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Downsizing Iron and Getting More Efficient With Technology

Jeff Caldwell 06/18/2014 @ 9:42am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Bigger's always better, right? When it comes to your farm's planter, that may not be the case with a new suite of technology tools on the horizon. Some of those tools were examined during this week's Tools of the Future Tour, presented by Meredith Agrimedia.

Chuck Adams runs a 60-foot planter on his Aledo, Illinois, farm. But when he looks into the future of his farm, he's less focused on a bigger machine down the road. Instead, he's hoping to downsize and make use of technology to help speed up his planting operations and improve overall efficiency of both the process and the machinery it requires.

"With a smaller planter I have fewer rows, and it’s more affordable to install electric drives and hydraulic downforce,” Adams says. "With high-speed planting, I can run a smaller planter with these features and still cover the acres I need to each day."

Adams says he's planning on starting this transition in the next two years, with a target of downsizing to a more high-tech, smaller 40-foot planter by the 2016 planting season.

"The planter is the most important thing on your farm, and it’s worth the extra investment," he says. "We've made big leaps in the last four years."


Planter technology has just been the tip of the iceberg at this week's Tools of the Future Tour. One hot topic gleaning a lot of farmer interest is crop sensors. As sensor technology advances and price tags for the tools start to shrink, it's making it possible for companies like Crop Data Management Systems (CDMS) to offer more comprehensive monitoring systems and satiate a common need among farmers already utilizing a lot of monitoring equipment that's been on the market for a few years.

"I'm looking for new ways to integrate data," Aledo, Illinois, farmer Brett McCroy said at the Bloomington, Illinois, Tools of the Future Tour stop, adding he's looking into CDMS' ADVISOR system that combines variables like soil performance and crop protection input application to comprise a system of decision-making supports for more efficient crop-management strategies.

Another part of a comprehensive set of these types of decision supports lies in the sky; drones are another tool to help glean more field data critical to making better crop input and management decisions. There's work left to do, though, McCroy says, before they can be mainstream parts of a crop-management system.

"I see great potential in drones," he says. "But I think we still need to work through turning the data and images the drones collect into an actionable management plan." 


Editor's note: Jessie Scott contributed to this report.

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