Technology has been at the forefront of the discussion at today’s Ohio No-Till Conference in Plain City.
Bill Haddad from Danville talked about his almost half century of work promoting no-till. He worked closely with emerging technological changes in the early days of no-till, particularly in the Amish community in northeast Ohio. One of the promotional tools he relied upon was a no-till bumper sticker applied to the backsides of Amish horses pulling two-row no-till planters.
Moving to a more modern era, Scott Shearer, with the Ohio State University Department of Food, Agriculture, and Biological Engineering talked about the unbelievable opportunities for technology in the future, and present day.
“I understand why you might look at me kind of skeptically with some of the things I talk about because they are pretty far out there,” Shearer said. “It is an interesting time and a very dynamic time.”
Remote sensing technology from drones can help with identifying weed escapes, directed scouting, stand counts, nutrient deficiencies, crop vigor, total biomass production, changes in leaf appearance for disease detection, drainage and soil moisture content, plant water stress, and assessing how hybrids are responding to the environment around them, Shearer said. Multi-hybrid and plant population technology are also already at work in fields and proving to be economically viable in some fields.
As another example of how far technological capabilities have come, Shearer highlighted the upcoming agBOT Challenge this spring. The event is the first of its kind and international teams have accepted the challenge. The assignment is to develop an efficient, unmanned crop seeder capable of planting two varieties of seed over half-mile long rows. In addition, competitors must “develop hardware, software, sensors and human-machine control interfaces to enable their robotic technology and further propel the field of agriculture and robotics.” The robotic planter must “provide real-time data and utilize a mobile-tracking antenna.”
The planter must be able to plant two rows at a time, and a total of 12 rows, according to an assigned
set of GPS coordinates. It must be able to apply fertilizer and operate between 3.5 and 10 miles per hour and fulfill a range of other tasks. The robot planter also must dock and load two varieties of seed, weigh them and send data to the operator, located elsewhere. It must be able to dock and load starter fertilizer as well, all unmanned.
In addition, the system needs to relay to the operator information on down pressure on press wheels, net seed weight, seed rate, fertilizer weight and rate, speed, heading and position. Teams must design their planters so that they can intervene in progress and control such things as seed rate, fertilizer rate, downpressure, heading and speed on the go.
The nine teams working on the challenge include Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Purdue University, Virginia Tech University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Regina, Case Western Reserve University, a joint team on MESATech, Grit Robotics and Muschowski Farms and Pee Dee Precision Ag.
The winning team collects $50,000. Second place gets a cash prize of $30,000, and third place receive $20,000.
So, when Shearer gets looks of disbelief when he talks about the possibilities for the future of row crop production with regard to technological advances, he only needs to point to this event in May.
“When people think these ideas are a bit out there, events like this demonstrate that everything is already available to do this today,” Shearer said. “This is happening May 7 in Indiana in 2016.”
A clear drawback of the changes in technology, though, is that a horse’s backside offers much more no-till promotion potential. After all, where can you fit a bumper sticker on a drone?
AUDIO: The Ohio Ag Net’s Dale Minyo visited with Shearer at the Ohio No-Till Conference.
For more on the agBOT Challenge visit: www.agbot.ag/overview.