Precision Farming on Display

first_imgWhen Craig Kvien tells about the gee-whiz technology to be displayed during the GeorgiaAg Showcase ’96, there’s a lot of little kid in his voice.Georgia Ag Showcase ’96 will be June 29 at the Rural Development Center in Tifton. It’sgeared to farmers and anyone interested in Georgia farming.The event is co-sponsored by the UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences, Fort Valley State College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.One of the show’s best prospects — for farmers, science teachers or anyone else — isthe chance to talk with people like Kvien, a University of Georgia crop physiologist whochairs the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory.”You should see that combine,” he says, referring to a yield-monitoringpeanut harvester UGA engineers developed in concert with a host of participating firms.”It looks like a race car, with decals identifying all the cooperatingcompanies.”Such harvesters are mostly grain combines now, Kvien says. The peanut combine, inanother year or so, will add to these space-age machines.Every second or so the combines measure and record the volume, weight and moisture of acrop sample, along with where in the field it came from.When the whole field is harvested, the farmer can feed all of the data into a computer.The result is a color-coded map of his field’s harvest.”At the show we’ll have maps from Georgia fields showing a whole range ofcrops,” Kvien says. “These maps describe the yield variance within afield.”The combines, and the resulting maps, will make it easy to test crop varieties.”All you’ll have to know is where you planted them in the field,” he says.Their best use, though, may be diagnosing problems. “With them you can look forthe causes of low-yield areas,” Kvien says. “It might be soil compaction here,chinch bugs there, or nematodes, or weeds.”Or it might be ‘I-haven’t-got-a-clue,'” he laughs, admitting no one has allthe answers.Besides the state-of-the-art combines, the June farm show will display a number ofsprayers designed to target specific weeds.”One sprayer turns on and off when it sees chlorophyl,” Kvien says. “Itcan sense a plant smaller than a dime and turn a nozzle on. But it won’t turn it on for agreen dollar bill — I’ve tried lots of ways to fool that thing!”Another sprayer targets weeds taller than the crop — a valuable feature for peanutgrowers.”Imagine running about rabbit-high across a peanut field and turning on a sprayernozzle every time you see a weed above the peanuts,” Kvien says. “It turns anozzle on for an eighth of a second.”We tested that sprayer in a field with beggarweed and Texas panicum,” hesays. “And we got an 80-percent reduction in herbicide use with the same weed kill.Now, that’s something. This is a great concept.”The big question now is, ‘How many acres do you have to run it over to pay forthe equipment?'” he says.Among the other high-tech gadgets on display will be a four-wheeler equipped to measureand find problem areas in a field.And Kvien finds an automatic soil sampler fascinating. Mounted in the back of a pickup,the unit extends an arm over the side and takes soil samples from an arc around thepickup. It then packs the samples away for analysis — if you don’t get the truck stuck.”If you do get stuck, the soil sampler can help you get out,” he laughs.”Guess how we found that out? And you can get stuck where it can’t help you get out,too.”It’s comforting to think that all that technology hasn’t taken mud, or humor, out offarming.<last_img