It has been a busy week here in New Orleans, LA, at Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers. Editor Willie Vogt and I have been hitting the show floor, which is bigger than ever with addition of the Ag Equipment Manufacturers Association sharing the space. We’ve also been attending all of the press conferences and media gatherings to come away with the tech news that could affect the business of farming going forward.
Here are 10 takeaways thus far.
- Big ag needs some big advocates.
We went down early in the week to attend Bayer’s annual Ag Issues Forum, which this year got a name change to “Agvocacy Forum” as a callout to everyone in agriculture to be advocates for the industry. Speakers from academia, crop and life science companies, organic brands, and data analytics firms served as examples of how industry is countering consumer skepticism about how food is produced. The message of the conference was that without the support and buy-in of the consumer, agriculture will reach a stalemate in production without the technology to support it.
- Farmers have their eyes on the bottom line – for every input.
With commodity prices down, farmers are scrutinizing purchases more than ever. Bob Armstrong, vice president marketing manager at Claas, as well as others we have talked to say that buyers are asking for the hard numbers that show a return on investment on new purchases. For Claas, Armstrong says those numbers come in more grain in the tank and higher quality kernels through onboard automation packages such as Cemos Automatic, available on Lexion combines.
- Microbiomes are changing everything.
We’ve written about it before. You’ll hear a whole lot more about it. BioConsortia and other experts occupying that the space say biologics and microbes will be the key to achieving the next yield bump and will do it in a way that doesn’t do damage to the environment. A groundswell of evidence shows they might be right.
- Tracked tractors with more horsepower are hot.
Mitch Kaiser, Case IH, said customers are demanding more horsepower and track configurations that can support the weight of bigger row-crop tractors. As such, their Magnum Rowtrac is filling that niche.
- CVT transmissions getting good reviews.
Kaiser says CVT transmissions know when to shift before the driver knows he or she has to. Smooth shifting keeps planters operating accurately without bounce, and they save on fuel, too.
- Vertical tillage is getting deeper.
Chris, Lursen, Case IH agronomic marketing manager, said customers are demanding tillage implements that have the speed to get over a lot of ground quickly and slice up crop residue, which vertical tillage implements provide. But as crop residue contines to build up, he say some customers are looking for a tool that can dig a little deeper and leave a blacker, disk-like soil finish yet still go at fast field speeds. Hence the company’s brand new introduction of the Barracuta, a heavy duty vertical tillage implement that was launched at the show.
- The Internet of things is changing everything.
Pair sensor technology with broadband and wi-fi connections and you are able to connect what is being done in the field with what you can envision and correct in the office. IntelliFarms’ new products are an example of that.
- Democratizing of farm data.
Every field has a story to tell. But that doesn’t mean you yourself have to tell it. Why not aggregate field data from a lot of different sources and get a benchmark that you can use to judge the ROI of seed, chemicals, fertilizer, and equipment. The Farmers Business Network, the Environmental Defense Fund’s NutrientStar, and a growing number of other companies and start-ups are making crop-input buyers better informed. They do the numbers.
- The move to electric drives.
The newest technology on planters is electric drives, replacing all the belts and chains that used to drive the seed meters. If you don’t have a new planter with the drives built in, Ag Leader has a new add-on package you can buy that works with most planters and will be available for next season.
- Consider fungicides and their yield potential.
Wyfells Hybrids is seeing a yield bump when fungicide is being put down with the seed. Whether a fungicide is right for your acres is dependent on a lot of factors such as the crop rotation and field history. Wyffels agronomist Mitch Heisler says your seed company can be a source of information that can help aid in that decision.