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Corn+Soybean Digest

Handheld Computers, GPS Help Growers “See What’s Coming”

Information gathered by Pioneer agronomists is transmitted each night to a central database. Within hours, reports will be shared effectively and efficiently with other agronomists, sales professionals and customers to alert them to potential production challenges to look for when scouting fields. This includes input on weed and disease pressure, insect infestation, weather events and other agronomic problems.

The program is currently in its second year of prototype testing among select Pioneer agronomists and may be expanded across North America next season.

“Pioneer agronomists see crop production issues in thousands of different fields and environments every week,” says Todd Peterson, emerging technologies manager, Pioneer global agronomy and nutritional sciences. “The PFIX system allows us to gather their observations into a single database on a real-time basis to put this information to work immediately.

“For instance, we may observe and identify a fungal disease in a specific geography, notify agronomists in adjacent areas to scout for the problem, track the spread of the disease, and be ready to supply growers with the very best information and treatment recommendations much sooner than we have been able to do in the past.”

The Pioneer PFIX system utilizes handheld PCs equipped with electronic form and database software from FieldWorker Products Ltd. of Toronto. Using FieldWorker’s Rapid Application Development and synchronization tools, Pioneer developed a suite of field applications and flexible forms used to collect and share crop and pest data each time a Pioneer field agronomist steps into a customer’s field.

In its first year of widespread testing in 2002, the PFIX system was used to collect input from nearly 1,000 field service calls made by 20 participating agronomists. This information helped growers by tracking crop growth and development, disease outbreaks, and insect infestations by location across the central Corn Belt. The results were so encouraging that more than 70 Pioneer agronomists will be testing the PFIX system across North America in 2003. If the second year of testing is successful, the company may expand the program to its entire staff of more than 120 field agronomists in 2004.

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