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IoTF: The Internet of Things for Farming

By Timothy Chou

AGCO is excited to have guest blogger Dr. Timothy Chou of Stanford University join us on the Fuse Blog

Some of you have heard about the Internet of Things. While many will wonder why a coffee pot needs to talk to a toaster there is even greater potential in using advanced software, machine learning, and cloud computing to transform the planet’s fundamental infrastructure and build precision machines. In this blog we’ll focus on the benefits of using these precision machines to enable precision industries, whether that’s farming, mining or transportation.

 

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Precision Machines

So what are the benefits of precision agricultural machines to the farmer, or more generally what are the benefits of precision machines to the businesses that use these machines? We are going to discuss two of these benefits in this blog.

Lower Consumable Costs

Many machines consume materials during operations. This could be fuel in the case of an airplane, ink for a high-speed printer or chemical reagents in a gene sequencer. These consumables often form a large portion of the operational cost structure. As anyone with an inkjet printer knows, the cost of the printer is not near as much as the cost of the toner cartridge you buy every year before tax day. At the enterprise level in the airline industry, the single largest operational cost is fuel – in some cases that’s nearly 30 percent of the total cost of the flight.

In the railroad business New York Air Brake has engineered a product to help operate trains more precisely.  This product, called LEADER, is being used by Norfolk Southern railroad, which operates in 22 eastern states. They attribute a five percent fuel savings to their deployment of LEADER, resulting in not only 10.8 million gallons of diesel fuel saved per year, but also the avoidance of more than 109,500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved Safety

The derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in 2015 left at least six people dead and created chaos on the heavily traveled Northeast corridor the next morning, cutting off all direct rail service between Philadelphia and New York City and causing many other delays up and down the east coast. But if you can tell the train operator what to do, it’s a short step to just having the computers do it.

In 2016, the first automated train will run from the north of Australia to Perth to deliver iron ore.  Not only will it reduce their costs as they railroad has to spend $300,000 in salary for these operators, but also reducing human error will result in a safer railroad.

While technology is cool, its real usage has been to transform businesses. We’re all familiar with the examples from the consumer space (Google, Uber, eBay), but IoT technology has the potential to do the same for producers and consumers of the machines used in agriculture, healthcare, power, transportation, water and more. For a manufacturer of Things, technology can not only reduce the cost and improve the quality of service, but also deliver new revenue sources. As a consumer of this next generation of Things, you have the ability to use precision machines to deliver higher quality and lower cost food, power and water, and safer and lower cost transportation and healthcare.

For more information about IoT and how it might reshape your business check out the recently released book Precision: Principles, Practices and Solutions for the Internet of Things.

For more information about AGCO’s own Internet of Things for the Farm (IoTF), visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse to learn about our precision farming technologies and services.

Effective Alfalfa Stand Management

By Darren Goebel

Alfalfa is a crop that responds well to management. Growers should plan to manage alfalfa differently, however, depending on its planned use, yield goals and how often it is acceptable to refresh the stand. Stand establishment, fertility and cutting management are the three main tools growers can use to affect quality, yield and stand persistence, with cutting timing having the biggest impact on the these characteristics.

Relative feed value, a measure of quality, is highest when alfalfa is cut at the bud stage. This is especially important when growers are raising alfalfa for dairy cows, since dairy cows need the very best ration in order to maximize milk output. One consequence of repeatedly harvesting at the bud stage, however, is that alfalfa stands will need to be reestablished more often, since the plant doesn’t have time to adequately recover between cuttings. Yield per cutting will also be reduced when cutting at the bud stage. However, since an additional cutting per year can usually be taken, total yield per acre per season will be pretty similar to cutting at full bloom. For growers who want to optimize stand, quality and yield, cutting at 10% bloom is a good alternative. Cutting at this stage provides acceptable hay for beef cattle and horses.

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No matter what your management plan, eventually stand density will decrease. Plant and stem counts should be conducted periodically to determine the yield potential of a field. When alfalfa growth is 4 to 6 inches in height, use stem counts (stems per square foot) as the preferred density measure. Count only the stems expected to be tall enough to mow. A stem density of 55 per square foot has good yield potential. Expect some yield loss with stem counts between 40 and 50. Consider replacing the stand if there are less than 40 stems per square foot and the crown and root health is poor. Older stands typically have fewer plants per square foot, but older plants produce more stems than younger plants.

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When replacing alfalfa stands, rotate to corn or small grains for a minimum of one year to avoid auto-toxicity. If you plan to go back to alfalfa, check pH, P, and K levels before reseeding. It is very important to maintain medium to high nutrient levels and pH should be maintained as closely to 7 as possible. Due to alfalfa seed size, seed to soil contact is critical, so seedbeds must be thoroughly prepared to prevent clods. A Sunflower® 6333 land finisher or 6830 rotary finisher with reel is the ideal alfalfa seedbed preparation tool. Seed alfalfa to a ¼ to ½ inch depth on clay or loam soils and ½ to 1 inch depth on sandy soils. A Sunflower 9610 grain drill with legume seeder paired with a Fendt tractor is the perfect combination to plant alfalfa accurately.

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National Farm Safety and Health Week

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167 farm workers are injured on a farm and a worker dies in a farm accident EVERY DAY.

38 children are injured on a farm EVERY DAY and a child dies in a farm accident EVERY THREE DAYS.

Farm safety is important to every farmer and operator.  AGCO® works hard to deliver safe equipment and operating instructions on how to use our equipment most effectively.  In recognition of National Farm Safety and Health week AGCO offers the following guidelines to help make sure EVERYONE stays safe during harvest:

  1. Manual and Safety Signs. Read your operator’s manual and safety sign information.  They are packed with information to help you be more productive, increase the life of your equipment and keep you, your family, and workers safe.
  2. Maintenance. Keep all machinery serviced and maintained properly.
  3. Guards. Make sure all guards and shields are in place and secure.
  4. Turn the machine off when not operating. Put equipment in neutral or park, engage parking brake and turn off engine before dismounting. Wait until all mechanisms have stopped moving before attempting to service or unclog a machine.
  5. Working under the machine. Lock hydraulic cylinders or support the head prior to working.
  6. Crop Debris. Make sure all crop debris is removed at frequent intervals to reduce potential fire hazards and possible equipment damage.
  7. Fire Extinguishers. Keep and maintain suitable fire extinguishers on your combine. Make sure they are accessible from the ground.
  8. Children. Create a Safe Play Area for children on the farm that has effective adult supervision and safe play activities for children.  Equipment cabs are not safe play areas.
  9. Bystanders. Keep bystanders and others away from the equipment operation area.
  10. Blind spots. Make sure the area behind the combine is clear before backing.
  11. Riders? Limit riders on equipment! Instructional seats are designed for training or diagnosing machine problems.
  12. Seat belts. Wear seat belts.  ANYONE in the cab should have his or her seatbelt fastened.  Do not lean against the windshield or rely on it to keep you in the cab.
  13. ROPS. Have rollover protective structures fitted on tractors.
  14. Towing. Always use safety chains for towed equipment.
  15. SMV. Always use a slow moving vehicle sign and flashing amber warning lights on public roads.
  16. Road Safety. Never travel left of the center of the road after dark, during poor visibility or when approaching the top of a hill or a curve.
  17. Stay alert. Be physically and mentally fit when operating machinery. Fatigue, stress, medication, alcohol and drugs can detract from safe equipment operation. Take breaks.
  18. Training. Train all operators to safely operate the equipment.

1 2012 Data from CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/

2 2014 Fact Sheet, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety

For more information see the following websites:

http://www.asse.org/newsroom/safetytips/farm-safety-tips/

http://www.grainsystems.com/products/safety/res-q-tubes.html

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Becknology with AGCO and Beck’s Hybrids

AGCO is collaborating with Beck’s Hybrids to demonstrate yield and productivity advantages of the new Sunflower 9830NT. The 9830NT was featured at a recent Beck’s field day (Becknology Days) in Henderson, KY. Throughout the course of the day, hundreds of growers went through the Equipment Innovations class and then stopped by to look at the iron. The theme was technology-enabled productivity that is providing the most accurate seeding system for wheat, early soybeans, and double-crop soybeans.

Equip Innovations

Beck's

Beck’s is very interested in plot work that will help farmers make the right decisions about agronomic inputs as well as equipment decisions. The 9830NT can put down fertilizer with wheat in the fall, which can improve yields by 5-10 bushels per acre. It is also the best drill on the market for seeding into heavy wheat residue. Alex Long of Beck’s talked about the trial work Beck’s is conducting that examines seeding accuracy at 6, 8, and 10 mph compared to a Kinze planter. Results will be available this fall.

Working with companies like Beck’s is a great way for the equipment industry to stay connected with independent agronomic testing and to be able to share our products with a diverse group of customers.

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In addition to support and testing of the 9830NT, Beck’s is promoting AGCO’s X-Edition MT700E and MT800E tractors.

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Beck’s has more Becknology days coming up. Follow the link below for dates in your area: http://www.beckshybrids.com/About-Us/Becks-Field-Shows.

Crop Tour 2016: Indiana Edition

By Darren Goebel

Greetings once again from Crop Tour 2016.   During the last week of July, I travelled to the Kevin Trimble farm in Amboy, Indiana, about an hour north of Indianapolis.   While most of the Midwest has been getting plenty of rain, this pocket in north central, Indiana is super dry.   In fact, Kevin told me that his farm has not received any appreciable amount of rain since the latter part of June.

Crop Tour Sign

As a result of the dry weather, the crop is showing signs of stress, highlighting some key differences in our plots.

DeltaForce left-400# right

This is the split between automatic hydraulic downforce (DeltaForce) on the left and 400# downforce on the right.    Notice that the corn on the right is showing more drought stress; lower leaves are brown and desiccated with overall lighter plant color.   This is a result of heavy in furrow packing that created compaction in the root zone.  While you would not normally see this in a whole field, differences show up very clearly in the plot.  In a three-year study, growers that used DeltaForce averaged 11 bushels per acre higher yield.  I suspect the yield difference will be much higher in this field, but we will have to wait until fall to know for sure.

Compaction problems quickly show up when moisture is limiting.

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Kevin drove his backhoe along the end to demonstrate how automatic hydraulic down force can adjust to differences in soil bulk density.  Above: The crop is suffering in the compaction zone.  Below: Planting Map showing compaction zone.

Compaction zone

This report shows that compaction from backhoe path prior to planting caused Deltaforce to react at planting.

The depth of planting study is showing some interesting results.  Many growers plant corn shallow because they believe there is less risk in stand establishment.  Unfortunately, shallow planting can cause as many problems as it solves.   Most agronomists recommend a minimum of 1.5” planting depth with 2” preferred.  Of course, soil type and moisture level should be taken into account.  One great thing about White planters is that depth control can be calibrated to ensure consistent planting depth across the entire width of the planter.  In this case, the planter planted the corn consistently at 1” deep.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t uniform enough moisture at 1” to get all of the seed up consistently.

1_ planting depth - note runts

This is the split between 1” planting depth on the right and 1.5” planting depth on the left.  The 1” planting depth is exhibiting runt plants as a result of delayed emergence due to dry soils at that depth after planting.   These runt plants will not produce an ear.   The 1.5” and deeper planting depths do not have any issues with runt plants.   Stand establishment is similar at all planting depths (1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0) except 3.5” depth.   The 3.5” planting depth is suffering about a 10% reduction in stand.  We will take these plots to yield and share results in an upcoming report.

Stand uniformity in corn has been getting a lot of attention since the late 90s.   Most farmers and agronomists know there are heavy yield penalties for skips and doubles making planter performance absolutely critical.   Making things even more challenging, seed companies can’t always guarantee requested seed sizes for that hot new hybrid; and refuge in the bag is a whole other story since seed from different lots must be blended in the same bag.   The 9800VE series incorporates meters that can accurately singulate and row units that can accurately plant any corn seed size.

Near picket fence stand

Above:  Near picket fence stand.  Below:  Doubles and Skips from a poorly adjusted planter.

Skips and Doubles

During the last two weeks of August, a team of Agronomists and Product Specialists will be travelling throughout the Midwest speaking at Crop Tour 2016 plot locations. RSVP to attend a Crop Tour event near you: http://agcocropcare.com/crop-tour-rsvp/!

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