Pushing Sensors To The Next Level

On-the-go crop sensor technology has been the subject of development and research for more than a decade, and for good reason. When attached to sprayers or tractor implements during field operations, the sensors have the ability to reveal crop problems and make a prescribed application in real time.

Of course, it sounds simpler in theory than it is in real life. It’s taken most of the last 10 years to get an accurate picture of what the sensor is actually telling us when it passes over a growing crop, and to build the mathematical formulas — algorithms — that turn the sensor feedback into appropriate action.

Roger Zielke, new business development manager with Ag Leader Technology, saw the potential of on-the-go sensor technology about seven years ago but wasn’t impressed enough to explore it too deeply. A few years later it was his boss, owner Al Myers, who directed him to meet with Kyle Holland of Holland Scientific about his CropCircle sensing technology. In 2008, the two companies penned a distribution agreement that would put Ag Leader’s muscle behind Holland Scientific’s crop sensor technology.

After two full seasons of promising research, Ag Leader plans to start selling the technology in early 2010 for use in a cropping regimen centered around on-the-go nitrogen application on corn.

Sensor technology works on the basis of two simple premises: The “greenness” and “biomass” of a corn plant equates to its state of health. The larger and greener the plant, the healthier it is — therefore, if the sensor can measure the plant and provide consistent and accurate data to a controller, the controller can be programmed to calculate and deliver a prescribed “treatment.” In the case of the AgLeader-Holland collaboration, the treatment will be an application of nitrogen.

Holland’s CropCircle sensor measures vegetative index data as well as basic reflectance data, which provides the information that the controller needs to decide when and how much nitrogen to apply to the corn on the go. Sensors are mounted directly onto an application rig or a tractor-pulled implement. Sensor feedback is continuous, and decisions are made by the controller virtually instantaneously.

Not unlike most variable rate technologies, the more variable the field is, the more benefit can be realized by the grower. “Anywhere you have lots of variation in soil types or fields with rolling hills and significant variations in elevation, you are going to realize the most benefit using on-the-go sensor technology,” says Zielke.

Market Challenges

One of the “tough sell” issues that Zielke sees is that the on-the-go sensor scenario requires farmers to limit pre-plant application of fertilizer so that the in-season applications can more accurately address the needs of the corn plant through the rest of the season.

Zielke says in his testing, application of N after V6 stage seems to provide the most significant benefit. “Applications made before the V6 stage are more difficult for the sensor because a small percent of the corn plant’s total N is taken up in early growth stages.”

Getting a grower to alter his long-established cropping practices is always a tall order, but a potential benefit of up to $30 per acre could serve to mitigate the tension, he notes.

Another point of reluctance is the necessity of designating a “nitrogen-rich strip” — a single application of the full rate of fertilizer that the sensor uses to calibrate itself — on each field. Zielke says that Ag Leader and Holland are working on a technology solution that could eliminate this extra step in the near future.

Despite the current challenges, the efficiency and financial benefits — along with the positive environmental message of “right place, right time, right rate” — is so far proving highly appealing to growers and application providers that Zielke is working with as testing continues throughout the Midwest.

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
John Deere Headquarters Reuters Eric Thayer
Data ManagementAnother Integration: Deere, Granular Link Up
July 26, 2017
John Deere and Granular announced today a product development and co-marketing agreement that gives John Deere customers more tools to Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementProspera Raises $15 Million to Transform Farms with Data
July 25, 2017
Digital farming company Prospera has announced a $15 million Series B funding round. Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integration
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Trending Articles
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Latest News
Premier-Crop-Systems-Enhanced-Learning-Blocks
UncategorizedSyngenta Invests in Premier Crop Systems’ Enhanced Lear…
July 27, 2017
Long an industry leader in developing digital tools that enable growers and their advisors to make sound agronomic decisions, Premier Read More
John Deere Headquarters Reuters Eric Thayer
Data ManagementAnother Integration: Deere, Granular Link Up
July 26, 2017
John Deere and Granular announced today a product development and co-marketing agreement that gives John Deere customers more tools to Read More
Senet Network
Sensors/IoTSenet, Sensoterra to Deliver Real-Time Soil Moisture Mo…
July 26, 2017
Senet, a provider of global connectivity and network management for the Internet of Things, and Sensoterra BV, a provider of Read More
Systems ManagementAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Imagery/SensingEFC Systems Announces Imagery Delivery Integration with…
July 25, 2017
EFC Systems, Inc. has announced a new integration between its FieldAlytics product and Geosys Bridge API for direct delivery of Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementProspera Raises $15 Million to Transform Farms with Dat…
July 25, 2017
Digital farming company Prospera has announced a $15 million Series B funding round. Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Read More
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resist…
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
John-Deere-and-Farm-Dog
Grower Services & SolutionsFarm Dog Strengthens its Integration with John Deere Op…
July 24, 2017
Farm Dog, the leading pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has completed the second stage of its Read More
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More