“I remember myself as a boy of 15 or 16,” says Ami Brochin, a farmer in Israel’s northern Negev desert. “We could plant only wheat because that was the only thing you could grow here with the rainfall.
“With what God gives you, is what you have,” he says through a translator. “We would pray for rain so we would have something to cut at the end of the season.”
Even in a good year, annual precipitation in the northern Negev averages from 100 to 200 millimeters (approximately 4 to 8 inches). Making matters more difficult, rain usually comes in winter only, and groundwater is often brackish and less than ideal for farming or most other uses.
Citizens of a certain age remember a feeling of hopelessness that would almost overwhelm them at times. Wars were fought over water, and the very survival of Israel and its neighbors was threatened by the lack thereof.
So, to make up for the climate’s shortcomings, the Israelis began an ambitious national effort to develop new ways of farming and managing water, including an enormous public works campaign. A new network of reservoirs was built, as were desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and the public was educated on how to use less of the precious resource.
After a few decades, recalls Brochin and others we interviewed, despair turned to hope and eventually a sense of accomplishment. “I remember … after years of struggle, suddenly we could grow other things,” says Brochin, who is also a leader in a local farmers union involved in building a new regional wastewater treatment system.
“Suddenly, the Negev—the desert—was green all year long.”
Israel’s water shortage had reached the level of existential crisis. The country is not only 60% desert, but also home to some of the driest places on earth, has a rapidly growing population and has suffered more frequent droughts in recent years.
Yet, through innovations, conservation and even more perseverance, the Israelis largely overcame their struggles with water shortages. It was for this reason that staff from FarmLife, the AGCO-brand magazine, decided to pay the country a visit, interviewing numerous farmers, water system officials, government leaders and others. We discovered a range of newly developed or improved technologies and practices, some complex, others remarkably simple.
They are solutions we detail and share in the new multi-story, online series, “Water for a Thirsty, and Hungry, World.” It is our hope that the best practices shared here can offer guidance, even inspiration, as we continue to work on ways to make the limited resource of water go further and feed a growing worldwide population.
There are two types of data generated by farm equipment: agronomic and machine. Each type details performance of various operations, yet, as with income and an automobile’s fuel efficiency, most of us are less willing to share one as opposed to the other.
“The actual machine data itself, I don’t have a problem with sharing it,” says Devon Bryant, a farmer and custom harvester from northeast Arkansas, who says he’s a very loyal Massey Ferguson® and Hesston® customer. “I’ll let the manufacturer and dealer see it.” That, he says, will allow his dealership, Cox Implement, to remind him about service and “help the manufacturer … improve their technologies.”
Most farmers, however, feel differently when it comes to their agronomic information. According to results from an American Farm Bureau Federation survey, more than 75% of farmers who responded are concerned that such data could be used by a company or third party for market-sensitive commercial activities.
While Bryant doesn’t have that concern with AGCO—he uses the company’s AgCommand® telemetry and TaskDoc task-management technologies—he can understand why other farmers are more cautious overall. “Let’s say I’m contracted with somebody, and they’re growing a special variety that might be proprietary or it’s one they’re trying to get a patent on. They probably don’t want just anybody to know what their yields are. They could lose the advantage,” that Bryant says comes from years of work and investment.
It’s the Producers’ Data
AGCO has responded to such concerns by offering what the company calls a “two-pipe” approach to dealing with data generated through its equipment. “We treat the agronomic and machine data differently,” says Matt Rushing, vice president, product line for AGCO Advanced Technology Solutions. “The machine data, if the customer chooses, can be shared with AGCO and at the dealership level. That will be used to build better machines, through performance analyses and other measures, and also to improve the performance of the current machine.”
As for agronomic data, says Rushing, AGCO provides “a second pipe to transmit sensitive farm information, such as prescription maps, yield maps, applied data, and planning data.” That information, explains Rushing, “is never stored anywhere besides where the customer chooses to keep the information.
“First and foremost,” he continues, “it’s important to note that AGCO acknowledges that the grower owns all equipment and crop data generated by his or her equipment. It’s the producers’ data to control and share with the partners they choose, which is the main reason why we’re developing an open approach to all of our data-gathering products and services through Fuse Technologies. We believe the producer is the best person to make decisions about their own data, as well as their operations generally.”
Lanier Orr experienced firsthand the big-bang-like explosion of Forsyth County, Georgia. The area grew from a few thousand people during Orr’s childhood to today’s 175,000, many of whom commute to nearby Atlanta.
Orr, 69, grew up in Forsyth, on the same land where he opened Orr Animal Hospital in 1975. The property also housed the county’s former animal shelter, which Orr and his wife, Annette, ran for more than three decades. Their son Nathan and daughter Aaron are vets in the family practice, along with three other doctors.
“In the 1960s and ’70s, this was a chicken-growing area,” says Orr, who worked with poultry straight out of the University of Georgia veterinary school in 1969 until he opened his practice. His then one-man operation began by primarily serving large-animal patients. With few exceptions, the practice now sees only small animals.
Although he loves veterinary medicine, growing hay and raising Red Angus cattle satisfy his fresh-air inclination. The veterinarian owns and leases more than 400 acres in Forsyth, and adjacent Dawson and Elbert counties.
He rattles off his Massey Ferguson® grouping: “I’ve got a 240, 253, 362, 6280, 5455, 5465 and a 4609.” Roger Harrod at Georgia Deer Farm & Agri-Center in Roopville, Ga., is his dealer.
Orr recalls the time he and a fellow with a comparable-size John Deere were working the same field. “His new tractor kept running hot and he’d have to stop. He wanted to know what I was doing differently.” Simple, replied Orr: “The grass is green. Tractors are supposed to be red.”
When Bob and Darren Littleton purchased a lightly used Massey Ferguson® 8690 tractor about a year ago, the father-son team came full circle. Darren’s grandfather had once owned a Massey Ferguson dealership and his father was once 100% Massey. Yet, says Darren, “our family kind of drifted away” from the brand due, in large part, to hard times in the 1980s.
That separation, though, didn’t last. “Ever since AGCO acquired the brand … we’d toyed with the idea of going back to Massey Ferguson,” Darren relates. The reunion came to be in April 2014, when the Littletons purchased that MF8690 with only 500 hours on it.
“Massey Ferguson has come a long way,” says Bob. “We just love that [CVT] transmission. Even though about 90% of our fields are in a three-mile radius, we have one farm that is 25 miles away, and that 31-mph road speed is wonderful.”
“The fuel savings have been great too,” adds Darren.“The Dyna-VT™ transmission in combination with the DTM [Dynamic Tractor Management] system [makes] fuel economy unbelievable. We’ve used the tractor on everything from the vertical tillage tool to the grain cart during harvest.”
The MF8690 isn’t the only Massey Ferguson tractor that Darren has an interest in. Over the past few years, he has also been adding a number of vintage models to his tractor collection, most of which revolve around the Massey Ferguson row-crop models from the 1960s and ‘70s.
“I have four different MF1100 models, as well as an MF1150 that is in the paint shop,” he says. “In addition, I have an 1135 that I sometimes use to cut hay, and I have an MF1155 with only 3,300 hours that is really sharp,” he adds. “I still put about 50 hours a year on that one when I’m pulling one of the planters.
“Some people like to fish and some people like to play golf,” he concludes. “For me, it’s taking off to someplace like Illinois or Indiana to attend another farm auction that has a classic Massey Ferguson tractor on the sale bill.”
Ron Mellon has had his share of tractor problems. “I needed something smaller, around 100 HP,” he says. He bought a new Case IH and “had nothing but trouble with it.” So he returned it. He also put plenty of money into a certain “green” tractor, whose hydraulics and air conditioning constantly gave him trouble.
That’s when Ron decided to try something new. “I stopped in at Vahrenberg Implements, where I’d bought mowers,” he says. “They were so good to deal with, I bought a new tractor and a manure spreader.” That new tractor matched the Mellons’ wedding barn: a shiny red Massey Ferguson® 4610.
And, it fit the bill for the more compact workhorse he needed. Ron says, “I was leery at first, because it’s a 3-cylinder, but it has plenty of power and doesn’t burn that much fuel. It’s just really economical.”
“I put about nine hours on it today,” says Ron, who uses the tractor for everything from feeding cattle to cutting silage. “Just today, I was moving dirt to make another entrance in from the highway for the new rustic barn we’re putting up.”
“It’s the perfect size,” adds Doug Vahrenberg, of Vahrenberg Implement, in Higginsville, Mo. “The 80 PTO-HP fits lots of cow/calf operations like the Mellons’. And it’s the right price. The 4610 has all the best features for the dollar.”