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September 2013 Archive for Growing Technology

RSS By: Ben Potter,

Technology editor Ben Potter brings you the latest in technology news, and how you can apply it to farming.


Don't Forget Context in Climate Discussion

Sep 27, 2013

 How quickly we forget.

Last year was the hottest year on record in the United States. Yet climate change talk this fall has shifted focus to a potential 15-year "pause" in global warming. The headlines that annoy me the most breathlessly intone things such as "arctic ice up 60%." This statement happens to be true, but it's missing a key element: context.

For starters, that statement is only true because arctic ice rebounded from an all-time recorded low in 2012. But it is also a prime example of a logical fallacy we’re all familiar with – cherry picking. The climate change discussion has been heavily influenced by cherry picking. It snowed a lot this past winter, therefore global warming isn’t real. This summer was cooler than expected, therefore climate change is a myth. In reality, 95% of scientists agree climate change is occurring and is influenced by human activity.

Climate change is tracked over decades or even centuries, not days or seasons. And it is a game of averages, not individual "wins" and "losses." The National Center for Atmospheric Research drew up a nice video to explain the concept here:


As the video explains, you could reasonably expect record highs and record lows to balance out over time, but there are currently three incidences of record highs for each incidence of record lows.

NCAR also notes that "you can't say that a specific event is due to global warming" – a good reminder when we’re throwing another log on the fire this December.

[UPDATE] O Say Can You Sing?

Sep 18, 2013

 NoelleGoodsonCongratulations to Noelle Goodson from Fayette, Ohio, who was just declared the winner of FMC's Stand and Be Heard Anthem Singing Contest. She competed against more than 200 other online entries of high school students singing the national anthem.

In August, Goodson, along with finalists Alexandra Carpenter, Crawfordsville, Ind.; Hayley Hall, Bladenboro, N.C.; and Alexander Raun, Minden, Neb.; traveled to Nashville to rerecord their renditions of the national anthem with a professional music producer and discuss their experience as part of the contest. The interviews and performances originally aired on RFD-TV on August 29.

Goodson received a $10,000 scholarship for her efforts. She plans plans to attend Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich.

[July 1, 2013] If you’re an American, chances are you’ve sang the National Anthem dozens, if not hundreds, of times in your life. You’ve probably never been offered $10,000 to carry that tune, however.

But that’s exactly what FMC Corporation has offered approximately 185 students with its 2013 "Stand & Be Heard Anthem Singing Contest." An online voting period between today and July 14 will help narrow the field to the top 20. These final contestants will be reviewed by a panel of musicians and agricultural group representatives, who will further trim the field to the top 4. These contestants will get to take part in a professional recording experience in Nashville, Tenn., this fall.

"We asked students to show us their talent and patriotism, and once again they responded," says Tim Thompson, FMC Agricultural Products Group North America product manager. "We’re very impressed with the talent of these students and the diversity of takes on one piece of music."

The final four will be posted to the contest website ( and will be broadcast nationwide on Aug. 29 on RFD-TV. Final winners will be announced Sept. 18 – with the grand prize taking home a $10,000 scholarship, and the three other finalists winning $5,000 scholarships.

"Supporting students who have committed themselves to the future of agriculture is what investing in farming’s future is all about," Thompson says. "The response we received during [the contest] shows just how energetic and creative that future looks."

The Secret To Mightier Manure?

Sep 16, 2013

 Farmers who use hog manure, chicken litter or other forms of "animal-supplied nitrogen" don’t want their investment to vanish into thin air. But that’s exactly what happens to a large percentage the nitrogen in manure.

"Even with the best management practices, you’re losing about 60% of the nitrogen when urea converts to ammonia," says Matt Werner, SFP research coordinator.

SFP has developed a product that may combat further volatilization and leeching called More Than Manure (MTM). MTM converts ammonia to ammonium when treated into manure storage pits or lagoons. It is water soluble, biodegradable, noncorrosive and easy to use, Werner says.

"Just dump it in your pit and forget about it," he says. "It’s a once-a-year application."

Results from 46 corn trials in 2010-12 show an average 9.7 bu. per acre yield advantage from using the fertilizer manager. SFP has posted these results online sortable by crop, state and year. Werner says the company has partnered with the University of Idaho and hopes to conduct studies with other universities to better define the science behind how MTM works.

SFP is one of several companies developing products that make "mightier manure." Have you tried any of them on your operation? What results did you see?

Missouri farmer Dennis Clark conducts a pit test of MTM

Missouri farmer Dennis Clark pours a jug of MTM into one of his hog barn's deep pit system. His farm is testing the product to see what benefits it will bring.

7 Classic Sayings With a Modern Twist

Sep 11, 2013

A while ago, I wrote an article titled "Emily Post for the Digital Age" about online etiquette. It was sincere advice on how to conduct yourself online. But in a more playful spirit, a blog called The Doghouse Diaries has re-crafted a bunch of classic sayings to better fit life in 2013.

Here are my favorite seven:

1. Never judge an app by its icon.

2. A watched status update never gets liked.

3. Close, but no Wi-Fi.

4. The tweet is mightier than the sword.

5. Keep your friends close, and your Facebook friends closer.

6. Don’t bite the hand that provides feeds for you.

7. Give source links where source links are due.

Speaking of #7, you can view the full list here.

Game of Throws

Sep 09, 2013

 I’m working on a story about what I call "precision infrastructure" – those support products that make your tablets, smartphones and other technology work better. Think cases, mounts, wifi hotspots and so on. Your technology is no good if it’s inaccessible or worse, broken.

That’s why I had to laugh when I stumbled across this Wired magazine article about a new smartphone app called Send Me To Heaven (S.M.T.H.). For not everyone’s looking out for your device’s best interests.

The goal of the game – throw your phone into the air as high as you can, and catch it. The app is billed as a "sports game" and winners are posted to daily and weekly leaderboards.

The description at the Google Play store includes the following warning: Throwing a smartphone high into the air may result in both damage to the smartphone, property and/or personal injury. Author and distributor of S.M.T.H. is not liable for any damages or injuries arising out of playing the S.M.T.H. game.

Well, obviously.

Still, the game’s creator, Petr Svarovsky, told Wired he hopes the game results in broken devices. "The original idea was to have very expensive gadgets, which people in certain societies buy just to show off, and to get them to throw it," he says.

The game is available on Google Play, complete with a 4-star user rating and 800+ user reviews. As one reviewer joked, "Thank you S.M.T.H., and thank you OtterBox." Meantime, was pulled from the Apple App Store for "encouraging behavior that could result in damage to the user’s device."

Well, obviously.

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