COLUMBUS, Ohio — Successful farmers in the future will
be utilizing integrated data solutions.
“Technology is going to be the critical aspect that drives us to
meet demand in the future,” said John Fulton, associate professor and Extension
specialist in the Biosystems Engineering Department at Auburn University.
highlighted a Global Agricultural Productivity report during a John Deere product introduction media
“This report looks at population growth, food production, how
countries are developing and what demand will be in the future,” he said.
“Precision agricultural technology will at least contribute 30
percent of the production growth,” he noted.
“Genetics and yield will be a significant role in terms of
growth,” he added. “But it’s going to be the practices and how we utilize data
to determine what variety suits my growing conditions on my farm and how I
Increasing productivity of crop production will be driven by
three components, Fulton
“Those components are efficient use of machinery, input
stewardship and data management,” he explained.
“Precision agriculture has been around for 20 years,” he noted. “We’ve
spent that time getting technology in farmers’ hands, and now we’re getting
that data in a form that we can start to analyze and best serve farmers so they
can be profitable.”
Work is in progress to look at individual corn plants in fields.
“We’re looking at how that seed is oriented when it’s placed in
the ground, how accurately the depth is controlled and marking that seed where
it gets planted so we can follow that individual plant,” Fulton said. “We’re
not at that point today, but that’s how we’re thinking — looking at each
And, he said, it’s not just the corn plant, but the attributes of
“There’s a tremendous amount of research about what’s going on
under the ground, how the root structure develops and what that means to yield,”
In addition to knowing everything about the plant itself, the specialist
said, “I want to add in the soil conditions through the growing season, what
the weather was like and what water was applied if it was irrigated.”
Ultimately, he said, farmers are asking questions about how they
can change their farm management to maximize profits.
“The No. 1 important operation to farmers is planting — that establishes
potentially where we’ll end up on yield,” he said. “Farmers have several
monitors in their tractor cab, and they need help capturing all that data.”
Data from Auburn
University suggests on a
12-row planter, there can be an 8-percent to 20-percent difference in
populations across the planter.
“In some cases that will be significant from a yield perspective,”
“If I have turn compensation on the planter where each row has compensation
and maintains population and I can get that down to 3 percent, that’s significant,
especially when you consider the size of the machines today,” he said.
This past winter, the university conducted a poll with farmers
from across the Midwest, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Alabama.
“We asked them to list the top five hurdles for data management
at the farm level,” Fulton
“The No. 1 hurdle was automatic data transfer,” he reported. “Because
the data remains on the machine, it’s not downloaded, and they don’t have a
storage device where they can start to do analysis.”
The second hurdle identified was farmers need help with the data,
and the need for software with preferences on web-based viewing or web-based
uploading and downloading was the third hurdle noted by the farmers.
“No one ever wrote back in their responses and asked about data
“Farmers have to visualize data,” he said. “When they can
visualize data, they understand it better and they can address issues more
According to Fulton, wireless data transfer needs to be automatic,
simple and include a service component.
“That will allow us to get over the hurdle of getting data off
machines so we can have discussion about what that data means and how we can
add value,” he said.
“Finally and most importantly, we have to have personalized solutions
for farmers to be engaged,” he added. “Because we know neighbors don’t farm the
same so they want something personalized.”