Top 10 Most Intriguing People in Precision Farming

Here at PrecisionAg® Professional we’re all about the numbers.

And taking a look back at the numbers, it appears that many of you thoroughly enjoyed June’s featured Listicle, the “Top 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture,” making it the top viewed item here at over the past 30 days. So, we figured, why not throw another list-type article out there to keep the dialog going strong with our readers as they await fall harvest season?

Seeing how busy everyone in farming seems to be at this critical juncture in the growing season, I won’t waste anymore of your precious time with a long-winded, superfluous introduction. Let’s just get right down to brass tacks, so without any further adieu, here are our Most Influential Precision Farming Advocates for 2017:

Ed Barnes

Edward (Ed) M. Barnes, Cotton Incorporated

When it comes to precision agriculture in cotton country, very little escapes the notice of Dr. Ed Barnes. As Senior Director of Agricultural and Environmental Research at Cotton Incorporated (CI), he has managed agricultural engineering related projects for the last 14 years. From precision farming, ginning, and irrigation management, to conservation tillage and cotton harvest systems, Barnes is out in front of project coordination and promotion and keeps the momentum going for continuous improvement through technology integration.

He has also served as a team member in documenting cotton’s progress in reducing its environmental footprint while at the same time increasing productivity and currently serves on the Science Advisory Council of Field to Market, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

An accomplished and recognized ag engineer, Barnes spent seven years in that field with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix, AZ, developing uses of remotely sensed data for agricultural management, with a focus on water optimization. He’s also been a consistent, and active, award-winning member of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) for three decades, serving as chair of the society’s Engineering for Sustainability Committee, and is a trustee of the ASABE Foundation.

PrecisionAg Professional (PA Pro): What is the most promising product and/or practice that farmers should consider adopting?

Barnes: “While we are making progress, I still want to see greater adoption of yield monitors and the use of those monitors to generate yield maps. Part gets back to the challenge of adopting technology, but it is a lot easier to generate a yield map than it used to be, and this is getting easier all the time. Without a yield map it is impossible to determine if you are hurting or helping yourself with any variable rate management that may be in place. Plus, it is a great way to see how bad the variation in the field is. I know many producers tell me they know where the weak spots are, but is that weak spot yield 500 pounds or 100 pounds per acre? Without the answers to that question, there is no way to know if you are making or losing money in that part of the field.

Another generic recommendation that will apply to farmers, unless they have a farm that has only perfectly rectangular fields that always have the number of rows that is a multiple of the width of their sprayer, is segmented boom control. It is almost always a safe bet to get a quick payback on investment. Similarly, if producers have a pivot on their farm, adding the ability to control pivot speed to allow slices of the field to automatically get different amounts of water should be given consideration. Just a soil and/or elevation map could be enough information to make some improvements in water use efficiency.”

PA Pro: What factors do you feel most hamper technology adoption among cotton producers?

Barnes: “Management time is clearly the biggest factor limiting technology adoption. While we may be able to demonstrate an economic return on investment for a technology, if it is going to take the producer more time to be able to use that technology that the current approach he/she is currently using, that technology has a high probability of failure. We need to find an “easy” button for all our precision technologies — once the value is demonstrated and validated — it all needs to be a black box running in the background. I see this happening in the industry, especially with the opportunities that come with cell modems transmitting data from equipment in real-time. USB sticks have to go the way of the floppy disk (if you are under 30 you will have to Google that last one).”

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