Eyeing Ag. Technology at Farm Science Review

September 1, 2004

LONDON, Ohio -- Agricultural technologies are becoming more varied and more affordable, and growers at Farm Science Review will have the opportunity to view equipment and techniques that best suit their farming needs.

 

Ohio State University agricultural engineering specialists will be on hand throughout the three-day event (Sept. 21-23) giving demonstrations and providing information on the latest in precision agriculture, wireless communications and other high-tech equipment.

One such demonstration will involve auto-steer GPS (Global Positioning System) guidance systems, which allow farmers to perform a variety of field functions with little or no guidance effort from the operator.

"We will be holding traditional auto-steer demonstrations, as well as looking at two different levels of auto-steer this year: RTK (Real Time Kinematic) and DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System)," said Matt Sullivan, assistant manager for Farm Science Review.

Sullivan said DGPS systems might be of interest to some growers because of their affordability. Whereas, RTK auto-steer systems still run in the $40,000-range, a DGPS auto-steer system can be had for under $10,000. "With this system, it's much easier for growers to now get into precision agriculture," said Sullivan.

But the DGPS system does have its drawbacks. One is accuracy. Where RTK auto-guidance systems can place applications within the inch, the closest DGPS system applications come are about a foot. "DGPS systems aren't accurate enough to plant row crops or plant on hillsides, but other operations such as spraying, tillage or air seeding work perfect under this system," said Sullivan. "You may give up accuracy, but you have unlimited distance. RTK systems, on the other hand, are limited to only six or seven miles because of the base stations."

Another growing area in the world of high-tech agriculture is wireless communications. Reza Ehsani, an Ohio State University agricultural engineer, will be on-hand to display an updated version of the Field Monitoring Server (FMS) -- the first technology of its kind to download real-time data directly to the Internet for a user's access. The technology was introduced at last year's Farm Science Review. The new prototype, developed by the National Agricultural Research Center in Japan and built by Panasonic, has been modified for easier use and with practical applications in agriculture.

"It's a technology not on the market yet, but there is a big interest in the industry to bring wireless communications to the farm level, and this technology certainly can do that," said Ehsani.

The system has a variety of components, including a field monitor that can be equipped with sensors to pick up environmental data, such as soil temperature, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation, as well as a wireless LAN card for Internet access. The system also contains a base station, which includes a wireless access point and a router that collects the data from the FMS and places the information on the Internet. The information can then be accessed from anywhere in the world. Additionally, the newer model contains a camera built in to the field monitor, which can serve different purposes, such as monitoring safety and security of agricultural equipment or crops.

"A big advantage to this system is that the cost of the technology has been significantly reduced. So it is now affordable for farmers to be able to acquire this technology," said Ehsani.

Nathan Watermeier, technology program director, and Robert Mullen, soil fertility and nutrient management specialist for Ohio State Extension, will be on hand to demonstrate the latest in remote sensing.

 

An optical sensor and aerial/satellite sensors will be the focus of the remote sensing demonstrations. Field-based optical sensors are entering the crop production market, which can be used as hand-held devices or placed on farm equipment. They are designed to measure crop status, identify weeds and calculate nitrogen requirements for maximum plant health and yield.

 

Remote sensing technology uses various electromagnetic spectrum wavelengths like the red and near infrared bands to measure plant health and vigor. Red light is absorbed by the plant as an energy source. Healthy plants absorb more red light and reflect higher amounts of infrared light than unhealthy plants.

 

"One purpose behind the technology is to help target specific amounts of nitrogen where it is needed," said Watermeier. "Think of it as spoon feeding a crop."

 

For around $3,500, field consultants can acquire a hand-held optical sensor. The device is just one way of using sensor technology. Researchers are also combining optical sensors with aerial satellite and imagery to measure crop stress and crop productivity.

 

Look for such agricultural technology and precision agriculture demonstrations, along with other high-tech equipment at Farm Science Review. Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and takes place Sept. 21-23 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 21-22 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept 23.

 

Author(s): 
Candace Pollock
Source(s): 
Matt Sullivan, Reza Ehsani