N sensors

Agriculture.com Staff 07/16/2009 @ 8:48am

There's already a wow factor over the ability of nitrogen sensors to determine the nutrient needs of a crop down to a few plants. Now, these new gadgets are being adapted for even more uses.

University of Nebraska researchers have found that an active canopy sensor running over bare soil provides useful information about soil organic matter patterns. "This can help determine management zones for site-specific farming operations at much less expense than grid-soil sampling," says agronomist Richard Ferguson.

Kyle Holland, who designed the CropCircle sensor used in the tests, says the resulting map of soil color zones can be used to vary rates of seed and other inputs. "Ultimately, the sensor could be mounted on the planter and seeding rate varied automatically on-the-go," he says.

The second generation of these sensors will look at more wavelengths of light to detect the cause of plant stress. The sensors can tell if stress is caused by a shortage of nutrients or by drought.

Other unique applications of the technology include sensing grape vines to determine harvest quality and measuring water contaminants," Holland adds.

At Oklahoma State University, researchers are attempting to use GreenSeeker sensors, made by NTech Industries, to vary the application rate of Pix growth regulator as well as cotton defoliants.

Swath control systems for anhydrous ammonia (NH3) applicators are catching people's attention the same way swath control systems for sprayers did a few years ago. And for the same reasons: By shutting off certain outlets, overlap is reduced and product costs are cut.

Mike Pellett did the initial design for a swath control system for John Deere 2510H applicators. Pellett, who is now the store lead for A&M Green Power (712/779-2228) in Massena, Iowa, says his data show a minimum savings of 6% and a high of 13%.

Deere doesn't sell the hardware for a system like this, says Pellett. "But if you want to set it up yourself, the software (Swath Control Pro in GreenStar 2) will control it."

Barker Implement (515/462-3115) in Winterset, Iowa, sold several of the systems. They have 15 openers. Each opener has a Raven shutoff valve. The Swath Control Pro system they're using can handle 10 sections. The outer six openers on each side are operated as three pairs. The three center openers are operated individually. The tenth section is a master switch.

Pellett worked with Sprayer Specialties in Grimes, Iowa, to develop the system. Sprayer Specialties (800/351-1587) now sells the parts needed to equip NH3 applicators with swath control. Their system can be used on most makes of applicators.

Robert Killian and Nick Kinnick of Sprayer Specialties have worked with the system extensively and have sold about 20 setups. They say it costs about $12,000 to equip a 15-outlet bar with a Raven dual cooler, 15 Raven valves, an Impellicone manifold, hoses, cable, and 15 gauges. That price is based on buyers already having GreenStar 2 (or a similar system) and a controller on their applicator. For applicators that don't already have a monitor and control box, Kinnick says a Raven Envizio Pro and switch kit costs about $6,000. The system also has been installed with Ag Leader InSight and application control systems.

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