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Emerging technologies


Biomass equipment

HARVESTING ENERGY crops will require a new breed of equipment that will harvest not only the kernel or grain, but the biomass around it. This will include combines that can harvest more than one material at a time. Other equipment options will include tow-behind wagons that will separate the grain from the chafe and industrial screens parked at the end of fields to separate the food from the fuel material.


Energy crops

GROWERS NOW can purchase commercial seed from Ceres Inc. to grow energy crops like switchgrass to feed new ethanol plants that use cellulose instead of grain. Ceres is the first company to offer the new energy seeds, but governmental mandates will help the energy crop business grow. Both Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred have partnered with other seed companies to develop energy crops. And Dow AgroSciences has focused on a line of silage corn that is a top ethanol producer.


Cab comfort

INFOTAINMENT WILL come to the cab with integrated HD video, surround sound, heated leather seats, and high-speed wireless Internet, on top of the automation already built into the vehicle.


Horsepower-boosting technologies

THE NEED for more powerful engines is driving new technology to boost horsepower. One method is to put two engines into one vehicle, like the “double six-engine” in the Jaguar 980 and 970 forage harvesters. Another is to add a second turbocharger. produce 830 hp in these two models. One engine controls hydraulic and cooling and the other is switched on when the harvester needs more power. Another method is to add a second turbocharger.


Tier 4 engines

OFF-ROAD DIESEL engines must go through a design overhaul to meet the Tier 4 EPA emission standards required starting in 2011. Engine manufacturers are pursuing two paths to meet Tier 4: EGR/DOC (exhaust gas recirculation/diesel oxidation catalyst) recirculates gas exhaust through a filter to eliminate emissions; and SCR (selective catalytic reduction) injects a urea product into the exhaust stream to neutralize harmful emissions.


Smart tillage

IN THE future, tillage equipment will develop a brain. Sensors placed on shanks and other ground-breaking mechanisms will automatically control soil depth depending on soil type and compaction. Expect variable tillage based on soil maps.


High-speed implement braking

AIR OR hydraulic brakes may soon be standard on implements and trailers. High-tech solutions are an antilocking braking system (ABS) or hood sensors that automatically slow down an implement as the tractor or truck brakes.


Electric drives

EXPECT ELECTRIC drives to replace mechanical and hydraulic drives in tractors and other ag equipment. John Deere was the first to add an electric drive to its E-Premium series tractor, which produces its own electricity. Electric motors feature a long service life, little noise, and low wear, and they are unaffected by temperature.



FLEET MANAGEMENT combined with remote diagnostics is called telemetry, which involves measurement from a distance. On the farm, telemetry systems allow vehicle tracking and monitoring of machine functions such as fuel level and engine temperature. Dealerships also can remotely watch the vehicles for potential breakdowns.



GNSS WILL soon replace the generically applied term GPS. High-end positioning receivers now are able to receive both U.S.-developed GPS signals and Russian GLONASS signals. Some are even ready for signals from the European Union's Galileo positioning system, which is scheduled for operation around 2015, as well as signals from other countries like China and India.


Universal display

THE “DUMB” terminal that populated many tractor cabs in the early stages of precision technology has evolved into a universal display that operates like a computer. The latest models have become the master controllers of guidance and implement functions.


By-the-row control

AN OFFSHOOT of the new precision application technology is the ability to control planting, spraying and fertilizing by the row. Soon growers will be able to not only turn the row equipment on and off, but also adjust the rate at which inputs are applied.



FREE CORRECTION signals for operating agricultural guidance systems are becoming available through CORS (continuously operating reference stations) RTK networks set up by some state transportation departments to survey their transportation systems. Leica Geosystems recently provided the technology for the Iowa DOT's new CORS RTK network. Although the correction signals are free, users must pay for the cost of receiving the signals.


Precision application

PRECISION GUIDANCE partners with advanced control systems and farm management software to provide a new, high level of management. Growers will see many new packages available to more precisely apply inputs like seed and fertilizer, thereby saving money. Plus, these new systems track what, where, when and how much product is applied, while automating office jobs like ordering, billing and payroll.


Quantitative analysis

TRAIT DISCOVERY in seed has benefitted from quantitative analysis, the ability to use a computer to analyze piles of data.


Zinc fingers

THE ZINC fingers technology promises to cut a year or two off the time to develop a genetically modified crop through more precise gene targeting. Zinc fingers are proteins that turn genes on or off and they also can remove or insert genes. The protein is naturally occurring in all cells.


Dihaploid breeding

THE DISCOVERY of a corn line with only one set of chromosomes (instant inbred) has led to dihaploid breeding. Instead of crossing corn lines for eight to nine generations to obtain a pure inbred line, the breeding takes just two generations and about four years less time. Most major seed companies now use dihaploid breeding to bring new lines to market faster.


THIS INTERNET site promises major monetary awards to researchers who can solve specific scientific problems. Technologies in crop protection and seed have come from problem solving on the site, which serves a wide range of professional researchers.

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