The 2013 InfoAg Conference continues to grow, with more than 1000 attendees expected through the week. There’s also been a growth in the number of events and activities surrounding the conference, including a hot (literally) pre-conference tour that included field plots, drain tile manufacturing and a drainage demonstration, and unmanned aircraft for use in taking field imagery.
Below are a few of the key highlights from the tour:
1. Full service retailer Brandt Co. in Pleasant Plains, IL, provided a tour of its research facility and test plots, hosted by lead agronomist Ed Corrigan. While not at liberty to reveal too many details of their work along the way, Corrigan did discuss their increasing experimentation with add-on product like gibberellic acid to improve plant health and yield. Plants in these test plots are “passing the eye test,” said Corrigan, but the proof will be in the yield count this fall.
Overall, it was great to see 7-foot high, healthy corn pretty much across the board at the facility after last year’s drought-impaired effort.
2. Monsanto Update. Brandt is one of the retailers who’s been working with Monsanto on its FieldScripts pilot program this year, and two of the key leadership team on the project from Monsanto – Dave Rhylander and Jon Jansen – were on hand to provide an update on how the project is progressing, and a peek into the future.
Brandt is one of about 40 participants in the pilot, and each retailer is working with three or four growers (over approximately 40,000 acres) to run the FieldScripts program through its paces.
Despite the spring planting challenges typical across much of the Midwest, the pilot programs have been a success so far and the yield scores comparing the FieldScripts recommendations to “traditional” planting should provide a sense for the real benefit of following the FieldScripts prescription.
Next year, Monsanto is expanding the program in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota, where it has gathered the most data and done the most leg work, and will offer FieldScripts to more growers. Dekalb will continue to be the only seed brand in the program for 2014.
3. Drainage Of The Future. Tour attendees got a chance to tour Springfield Plastics, a local manufacturer of drainage tile, and also visit a relatively new vision for field drainage, the saturated buffer. Developed at Iowa State University and now replicated in a number of locations in the Midwest, the saturated buffer allows for more gradual drainage of water from fields and naturally filters nitrates from runoff, significantly reducing the potential for nutrient intrusion in waterways.
4. Ag Drones On Display. When it comes to cool tools in precision ag, drone technology is a show stealer, and the demo at InfoAg was no exception. Three manufacturers demonstrated their technology, beginning with the “elder statesman” of UAVs, AutoCopter. The gas-powered, helicopter style machine provides two hours of flying time on a tank and can now import imagery directly into several popular farm management programs. The unit successfully executed a prescribed imagery collection plan utilizing GPS.
Aerial Precision Ag demonstrated a multi-rotor unit that can be controlled easily with little training (some attendees were allowed to try their hand at flying the unit and did so without incident), making it ideal for farmers wanting to experiment with UAVs. GPS is available for the unit but was not demonstrated.
Finally, senseFly, a Swiss company, demonstrated a UAV that has all the appearances of a stealth fighter, and packed some pretty cool capabilities. Packed with a pre-loaded prescription and GPS, sales manager Baptiste Tripard gave the unit a couple of shakes to get it started, then released it to the skies. Despite being attacked by a bird at one point, the unit quietly cruised to its waypoints and collected digital imagery, then dutifully returned to Tripard without a problem. At the show today we’ll get a chance to see the images it took.
The Pre-Conference Tour was a great way to start what will be an excellent week of learning and networking. Look for another special edition of PrecisionAg eNews from the InfoAg Conference on Thursday.