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Tech in the Field

January 8, 2014
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete

For 23 years, the Farm Journal Test Plots’ mission has been to provide third-party, independent research straight from the field. Hands-on experience keeps Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer, along with their crews, up to speed with technology. The crew has had many milestones throughout the years, including installing the first guidance system in the U.S. Here’s a roundup of the tools used for the first time in test plots this past year. 

Data Points

All of the Farm Journal Test Plots are field-sized efforts that use standard machinery to enable our studies to be replicated by farmers with similar equipment. That said, the plots are harvested after the test plots crew diligently calibrates the combines’ yield monitors. Every replication is recorded using grain carts outfitted with scales.

The test plots crew had access to two new yield monitor technologies in 2013.

The John Deere calibration process now requires four to six loads to train the monitor to identify various flow rates.

"Any time you enter into site-specific farming, you need to know the difference in yield throughout a field and where in the field those bushels came from," says Isaac Ferrie, who works in the plots. "Making sure you are using a highly precise yield monitor is key."

Precision Planting’s YieldSense uses a different location for the flow sensor than other models. The grain is measured as it comes up the clean grain elevator, a compact area that forces a higher percentage of grain against the sensor.

"The YieldSense requires a one-load set-up process," Ferrie says. "It has the ability to sync an iPad with the monitor and continually uploads yield data to the cloud, viewable anywhere with access to a Internet connection. Also, you can use its split screen. If you record all planting data with the 20/20, you can compare planter performance to yield."

Harvest Helper


The UHarvest touchscreen automatically logs each grain cart load in the system.

The Illinois test plots crew had the chance to exclusively test Unverferth’s latest grain cart system in the field before it was commercially available. The UHarvest data management system was used on an iPad.

In partnership with Raven, the system provides easier data tracking. The AccuSave technology also features a drivetrain sensor attached to the cart to allow each load to be automatically recorded for data accuracy without the need for operator intervention.

"Every test plot is harvested with a calibrated yield monitor and weigh wagon," explains Isaac Ferrie, who works in the Illinois test plots. "We collect a lot of data. With this system, you are able to view weight on the cart from any mobile device, as long as you are within the Wi-Fi signal, so you can view the cart weight from a combine or semi. Then, every time we unload, it automatically creates the load and stores the moisture and weight you unloaded."

Harvest data can be downloaded from the processor’s USB port to a thumb drive and stored on a computer or uploaded to a secure Raven Slingshot web-based server where it can be viewed by other trusted parties.

Accuracy Simplified


Used on a New Holland T8 tractor, the CenterPoint RTX system allowed the test plot crew in Michigan to go from field to field without setting up an RTK base station.

The Farm Journal Test Plots have had access to every automated guidance system on the market for the past 23 years. The crews in Illinois and Michigan use precision ag technologies to plant, sidedress and harvest thousands of acres.

For the first time this year, we used the CenterPoint RTX system on a New Holland tractor for spring planting and fall tillage.

"The main advantage of the CenterPoint RTX is that it’s satellite based so we can receive RTK accuracy levels without a base station," says Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer. "If possible, we prefer to plant with RTK level accuracy because having that level of preciseness helps in our research."

Bauer reports that the CenterPoint RTX was a very reliable signal and the same quality of accuracy as traditional RTK.

Quicker Nutrient Calculations


For more timely nitrate results, the Illinois test plots crew evaluated the new Redshield SoilSens.

Measuring nitrates in the soil gives farmers an idea of the amount of nitrogen available to the crop. The Redshield SoilSens provides in-field testing and nitrate results quicker than sending samples to an off-site lab. The test plots crew in Illinois took samples from multiple fields and used the system for analysis. The system detects the level of nitrate ions available from the soil through moisture.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - January 2014

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