Precision Point Blog

Ag Leader

Jun, 25 2010 - by Dave King

Cereals Show in the United Kingdom

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was in the UK preparing for the Cereals Show and having a bit of trouble with my sleep.  Since then, the Cereals Show has come and gone and I have been able to catch up on my sleep.  The show provided a great opportunity to talk with some UK farmers about their operations and to spend time with the staff from Precise-Solutions, the Ag Leader distributor in the UK.

 

Precise Solutions and Ag Leader staff at 2010 Cereals Show.

Precise-Solutions is based near Carlisle in the northern part of England and has been an Ag Leader distributor in the UK since 2001.  The business was founded by Derek Johnston and is currently owned by Derek and his two brothers Stephen and Ewan.  Derek started out using Ag Leader equipment on their family farm before becoming a distributor.

“I bought a yield monitor from Ag Leader to use on our farm.  Once I got the yield monitor my neighbors started asking if I could get one for them. One thing led to another and I wound up in the precision agriculture business,” states Derek Johnston.  Derek is still active in the family farm and his experience as a farmer comes in handy when talking with farmers about precision agriculture.  “Since I am a farmer and use precision agriculture on my farm, I understand what other farmers want to accomplish with the technology,” continues Johnston.  “We use OptRx sensors on our farm for gathering information throughout the year.  We share this information with other farmers to help them understand how the sensors can help them on their farm,” Precise-Solutions offers the complete range of Ag Leader products in the UK through a growing network of dealers and OEM partners.

The Cereals Show is one of the UK’s largest agricultural shows with stands covering over 64 hectares (158 acres) and 10 hectares (25.7 acres) of demonstration plots.  The show is actually two shows in one, with the Spray and Sprayers event being held as part of the show (think Farm Progress Show and MAGIE combined).  Sprays and Sprayers is an area of the show where sprayer manufacturers showcase their equipment and do live demos on the show grounds.  In the past, Spray and Sprayers was a separate show but has since been combined with Cereals to create an all-in-one agricultural show.

The one thing about shows in Europe that always amazes me is the amount of different equipment that is on display.  Cereals is no exception.  While there is the traditional tractor and combine displays, some of the more interesting equipment can be found elsewhere.  From the different sprayers on display, to the vast amount of tillage equipment, to the vegetable machinery Cereals definitely has something for every one.

Equipment-at-Cereals-2010-101

Equipment-at-Cereals-2010-102

Equipment-at-Cereals-2010-103

With application being such a big focus of the show it is no surprise that the majority of interest for precision agriculture products was also related to application.  Farmers were interested in application control, variable rate, boom section control, boom height control and steering.  However, one of the technologies asked about most was crop sensors.  This is not a complete surprise as crop sensors have been available in the UK market for a long time but the popularity is increasing as precision farming manufacturers are starting to integrate the technology into their displays and the sensors can be used in conjunction with other technologies such as variable rate and steering.

Wheat crops in the UK can get up to eight different applications in a year.  Using crop sensors during these applications for both scanning and on-the-go variable rate application is extremely valuable.  Scanning the crop provides information on the health of the crop while using the sensors for on-the-go variable rate provides more efficient use of nitrogen.  As Paul Rose mentioned, Ag Leader is conducting field trials throughout Europe with the OptRx crop sensor and the local farmers in the UK are anxious for the results.  I can assure everyone as soon as the season wraps up, we’ll share the results!

The Cereals Show was a success and I want to thank Precise-Solutions for inviting the Ag Leader staff to help with the show.  It is always good to talk with the local farmers about precision agriculture when visiting different countries.

Parting Shot:  Since it is the UK, it does rain a lot and things can get muddy.  Next trip we will be better prepared with a new rental car we found at the show.

Modified-Smart-Car

Ag Leader

Jun, 24 2010 - by Andy Boyle

Summer precision ag training

It’s hard to believe that July is almost here and fall harvest is not all that far away.  It won’t be long and the kids will be back in school and we will all be wondering the same thing - where did this summer go?  As I drive by corn and soybean fields on my way to work I think of what about what my dad always said, “the corn will be knee high by the Fourth of July!”,  and “when the locusts start singing we have only six more weeks to prepare for a frost”.

training-picture

Well, whatever your rule of thumb might be, we all know fall is coming and preparations need to be made for the upcoming seasons. This summer Ag Leader dealers have been preparing by attending dealer training at Ag Leader Academy.  When visiting the Academy they get hands on experience with installing, calibrating and troubleshooting Ag Leader products on tractors, planters, application equipment and combines.  The result is our dealers take pride in continuing to provide excellent support and training for the end user.

To help prepare users for fall, Ag Leader dealers are passing their knowledge along by hosting training events to ensure their customers have a smooth harvest season.  The topics that will be covered at these trainings include yield monitoring, DirectCommand for fall application operations, as well as ParaDyme and OnTrac2 steering systems.  At these trainings attendees will learn what needs to be done before taking their combines, applicators and tractors to the field.

A complete list of trainings can be found here.  We look forward to seeing you at training!

Ag Leader

Jun, 18 2010 - by Ag Leader

We want to hear from you!

wewantyou

When you have a great conversation you always walk away with some sort of satisfaction – a question answered, a lively, respectful difference of opinion or maybe you learned something new.  But, there are also those conversations in which we walk away feeling unhappy (and we’ve all been there), the customer who bites your head off for something completely out of your control, the boss/spouse who does not communicate direction, and therefore is not happy with the outcome, or the know-it-all that digs their heels in, refusing to see the argument from another angle.  Which would you prefer to have on a regular basis?  Goes without saying, right? That’s how we feel about comments on our blog.  We want to engage our audience and have a conversation – even a difference of opinion, but we do not want to host a flaming session or help spammers with their mission.  To that end, we’ve developed a comments policy. We welcome and encourage comments, additional information or points of view.  That’s what a blog is right, a conversation?  We only ask that if you comment, you respectfully adhere to these guidelines in your comments.  Comments that do not fall within the guidelines will not be posted. We hope you rise to the occasion and let us know what you think of Precision Point.  All you lurkers out there…see Uncle Sam’s message – we want you!

Ag Leader

Jun, 17 2010 - by Corey Weddle

Windows 7 was worth the wait…

SMS Advanced with Windows 7 OS.

A common question we get asked is what type of computer hardware do I need to have to use SMS Basic or Advanced, but very seldom do we get asked about the operating system (OS) you should be running. SMS is designed to run on Microsoft OS’s only, so that part is easy, but then you have to decide  between Windows XP, Windows VISTA, and now Windows 7. I actually have been a big fan of Windows VISTA and think it got a very bad reputation it didn’t deserve. We’ve been developing SMS using VISTA for the last several years so it couldn’t have been that bad. But I have to admit it wasn’t perfect or the huge evolution from XP that most people expected. That brings us to Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest and greatest OS. Windows 7 is a great OS and does deliver on almost all of the issues that disappointed people about VISTA. It’s faster (well not as fast as XP on some functions), more secure, easier to use, and looks great. So my big concern now after saying how great Windows 7 is that you might run into the same issue that I think a lot of people upgrading to VISTA ran into, which ultimately gave it a bad name; they just don’t have the right hardware to run it. We bought new computers with VISTA already installed and designed to run VISTA and I’m pretty confident that’s why we have had such a good experience with it. Most reports of problems I saw were people trying to run hardware that just wasn’t up to the task of running VISTA or that didn’t have the right hardware drivers to properly function. So my advice to you if you are considering upgrading and you are still running Windows XP, is to seriously consider a new PC as well. I only think upgrading makes sense if your PC is less than 2-3 years old. Microsoft also has a great tool called the Upgrade Advisor that you need to download and run if you are considering upgrading from XP or VISTA. I really believe that you will be happy with Windows 7, especially if you are still running Windows XP. Sure it’s very different than XP and you’ll have to relearn some things and figure out where familiar functions are located in Win7 but the effort you put into it will be worth it in the end. Below I have included links to various tools and articles that discuss the virtues and reasons to consider Windows 7 as well as help you identify if your current computer is a candidate to upgrade to Windows 7. Microsoft’s 10 reasons to get Win7 Info on Win7 from the Dummies.com Win7 Compatibility Center Upgrade suggestions

Ag Leader

Jun, 10 2010 - by Nick Ohrtman

Ag Leader goes golfing…

Nice outfit

Each year we gather a group of suppliers and employees from Ag Leader for a day of golf and events as a way to say thank you to all the people that help us provide you with the precision ag products you use today. Last Thursday, Ag Leader held their fourth annual Ag Leader/Supplier Golf Outing at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny, Iowa. The suppliers that participate provide us with everything from circuit boards to touch screens to shipping services. This year's events included a "golf outift" contest and as you can see there were some very interesting outfits.  (For more pics, visit our Facebook page.)

There were 128 participants in the four person best ball tournament - including 75 people from 45 suppliers traveling from Maryland, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa. The event provides great opportunities for Ag Leader employees to get to know many of the people that make what we do on a daily basis possible.

There were many prizes awarded to the participants this year.  Trophies were awarded to the top three teams along with awards for the team who didn't fair too well and came in last.  This year's championship team consisted of Travis Goedken, Minnesota Territory Manager and Damion Solverson, Warehouse Clerk, from Ag Leader and Jeremy Louge and Sue Watters from Old Dominion Freight Line and won with a score of nine under par.  I unfortunately was not on a team that won an award this year as my team finished seven shots behind the leaders.  Better work on my game for next year... thanks to everyone who participated, it was a fun event.  Enjoy any golf you may do this summer!

Winning Team (L to R): Damion Solverson, Travis Goedken, Sue Watters. Not pictured: Jeremy Louge.

Ag Leader

Jun, 09 2010 - by Dave King

Does the Queen sleep on this?!?!

Dinner on the Volga River in Russia

As I write this post I am back on the road again after a short week at home.  I am currently in England preparing for the Cereals Show that starts today (Wednesday, June 9th).  I have been traveling a lot in the last two months and while I’ve enjoyed it, I’m also   looking forward to spending some time at home after this trip.

When I’m traveling overseas, I look forward to the opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new people, as well as experience different cultures and eat local foods (I think I have had my share of fish and chips so far this trip).  It is especially rewarding to be able to do these things in the agricultural industry as the people in the industry are some of the greatest people you will ever meet.  I have had the opportunity to dine with a great family on the Volga River in Russia, attend a youth rugby match in South Africa and watch some football (soccer) with fans in Denmark.  These people have all treated me like family and have made my trips enjoyable.

 

Youth Rugby Match

 

Even with the great hospitality and food you start to miss familiar things from home after traveling for awhile.  The first thing you start to miss is your family (and maybe even the dog).  After family, you start to miss some of the smaller things, such as ice in your drink, air conditioning or just good internet access.  However, the one thing I am missing on this trip is my BED!

Since I arrived in England I have had trouble sleeping.  It is not from the jet lag or time difference but the beds I have slept in. Whoever believes that a three inch thick piece of foam on a sheet of plywood constitutes a mattress should be forced to sleep on it once.  A thin piece of foam on a hard surface is okay when camping but not the most desirable when paying $150/night for the privilege of doing so.  Also, a mattress that sinks in the middle and funnels your body to the one spring that pokes you in the back is not my idea of a good sleep.  I’ll take a pillow top mattress any day.

My family.

I think there is a good opportunity for selling mattresses in the UK.  Perhaps, I should start a side business and make my fortune.  I could be known as the Mattress King of England.  Maybe some of you would like to get in on this opportunity with me.  I am sure it is a solid investment opportunity.  I think I should sleep on this idea and decide in the morning; that is if I can keep that spring from puncturing through my skin tonight.

I shouldn’t complain too much as the small inconveniences of traveling make you appreciate home more.  I will be heading back home on Friday and am excited to see my family and sleep in my own bed again.  I will be providing a complete detail of the Cereals Show along with some photos for my next post.  Have a good night sleep.

Ag Leader

Jun, 08 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Creating reports using precision farming software

During this time of year, we get a lot of questions from customers concerning how many acres they planted for their FSA reports, how much of a particular product in a tank mix was applied, or what their productivity (acre/hour) was while driving through the field.  This is all information that can be determined by making reports in your precision ag desktop software.

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In SMS, this can easily be done by clicking the New General Report icon on the main toolbar or by going to File - New - General Report.  There are several pre-defined reports that have already been created.  Here you will choose the report that best fits your needs.  For planting and spraying reports, I recommend starting with the Crop Type Summary Report and Product Summary Report.  The first two screens allow you to filter the data to be included in the report.  You will notice in SMS Basic/Advanced Version 10.0 we made changes to allow you to make reports for multiple operations at one time.  This will be helpful for those of you that are applying multiple products at the same time, such as applying starter fertilizer while planting.  The third screen will show you what items will be included for your report for each operation, and you have the ability to click the Edit button to make modifications if you like.  By clicking the Edit button, you have the ability to add additional attributes and properties as columns to the report.  I don't have room to list them all, but few possibilities include:

Productivity - area per hour the vehicle was covering in the field.

Total Product Amount Used/Needed - total number of bags of seed used based on as-applied information or the amount of bags needed based on  prescriptions or crop plans.

Start and End Date - dates when operations begin and end.

Also in Version 10.0, we added two new items for reports that are quite useful and can be seen in the Version 10.0 release video.  The first is the Sort List By drop down menu.  This allows you to choose one column to sort your reports by.  Examples of things you could sort by are: acres, application rate or even total amount used on the field.

The second item to take note of is the check box for Add Mix Component Attributes.  In the past if you wanted to see the total amount applied for items in your tank mix like glyphosate, AMS, water, etc, you would have to add each of those items manually.  In Version 10.0, you simply need to select Estimated Amount, or any other attribute, and check the Add Mix Component Attributes box and SMS will automatically tell you the values for all of the items within the tank mix.

On the final screen, you have the ability to choose the Summary Type. This determines the source of your information and allows you to change report colors, change the logo to be printed on the reports and save the settings for the next time you run the report.  To see a couple of sample reports, click the following links:

Planting – Crop Type Summary Report

Planting – Product Summary Report

Spraying – Product Summary Report

If you need help running a report or have questions, please feel free to contact our Support Team and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Ag Leader

Jun, 04 2010 - by Michael Vos

Insurance and Government Reporting

FSA Logo

Keeping accurate records of all areas planted for a crop, has become a necessary part of agriculture. If you take part in government programs, you need to make a trip to the local FSA office to certify the acres and specify the crop planted on each field. If you have changed field boundaries, planted corn on corn, or removed some alfalfa remembering all these details and matching the FSA acres can be a burden.

Three things can be helpful before you go to the government office (FSA).

  1. Print maps and reports to assist in the process of identifying the fields and crops planted. The government will not use the acres on your maps because they use the CLU (Common Land Units) acres, but your maps are very helpful in the identification process. Putting a satellite image in the background of the planting maps is also very helpful in associating your fields to the government CLUs.
  2. To ensure everything is done accurately and timely, be patient and go early. There are federal rules regarding misreported acres and you want your information to be reported accurately.
  3. As soon as planting is over, report your acres to your insurance agent first. You can then use your acreage reports from the agent to simplify the certification process with the government office.

Reporting to your insurance agent is another important step. Here are a few things to remember when working with your insurance agent.

Planting map from SMS containing percentage legend. Click to enlarge.

  1. Many of you will be using the Biotechnology Endorsement, which is where you receive a premium adjustment based on a percentage of the field being planted to a qualifying hybrid. To see if your hybrids are on the list, go here. Since this is done on a percentage basis, you can use the planting maps in SMS with the percentages in the legends to assist in this process.
  2. For Iowa the acreage reporting deadline is June 30th while Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio is July 15th. Go here for a complete list for your state, even though the dates on the site are not current, the dates are still accurate.
  3. A new insurance rule for 2010 is that specialty soybeans must be reported by specialty type. Small and large food grade, low linolenic, low saturated fat and high protein soybeans are all types of specialty soybeans that need to be identified. Again having a record of these crops is essential in the reporting process.

So, providing accurate information to the government and for insurance coverage is an important aspect of agriculture. Utilize the tools in SMS Software to assist in these reporting processes.

Ag Leader

Jun, 03 2010 - by Paul Rose

International Perspective: Visiting with farmers in South Africa

As I write this I am at the end of my second week in South Africa. During my second week here, I have been travelling around meeting some farmers.  We’ve been discussing their thoughts on precision farming and why they have adopted it. Coincidentally, I was also present during the installation of the first ParaDyme™ system sold into Africa.

Hanno Truter of CLM with Dries Englebrecht and Jaco Hamman of Dries Presies

Dries Minaar is the owner of the CAT MT865C that this has been fitted to. He farms 2000ha (5000ac) near Bothaville, in the Freestate. The entire area is planted with maize (corn in the US) each year, moisture permitting and averages 5t/ha (approximately 80bu/ac). He runs a staff of 18 and mainline machinery includes:

CAT MT 856C 3 x CAT 45’s JD 4730 sprayer Harvesting is contracted so he does not own a combine

Corn here is on wide row spacing of 1.5m (60”). The reason for wide rows like this comes down to available moisture during the growing season. Water is one of the most limiting factors, however it is not because of lack of rainfall (500-600mm/20-24” annually), but because they do not always get rain at the right time. It comes in big deluges here, which were especially bad this year, and caused some crops to suffer as a consequence.

Mr. Ashley Whitfield

Narrow Maize 5022

Sunflowers on the Whitfield farm.

When asked about his reasons for adopting precision farming, the answer was simple: “If you don’t do it properly, don’t do it all”. He believes precision farming is the key to success in an industry where making the most efficient use of inputs is the only way to ensure long term sustainability. So, my trip to South Africa has come to an end and as always it has been an enjoyable experience. I will leave you with one of my favourite images of South Africa – the fabulous sunsets:

South African Sunset

Ag Leader

Jun, 02 2010 - by John Howard

Selecting the proper spray nozzle

ExpNozzle-from-Teejet

This past weekend as I drove home from one of my niece's graduation ceremony in northern Iowa I was passing the time by thinking about quickly things change.  It seems like it was just last week that her mother, dad and I took her to her first 4th of July parade. I’ll never forget that the antique tractors, or at least the engine noise of the tractors, interested her more than anything else in the parade. As I drove by someone spraying pre-emergent chemical, I focused my attention on how much things have changed with sprayers and the related technology over that same period of time. Though a common sight today, a machine with a 100' boom and 1200-gallon tank moving across the field at 20+ MPH would have been a newsworthy story not that long ago. Contrast that machine to the first self-propelled sprayer I remember on our family farm. It was a three-wheeled, air-cooled, front-wheel drive with a 30' foot boom. Something my brother and I could easily outrun on our single speed bicycles. Effectively operating these modern machines at high speed would be difficult at best if technologies like GPS, automatic swath control, automated steering, guidance and automatic boom height control were not an integral part of the sprayer. Even with these technologies at our disposal, none of them diminish the importance of proper controller settings and selection of the proper spray nozzle for the application.

TurboDuo_redCap-from-Teejet

The process of selecting a correct nozzle was much easier when machine speeds were slow and relatively consistent and your nozzle choices were limited to brass flat fans …or brass flat fans. Today, when selecting spray nozzles you can still dig through manufacturers’ catalogs with calculator in hand but there are also resources on the internet that are generally much easier to use.  I quickly found the following links by searching for “agricultural spray nozzles”; a more intense search could definitely provide more results. Due to lengthy URLs, I've shortened the links to each of these spray nozzle manufacturer's interactive spray nozzle selection tools. Hardi Hypro Global Spray Solutions TeeJet Technologies Wilger Look hard enough and you may even find an app for your smartphone. Hope you find these tools useful. Have a safe and product spring season. Image credit:  Images included in this post were obtained using the Image Library from TeeJet Technologies.

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