Test Plot Technology

March 15, 2009 07:00 PM

Every crop year, we partner with companies to incorporate the latest technology tools in the Farm Journal Test Plots. This gives our plot crew hands-on experience with the tools and helps add breadth to the practical information we gather from our plots.

Advanced Planting Perspective

More than a planter monitor, the Kinze Vision system made its debut in our test plot program in 2008. The system was outfitted on one of the two Kinze planters the crew used.

"The Vision was able to control the variable seed rate drive on the planter, control the clutches on the automated row shutoff, map all of our treatments and serve as the planter's population monitor,” says Brad Beutke, who worked with the system. "Beyond the planting season, the Vision is compatible with many brands and types of equipment.”

For more information on the Kinze Vision, visit www.kinzemfg.com.

Right Amount at the Right Time

Hitting accurate nitrogen (N) rates when applying a range at sidedress can be a challenge. To achieve consistent N application, the plot crew installed the liquid fertilizer N-Ject system from Capstan on a 15-knife Blu-Jet AT4010.

"With this system, there is a solenoid valve for every row,” says Isaac Ferrie, who is part of the plot crew. "From the distribution manifold, the high-speed solenoid valves pulse, and the liquid is distributed equally.”

For the crew, the greatest advantage of using the Capstan system compared with a conventional
applicator setup was its ability to apply a wide range of N rates without any in-the-field modifications. The system achieved multiple rates with one orifice size while staying at a constant speed and pressure.

The Capstan N-Ject system is variable-rate compatible. Paired with a Raven rate controller, the crew could control rates on-the-go from the cab.

"In our N plots, the ability to variable rate and hit a wide range of application rates is imperative,” Ferrie says.

For more information on the system, visit www.capstanag.com.

Extended RTK Use

Using precision ag products provides the test plot crew with greater confidence when approaching a challenging plot. To plant our silage plot that compares 30" rows and twin rows at three populations, we outfitted the planter tractor with an AutoFarm A5 RTK system.

"That system made that plot a long one-day job, rather than a three-day job,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "We planted one row spacing first and then returned with the other row spacing in between.”

Ferrie says that using auto-guidance technology in the field has increased the value of our plot data.

"These systems allow us to get a little braver on how many replications we can put in for each plot,” he says. "It cuts the time in the field to flip back and forth between treatments. We are able to finish out one treatment and return with the others.”

The A5 system was also used to plant another twin-row corn plot and a twin-row soybean plot.

For more information, visit www.gpsfarm.com/.   

An Added Dimension to Studying Yield Loss

Our test plots have been flown for aerial imagery of near infrared (NIR) values for a couple of years, but in 2008 our test plot crew analyzed more than 15,000 acres by using remote sensing technology.

The crew used two services: commercially available GeoVantage and services provided by pilot Joey Massey and technology proprietor Dewain Davis.

"In our plots, we don't gather this information as part of a rescue situation,” says Isaac Ferrie, who oversaw the aerial imaging.

"We aren't looking for a problem to fix, but rather we are taking the pictures to support what we're studying in the plot.”

The georeferenced images allow the crew to estimate when and where the yield loss occurred before harvest, while there is still an opportunity to find the cause. The technology was especially telling in our tile spacing plot.

"Where the corn sat in saturated soil, the wetness delayed the corn's maturity,” Ferrie explains. "When we took the picture, the reflectance value was different and we could tell how well the tile was working in certain soil types.”

The added value for the images is in their detail. The resolution of the photos is one pixel for every 3.5', whereas a yield map dot is combine head width.

For more information, you can visit www.geovantage.com.  

Multifunction Soil Probe

Built with the same software and spectrometers as the Veris VIS-NIR shank system, the VIS-NIR P4000 probe collects soil cores, measures compaction and characterizes soil profiles. It uses four sensors for data collection of three values: carbon content, insertion force and soil electroconductivity. A soil core can be collected with a second step, and the cores can be retained in 32"-long plastic sleeves.

"This machine can collect data that can tell us a lot about a soil's characteristics to help frame soil management decisions,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "We've had success with this platform before with the shank configuration, but this is the first time in its vertical format.”

For more information, visit www.veristech.com.  

Truck Taken to the Ultimate

This year the test plot crew put the Ultimate Farm Truck to work. During the summer and well through harvest, this Dodge truck proved its utility to the crew.

"When we installed a new weather station, we used every tool on the bed of that truck: the plasma cutter, the generator and the welder,” says Isaac Ferrie, who works in the test plots.

The truck also pulled tillage equipment among the test plot fields and then back to the plot headquarters.

"That truck could handle tillage equipment on the road and didn't push you around when you were braking,” Ferrie says. "And the best part of that is when you are moving tillage equipment, once you unhook the tool you can drive 55 mph all the way back.”

For more information on the truck and its accessories, visit www.ultimatefarmtruck.com.  

Growing Information

Additional weather stations have been positioned in our plots to gather more information during the growing season. The plot crew gathers data with stand-alone stations, as well as in-the-field data loggers.

The newest addition to our collection of weather stations is located at our Corn College site.

"The stand-alone stations are becoming more and more technical every year,” says Isaac Ferrie, who worked with the technology in the plots.

"The system we had at the Corn College site was from Spectrum Technologies, and it monitored rain, wind, leaf wetness and soil moisture with two sensors both 1' deep,” Ferrie says. "This weather station reported its data to the office computer via a radio modem.”

We also collect weather information with weather stations located in the fields of our tile plots and row spacing plots.

For more, visit www.specmeters.com.  

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