages when conditions exceed set parameters.
Editor's note: Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer based in Iowa she can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reasonable effort was made to contact all precision ag equipment manufacturers. If your company was not included in this roundup, call the editor at 208-542-2259 or send an email to email@example.com.