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Articles from 2019 In January


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Via Skype, Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Arkansas, addresses the 22nd annual Cotton and Rice Conservation Systems Conference in Baton Rouge.

Change in Congress underlines ag need to communicate

The mid-term election that gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives underscores the need for farmers and others in the agriculture industry to increase efforts to educate legislators and the public on the contributions farmers make to the U.S. economy and national security, says Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.

“Farm policy, unfortunately, is now debated and adjudicated in the court of public opinion,” said Crawford, during a keynote Skype address at the 22nd annual Cotton and Rice Conservation Systems Conference in Baton Rouge, La.

Crawford, representing Arkansas’ 1st District, said a growing concern for agriculture is the “big gap between rural and urban America. We see a lack of knowledge and understanding of rural America.”

He added that many residents of his district do not know that they live in the top rice production area in the nation. “They have no idea of the contribution farmers make to the economy.”

He also said that food security and national security are intertwined. “Countries that cannot feed and clothe themselves are vulnerable.”

New Leadership in House

Crawford said the House Ag Committee has been reorganized with Democrats in charge and priorities will change. Climate change, he added, may take precedence over, “the production issues that would be your top priorities.”  

He said 2014 farm policy took away direct payments. “Next, they will come after crop insurance.”

The Agricultural Improvement act of 2018, Crawford said, maintained the basic structure of the 2014 law. “We got cotton into PLC and now you have annual selection for PLC and ARC instead of signing for the life of the fam bill.

“We got the bill done and we got it done on time. But

 I’m already working on the next one. Five years goes by fast and I don’t want to be caught on my heels in 2023. We need your input to develop the next farm bill.”

He said new House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson, D-Minn., has been good to work with. “He understands rice and how commodities need to work together. He has been a big help and is a friend. We can work with him.”

Crawford said he will reintroduce a bill this session to improve trade opportunities with Cuba. “It’s the same bill I introduced last session,” he said. “I believe we now have a more favorable environment in the House.”

Cuba itself may be the biggest stumbling block, however. “The sonic attack on U.S. diplomats has not been resolved. Now, Canada has bee the subject of a sonic attack.”

He said trade with Cuba is important to the U.S. ag economy. “Russia and China are interested in enhancing trade with Cuba, and we’re just 90 miles away.

“Some parties in Cuba are against enhanced trade with the U.S. and some in the U.S. are against it.”

Crawford also will introduce a bill to “remove and replace the H2A worker program, which is highly flawed. It is way more expensive than hiring domestic workers.”

He added that agriculture “needs an ag immigration fix. But for now, the wall is taking all the oxygen. I believe we need a wall, but it must have doors in it.”

He said a system to allow workers to move back and forth across the border, with a means to determine who they are and where they are should be workable.

China's Unfair Trade

Responding to a question from the audience, Crawford said the trade war with China has been “inconvenient, but it had to happen,” to get China to the negotiation table. Unfair trade practices, mis-reporting of crops and stocks, he said, in addition to “flat out lies,” must be corrected.

“They are better at marketing than we are. But their economy is in dire straits, and that’s why they are at the table.”

He said China gets unfair preferential treatment from WTO as an emerging nation. “They have arrived.”

Finally, in response to an audience question, Crawford said he “has a gut feeling that we will not see another government shutdown. No one wants to go through that again. If the border security issue is not resolved by Feb. 15, we may see other action, but not a shutdown.”

He said the parties need to come together and compromise.

 

MarketsBlue011317-1540x800 maciek905/ThinkstockPhotos

DowDuPont expects profits to fall in 2019

by Jack Kaskey

DowDuPont Inc. warned that it expects profit to fall this year amid a slowdown in China and Europe, triggering the biggest stock rout since the 2017 merger that created the chemical colossus.

The weakening global outlook comes just as the company prepares to split itself into three. Operating earnings for the combined businesses in 2019 will be “slightly down” and sales will be “about flat,” DowDuPont said Thursday as it released fourth-quarter results. The company also forecast declines in first-quarter sales and profit, while analysts had expected significant gains.

China is the main source of the weakness amid falling demand for materials used in autos and smart phones, Chief Executive Officer Ed Breen said on a conference call. European demand also is soft, and there is some weakness in the U.S. housing market, he said. Markets should normalize in the second quarter as customers use up inventories and home-building rates improve, he said.

“We expect global economic expansion to continue in 2019 at a moderately slower pace than 2018,” Chief Financial Officer Howard Ungerleider said in an earnings statement. “We continue to closely monitor macroeconomic and geopolitical developments, including ongoing trade negotiations and the pace of economic activity in China.”

Three-Way Split

In just two months, DowDuPont plans to spin off its materials science operation as the new Dow, a global leader in plastics for packaging. That’s to be followed June 1 with the separation of the Corteva agriculture business, leaving behind a stand alone DuPont focused on specialty products such as Kevlar and automotive plastics.

The shares fell 8.2% to $54.01 at 1:37 p.m. in New York after sliding as much as 9.5%, the biggest decline since Dow and DuPont combined to create the world’s largest chemical company. The stock was the worst performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, dragging the index to a slight loss.

By creating more focused companies, Breen intends to increase shareholder value. But the shares haven’t responded to the plan. DowDuPont fell 22% in the 12 months through Wednesday, compared with a 5.1% decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

Feedstock Costs

The anticipated decline in full-year earnings is due in part to lower prices for materials used in electronics, rising raw material costs, a strengthening U.S. dollar and lower joint-venture earnings, the company said. Currency pressures, particularly a weaker Brazilian real and euro, are expected to wipe out the benefit of slightly higher prices and sales volumes.

“We remain focused on the actions in our control, including capitalizing on our growth investments, capturing cost synergy savings, delivering productivity actions and advancing our spin milestones,” Ungerleider said.

First-quarter sales will drop by a percentage in the mid-single digits, with a larger decline expected in the Dow materials science unit, according to a company slide presentation. Operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization is expected to drop by a percentage in the low-teens, led by a larger decline in materials science.

The company said it expects first-quarter operating Ebitda between $4.2 billion to $4.4 billion, while analysts on average had estimated $5.31 billion. Sales will be $20 billion to $20.5 billion, trailing the $22.6 billion average estimate.

Fourth-Quarter Beat

Amid the disappointing guidance, DowDuPont posted fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 88 cents a share, beating expectations by a penny. Earnings rose in each of the four DuPont specialty products divisions, while they declined in the two largest Dow materials science units. Sales were flat, missing expectations, as currency changes offset the 1% gains seen in both volumes and average prices.

Profit margins for making polyethylene plastic, the biggest division at the pending Dow spinoff, tumbled in the fourth quarter and should stabilize in the first half of 2019, said Jim Fitterling, who will be CEO of the new company.

Low profit margins at the DuPont specialty products division will improve as the year progresses, Breen said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jack Kaskey in Houston at jkaskey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Case at bcase4@bloomberg.net Susan Warren, Tony Robinson

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

MSU-John-Auel-Forest-BMPs.jpg MSU Extension Service/John Auel
Properly installed water bars can divert water off of this forest road and into vegetation where it is dispersed and any sediments filter out of the water.

Voluntary guidelines help forest landowners

Many forest landowners wonder if best management practices really matter on their property, and the simple answer is yes.

This issue has caused some confusion over the years since the “Best Management Practices for Forestry in Mississippi” handbook was first published by the Mississippi Forestry Commission. The handbook illustrates common practices that control erosion and other types of nonpoint-source pollution that results from forestry activities. They were developed to comply with section 319 of the Water Quality Act of 1987, an amendment to the Clean Water Act, which focused on point sources of pollution.

Nonpoint-source pollution is caused by runoff after rainfall. Point sources are pollutants that come directly from a single source, like an effluent pipe from a mill.

The intent of the forestry commission was to establish voluntary guidelines, specific to the state, which would achieve the same results as a regulated program. While the practices are voluntary, landowners are still responsible for controlling nonpoint-source pollution on their property and are liable for violations of the Clean Water Act, which carries substantial fines for polluting water as a result of forestry activity.

The commission also monitors statewide best management practice compliance rates, which they report to federal agencies in an effort to keep the program voluntary. If compliance rates are too low, then the possibility exists that the federal government might require Mississippi to move to a regulated program to protect water quality. Currently, state compliance with the management practices is over 95 percent, proving that the program is a viable alternative to regulations.

Best management practices

In addition to the efforts of the commission, forest product companies in Mississippi have always used best management practices. Use of these practices is mandatory for companies and other landowners to comply with certification programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and American Tree Farm.

The initiative requires companies to use loggers trained in the use of best management practices and encourages loggers and independent timber buyers to use the practices on properties they harvest. In fact, with the current Sustainable Forestry Initiative standard, a certified company must not purchase wood from any source that does not use best practices.

Following best management practices is the best method for protecting water quality during forest operations. All landowners are encouraged to use all applicable practices on their property. Requirements of the Clean Water Act, state monitoring programs, and forest certification, along with an insistence from forest product companies to protect water resources, practically make these practices mandatory for Mississippi landowners who want to harvest and market their wood products.

Management guidelines are voluntary for the landowner, but foresters and loggers will use the practices on each tract they harvest. It is the right thing to do, and it will hopefully stop new federal regulations.

For a copy of the Mississippi best management practice guidelines, contact your county forester or the Extension forestry specialist. Or go online to http://bit.ly/2ExAiPa.

Source: MSU Extension Service, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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Dorothy and Ray Young. I was so honored to meet this couple at the 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences. Not only was I struck by their kindness, inviting me to join their consultants' supper, but how long they've been married -- 67 years. Life goals!

Going up? Dialogue on the hotel elevator…

In January I attended the 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans, La. — my second Beltwide but my first trip to New Orleans. The conference was held at a high-rise hotel near the French Quarter. My room was on the 32nd floor.

Having a room near the top of a high rise has its advantages. First is the view. Looking out my window I could see the sun rise and set on the Mississippi River as ships arrived and left the port sounding their whistle. I could also see the brightly lit streets below and hear faint sounds of sirens, music, and honking horns. Friendly, I’m sure.

But staying on the 32nd floor also means lengthy elevator rides.  For some, this would mean awkward silence. For me, it meant I had a captive audience. Everyone has a story. If the person was wearing a cap or the obvious lanyard, I would begin with, “Are you here for Beltwide?” Typically, the answer was yes. Those who wanted to engage my curiosity would respond with, “You?” I would then ask if they were a grower.

On one of my elevator adventures, I met the 2010 Farm Press High Cotton winner Jimmy Hargett and his wife Pat, from Bells, Tenn. After Pat introduced herself and told me who her husband was, I repeated his name back to her in hopes of remembering it, so I could tell our Delta staff we had met. While I rarely forget a face, I’m horrible with names. Whatever name I said to her, she repeated back, “It’s like Target but Hargett.” That, I remembered!

See, 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences Photo Gallery

Another encounter was with a tall, slender gentleman with a quiet disposition dressed in a navy suit. My first impression was: He’s not with Beltwide because he’s not wearing a cap or cowboy boots. But then my thoughts gravitated to maybe he’s a presenter. So, I broke the silence and asked, “Are you here for Beltwide?” to which he kindly smiled and replied, yes. I proceeded to tell him I was also and that I was with Farm Press.  The elevator stopped, he exited and that was that.

The next morning, I began the day at the Cotton Sustainability Session, where Dr. Jesse Daystar discussed U.S. cotton sustainability goals. Next on the agenda was a presentation about the U.S. Cotton Industry Sustainability Program.

As I watched the next speaker take the podium, I had one of those moments where you have to laugh at yourself. Recall my last elevator interrogation with the stranger in the navy suit? Well, apparently it was Dr. Gary Adams, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council, who I would argue was definitely in New Orleans for Beltwide. I guess I’ll need to brush up on “who’s who” in cotton before the next one!

 

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National Sorghum Producers Chairman Dan Atkisson of Stockton, Kansas, presents U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue with the organization's first-ever administrative award for being a champion for the sorghum industry.

Perdue, Moran presented top sorghum awards

National Sorghum Producers presented two esteemed leadership awards during its annual D.C. Fly-in this week in Washington, D.C. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was recognized as the first-ever Sorghum Champion administrative recipient and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) received NSP's 2019 Congressional Award.

NSP recognized Secretary Perdue for his exemplary leadership and constant support of sorghum farmers through work with the White House and other agencies during the international trade case sorghum endured with China in 2018. Secretary Perdue is a strong advocate for rural America and was key to the support sorghum farmers received through the Market Facilitation Program, according to NSP.

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“Secretary Perdue is a true champion for sorghum and U.S. agriculture,” said NSP Chairman Dan Atkisson, a sorghum producer from Stockton, Kansas. “We especially appreciate his continuous support and dedication to protect the sorghum industry as we weathered international trade challenges last year."

NSP's 2019 Congressional Award recognizes Senator Moran for his steadfast support of U.S. sorghum producers. Moran worked with the White House and the Administration during the course of the anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases with China, which was critical to political negotiations that led to the removal of the initial tariff on sorghum. Senator Moran has also been a strong leader through appropriations for sorghum research in Kansas and around the country through USDA-ARS, according to NSP.

“Senator Moran is a powerful advocate for practical farm policy,” said Atkisson. “We appreciate the work he continues to do on behalf of not only Kansas producers but all sorghum farmers.”

Source: is National Sorghum Producers, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

H&H-Gauze.jpg H&H Medical Corporation
TACgauze is a new nonwoven cotton gauze from ARS and collaborators that helps staunch bleeding and promote wound healing.

ARS cotton advance helps launch wound dressing

A new, nonwoven cotton gauze that quickly stanches bleeding and promotes wound healing is now commercially available, thanks to the efforts of a multidisciplinary team that includes scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

H&H Medical Corporation, a Williamsburg, Virginia, firm specializing in trauma care products, rolled out the new gauze Nov. 21 under the tradename "TACgauze." The product differs from standard gauzes in that it's made of greige (pronounce “gray”) cotton fiber—that which hasn't been scoured and bleached prior to fabrication, notes Vince Edwards, a textile chemist with ARS' Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans.

In studies there, Edwards identified the role of the cotton fiber's outer cuticle in stimulating the body's production of fibrin and other blood-clotting agents. To do this, he adapted the use of a micro-scale technique (thromboelastography) employed in hospitals to assess patient clotting profiles. Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) collaborators assessed the clotting properties of fabric made from the fibers using animal models. The findings showed that when made into a gauze used to wrap or pack wounds, greige fiber performed as well as standard cotton gauze dressings.

In trials, the nonwoven greige cotton gauze was 33 percent lighter and 63 percent more absorbent than standard crinkle-type gauzes made of bleached processed cotton. During the trials, the nonwoven greige cotton gauze also triggered blood clotting more quickly, shed fewer fibers and released small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, thought to help mobilize wound-healing cells at the injury site.

According to BleedingControl.org, uncontrolled bleeding (hemorrhaging) is the number one cause of preventable death in persons who experience traumatic injury. This can happen within five minutes if hemorrhaging from the wound site isn't slowed or stopped, a state known as “hemostasis.”

In developing TACgauze together with the ARS-VCU team and T.J. Beall Company of Greenwood, Mississippi, H&H sought a hemostatic gauze that was easy to carry and use, affordable, reliable, sterile, long-lasting and effective under wide-ranging and circumstances—whether that be on the battlefield, accident scenes, mass-casualty events or remote locations.

Interest in evaluating TACgauze has come from both the military and civilian sectors, including the U.S. Marine Corps, according to H&H President Paul Harder.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

Source: is USDA-ARS, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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Cotton Spin: Where would a China trade deal leave cotton?

This column still finds me traveling around West Texas, and still waving a red flag about the potential price weakening effects of an expected large 2019 crop.

I have spent a lot of time in my outlook presentations talking about the contribution of the U.S.-China trade conflict to a reduction in export sales in the latter half of 2018. Figure 1 below shows how U.S. cotton exports were going like gangbusters in early 2018. Then the trend was reversed.

I attribute uncertainty about the China trade situation as a major influence in the downshift in U.S. exports. Other reasons probably include political and economic problems in Turkey (another important buyer of U.S. cotton), and perhaps also uncertainty about available supplies of quality U.S. cotton for the export market.

The current China situation is that, since July 6, China has had 25 percent tariffs on U.S. cotton imports. That means U.S. cotton is 25 percent more expensive, and thus less competitive than Brazilian or Australian cotton. Meanwhile, the U.S. is waiting until March 1 to either work out a solution or raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, including Chinese apparel imports.

 

WILL EXPORTS RECOVER?

So, if there is a resolution to the U.S.-China trade conflict, will U.S. cotton exports recover? And if so, how much?

I would expect some improvement, but perhaps not the levels or upward trend that we saw in early 2018. First of all, the reduction in uncertainty should be a major relief to everybody: cotton buyers, cotton sellers, futures speculators, etc. Hopefully, this alone would foster more trade business.

Second, normal trade relations between the U.S. and China will allow shippers to restore and maintain their contacts with Chinese buyers. With China returning as a competing direct buyer with other cotton importers, those selling U.S. cotton will hopefully be in a better bargaining position. All of this should provide a boost to U.S. export sales, especially if China overall demand for cotton imports begins to increase, as expected.

So, what happens if there is no near term solution to the U.S.-China trade conflict? Continuing Chinese tariffs remain on U.S. cotton will continue to be a wet blanket on U.S. export sales. In the long run, Chinese buyers will improve and expand their contacts with competing suppliers.

If the U.S. raises tariffs on Chinese apparel imports, that may reduce the quantity demanded for apparel, which in turn could shrink China’s overall fiber demand. And lastly, prolonged tariffs may slow economic growth, which also is associated with reduced demand for cotton.

For additional thoughts on these and other cotton marketing topics, please visit my weekly on-line newsletter at http://agrilife.org/cottonmarketing/

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Agricultural research innovations boost U.S. rice productivity

A study released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reporting huge gains in U.S. rice productivity proves the value of the country’s investment in agricultural research and science, said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.

Jacobs-Young, who is also administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), cited a report by the Economic Research Service (ERS) entitled: “U.S. Rice Production in the New Millennium: Changes in Structure, Practices, and Costs.”

“The adoption of innovations such as herbicide-tolerant rice varieties and precision farming practices have contributed to a production boom in rice that is good news for producers, good news for consumers, and good news for exporters,” she said. “Research supported by both the private sector and by USDA have been instrumental in making these innovations a reality,” she said.

The report specifically credited the new rice varieties and precision farming with helping to increase U.S. rice productivity by 29 percent between the years 2000 and 2013, as well as increase per-acre yields by more than 100 percent in that same period. In addition to increased production, the result has been lower-than-expected prices, which ERS found have benefitted both consumers and exporters of U.S. rice.

“The report also found that future gains in domestic rice productivity are possible through the continued adoption of these technologies and practices,” Jacobs-Young said. “Clearly, continued agricultural research is a key to maximizing the ability of American producers to prosper by feeding the world.”

Earlier this year, scientists at Louisiana State University introduced a new herbicide-resistant line of rice called Provisia, which will complement existing lines of herbicide-resistant rice and help extend the life of both lines. Research to develop the Provisia line was supported by grants from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Likewise, both NIFA and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have supported extensive research in the area of precision agriculture practices.

Source: USDA, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue

57 organizations will share $200 million from Ag Trade Promotion Program

USDA has awarded $200 million to 57 organizations through the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program to help U.S. farmers and ranchers identify and access new export markets. The ATP is one of three USDA programs created to mitigate the effects of trade retaliation against U.S. farmers and exporters.

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service accepted ATP applications between Sept. 4 and Nov. 2 – totaling nearly $600 million – from U.S. trade associations, cooperatives, and other industry-affiliated organizations.

President Trump authorized up to $12 billion in programs to provide assistance to U.S. agriculture through a trade mitigation package announced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Sept. 4, 2018. In addition to the $200 million allocated to the ATP, the package also included the Market Facilitation Program to provide payments to farmers harmed by retaliatory tariffs, and a food purchase and distribution program to assist producers of targeted commodities.

“At USDA, we are always looking to expand existing markets or open new ones, so we are proud to make good on the third leg of the President’s promise to America’s farmers,” said Perdue. “This infusion will help us develop other markets and move us away from being dependent on one large customer for our agricultural products. This is seed money, leveraged by hundreds of millions of dollars from the private sector, that will help to increase our agricultural exports.”

All sectors of U.S. agriculture, including fish and forest product producers, were eligible to apply for cost-share assistance under the ATP. FAS evaluated applications according to criteria that included the potential for export growth in the target market, direct injury from the imposed retaliatory tariffs, and the likelihood that the proposed project or activity will have a near-term impact on agricultural exports.

“We were pleased to see the large demand for participation in the program, and truly got some out-of-the-box ideas that we are hopeful will expand our global footprint,” Perdue said. “We examined all applications carefully, considered our ranking criteria, and awarded the funds in order to make the best use of taxpayer dollars in growing agricultural trade.”

Source: USDA, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

MAREK-EXTENSION-LEDBETTER-web.jpg Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter
Thomas Marek, Texas A&M AgriLife Research engineer, is integrating and automating irrigation technologies and tools.

Study to integrate center pivot irrigation control technologies

New center pivot irrigation technologies are only beneficial if they are being used, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research engineer in Amarillo.

Thomas Marek is leading a team from Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas A&M University to ensure the latest advancements in agricultural irrigation management can be readily integrated for applications in the field.

The team is working to design a system utilizing off-the-shelf sensors and components to create a cost-effective and independent platform that will allow producers to realize benefits of irrigation technologies by integrating and automating information and decision support tools.

Their objectives include establishing:

– A wireless sensor network with anomaly detection.
– An irrigation system controller using real-time and forecast data, integration of data from multiple sensor inputs and unmanned aerial systems, models and safety.
– A user-friendly interface.

The multifaceted project integrates in-field data from multiple sensors and uses machine learning techniques plus crop models to automate irrigation scheduling decisions, Marek said.

Additional faculty members on the project include Dr. Dana Porter, AgriLife Extension engineer, Lubbock; and Dr. Jiang Hu, Texas A&M professor of electrical and computer engineering, College Station, along with three team members in his department, Dr. Justin Sun, Yanxiang Yang and Hongxin Kong.

An accompanying soil water sensor installation and placement study with the project involves Dr. Kevin Heflin, AgriLife Extension program specialist, Amarillo; and Dr. Gary Marek, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service research agricultural engineer, Bushland.

“There are some great advanced irrigation technologies available, but they are complex, underutilized, difficult to use and not well integrated in existing control systems, therefore their benefits are not being fully realized,” Porter said.

She said the cooperative and complementary efforts in several research studies at the Bushland research facilities shared by AgriLife Research and USDA-ARS should help change that.

“We had a water seed grant to work on automated, integrated advanced control of a center pivot irrigation system,” Marek said. “We teamed up with Texas A&M’s electrical and computer engineering researchers and worked extensively with them to develop some advanced automation capabilities.”

He said they have already shown significant improvements over commercially available systems by developing a technology suite that includes:

– Improved center pivot irrigation positioning and speed control.

– Improved variable rate irrigation control with real-time updates using in-field near-real-time data plus predictive crop water-use capabilities.

– A soil-moisture in-field sensor placement method to optimize wireless sensor nodes to balance cost with necessary data reliability.

“In our case, advanced automation includes automated communication of data from soil water sensors to the pivot controller,” Marek said.

“We are using a processing model that looks at recent field data and the status today, plus a machine learning process to integrate data and decisions with an automated controller,” he said. “Together this tells the user and the system what to do and when. The system is also unique in that it logs all of what it does, and all of this happens at the pivot.”

Utilizing tools such as real-time soil moisture monitoring, near-real-time and short-term predictive crop evapotranspiration or crop water use, quantitative precipitation forecasting and an artificial intelligence algorithm, he said they are able to automate the “when, where and how much” decisions of crop irrigation.

Development was conducted whereby the platform-independent control system could be retrofitted into existing center pivot irrigation systems. The project team has several patents pending as a result of the work, Marek said, adding this is one of the best research teams he’s worked with in his irrigation career.

Funding and in-kind support for the project was provided by a Texas A&M University System Water Seed Grant, AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and the USDA-ARS Ogallala Aquifer Program.

Source: is AgriLife TODAY, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.