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Articles from 2000 In May


Corn+Soybean Digest

June 1, 2000

Inventors take on tillage

Two inventions ease the problems of implement depth and residue control.

Inventors who wanted to solve tillage problems used their ingenuity to create two new tillage tools. The Automatic Depth Control Explorer for maintaining tillage depth is available for purchase now, and the Variable Tillage Tool will be on the market in the next year.

Automatic Depth Control Explorer. Entrepreneur Andy Buchl wanted to find a way to maintain a consistent depth while field tilling. He devised a small microprocessor mounted in a tractor cab to receive messages from three sensing wheels positioned on the implement. The microprocessor controls a leveling hydraulic valve installed in-line between the tractor's hydraulics and the implement's hydraulics. The hydraulic valve adjusts the implement's depth. Hydraulic corrections are graphed on an LED control console in the cab so the operator can see what is happening.

A grower determines the depth needed by measuring the height of the implement frame above the ground and adding it to the depth of penetration needed in the soil. He then programs this depth into the device's console. When operating, the device will maintain that depth until the joystick is moved. The joystick has the programmable settings of working depth, shallow, minimum depth and maximum depth. The joystick also raises the implement.

"This is a breakthrough in depth control dealing with pull-type ag equipment," Buchl says. "It is not unusual for farmers to tell us that soybeans may go in anywhere from 3/4 to 2_1/2 in." He says that field tests have found 4-in. variations in how deep chemicals were located when spread on the field and incorporated by a field cultivator.

The Explorer may be mounted on a cultivator, disk, air seeder, soil finisher and chemical or manure applicator.

The system retails for $6,450. For more information, contact Automatic Depth Control, Dept. FIN, 3064 Valley Dr., Sioux City, IA 51104, 712/233-1341.

Variable Tillage Tool. Grower William Flenker and his two sons, Kim and Kevin, invented the Variable Tillage Tool to solve the problem of trying to adjust tillage on the go according to the residue required.

The Flenkers encountered the problem in fields with both hills and flat areas on their Long Grove, IA, farm. In some spots, they had to leave residue, but on flat areas in the same field, they did not need the residue.

Their solution is a new tool designed with a patented adjustable disc gang. It fits on the front of a tillage tool or ridge planter.

Growers can adjust the cutting angle of the discs from 0 to 38 degrees while driving through the field. Hydraulic cylinders adjust the discs. The more angled the discs, the more the soil and residue mix. Flenker says the mixing action looks like a tornado between the discs.

"With other implements, the discs always start at one place and throw the soil out," Flenker says. "These throw it into each other so the soil never moves more than 10 in. away from its original spot."

The blended soil and residue, left in ridges on the field, resemble a compost. The residue deteriorates quickly and provides a fertile seedbed for planting in the spring. Flenker says that, as a result, they are seeing increased yields in areas on their farm where the tool is used.

The Variable Tillage Tool is 18 ft. wide and weighs only 6,000 lbs., compared with the 14,000-lb. weight of conventional disks.

The Flenkers are negotiating with manufacturers to sell the implement to other growers. They anticipate that the cost will be about $20,000. For more information, contact Flenker Enterprises Inc., Dept. FIN, 29476 240th Ave., Long Grove, IA 52756, 319/225-3333.

Crops department

Wal-Mart on GM "In order to feed the growing world, we need strong food safety regulations, and we need genetically modified products, and we support both." - Kim Pernal, Wal-Mart meat division president touting the company's commitment (as the third largest food retailer in the U.S.) to American agriculture Iowa Soybean Review

Better sprayer suspension Hardi claims that its new coil-spring and shock absorber suspension for its 1,200-gal. Commander sprayer (with 110-ft. Force booms) will greatly reduce bounce and vibration.

The company says its Single Axle Suspension is a first for North American trailered sprayers. The axle features a pivoting axle fitted with two heavy-duty, vertically mounted coil springs and shock-absorbing dampers. It also has two rubber buffers to absorb extreme shocks. Three versions are available: 120-in. fixed axle ($2,800); adjustable 72- to 90-in. axle inserts ($3,100); and a dual wheel axle for 22-in. rows with a fixed track width that runs on 88 to 132 in. (comes with four rims and tires, $7,500). The company hopes to offer a retrofit system for other Commander models in the near future. Contact Hardi Inc., Dept. FIN, 1500 W. 76th St., Davenport, IA 52806, 319/386-1730.

Treat seeds in bulk Trace Chemicals introduces two new ready-to-use planter box seed treatments for soybeans.

Stiletto protects seed beans against various seed rots, decay and seedling blights. The liquid contains Vitavax, thiram and Allegience as active ingredients. (A companion product, Stiletto Moly, offers .2 oz./bu. of molybdenum.)

Protector-L/Allegience combines thiram and Allegiance with molybdenum. Use 4 oz./bu. to give contact and systemic disease protection from Pythium and other seed rots, decay and seedling blights. Contact Trace Chemicals Inc., Dept. FIN, 839 Brenkman Dr., Pekin, IL 61555-0518, 800/846-2980.

Herbicide registered The EPA registers Bronate Pro from Aventis CropScience for spring and winter wheat for control of grass and broadleaf weeds.

The product includes Puma and Bronate herbicides packaged in a twin pack that covers 20 acres/box for postemergent weed control. Contact Aventis CropScience, Dept. FIN, 2 T.W. Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, 919/ 549-2000.

A beefier orange

Small tractor leader adds new models and improves existing lineup.

A midst the sea of products at the National Farm Machinery Show, Kubota's new models, upgrades and a new optional all-weather cab stood out.

Its utility M-series, which ranges in size from 45 to 80 PTO hp, offers increased horsepower and an upgrade of the transmission to a new synchro-shuttle type that lets operators shift smoothly between gears in either direction. For heavy-duty work, Kubota's 4-wd models in this series are built with a bevel gear front wheel drive system that allows equal pulling power at all steering angles and delivers a short turning radius made easy with hydrostatic power steering. They are powered by its indirect-injection E-TVCS diesel engines designed for greater power with less noise and vibration and a cleaner emission.

Cab upgrade. For the first time, models M4900 (45 PTO hp), M5700 (52 PTO hp) and M6800 (62 PTO hp) can be ordered with an integrated all-weather cab. It features a flat deck, tilt steering, deluxe reclining seat, right-side control console, hatch-type rear window, concealed pillars and dual-level air conditioning - all designed to enhance operator comfort.

More power. Kubota's second announcement at the show was that it has added stoutness to its Grand L Ten series of 25_1/2 to 40_1/2 PTO hp tractors. The company claims its largest model in this compact range, L-4610, now offers a class-leading 2,470-lb. lift capacity. Its hydrostatic (HST) transmission delivers a top speed of 18.5 mph, or 17.9 mph with the glide-shift tranny. The HST offers three drive ranges and a feather-step hydraulic servo mechanism to reduce pressure needed on the pedal. The hydraulically shifted, mechanical glide-shift transmission offers clutch-free shift-on-the-go operation for smooth front-to-reverse directional changes using its eight forward and two reverse gears.

Powering the compact is a 4-cyl., direct-inject, liquid-cooled Kubota E-TVCS diesel engine, designed to work with Kubota's newly engineered LA852 front loader to speed operation. A high-capacity dual-hydraulic pump is standard: The main pump capacity is 9.6 gpm, and the capacity of the power steering pump increased to 4.8 gpm.

Subcompacts. If you're thinking small, somewhere between a garden and compact tractor, Kubota now offers the first and only models in a new subcompact class: an 18-hp BX 1800 and a 22-hp BX 2200. They feature a _3/8-in. ladder-type chassis with a 55.1-in. wheelbase and are powered by a 3-cyl., liquid-cooled Kubota E-TVCS diesel engine. Both models have 4-wd and a heavy-duty, two-speed hydrostatic transmission, plus a rear differential lock.

For more information, contact Kubota Tractor Corp., Dept. FIN, 3401 Del Amo Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503, 310/370-3370.

Machinery department

Progressive sidedress Easily apply 28% nitrogen with Progressive Farm Products' new 2450-series liquid sidedress unit. It features a 32-in. crop clearance, a 7- x 7-in., multifold, 40-ft. toolbar, and 15 coulters (13 on units for up to 12-row planters), and it can switch between 12 or 16 rows in a matter of minutes, according to the company. Base price: $19,000. Contact Progressive Farm Products, Dept. FIN, RR 1, Box 17, Hudson, IL 61748-9704, 309/454-1564.

New drill updates Sukup's new 2050 grain drill features a new seed meter that has an easy-adjust lever to meter a variety of seeds; a new seeding-rate quick-adjust system with easy clean-out for seed variety switching; and a 3.6-bu./ft. redesigned hopper that has a larger lid for easy filling. Price: $9,692. Contact Sukup Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 677, Sheffield, IA 50475, 515/892-4222.

New tools add precision

Upgrade your precision system for better accuracy, speed and convenience.

Whether you're a novice or a pro at precision farming, you'll find tools to fit your operation in this roundup of the latest precision product innovations.

New satellite GPS receivers

Several companies are offering new L-band differential GPS (DGPS) receivers with accuracy of less than one meter.

Some also are offering global positioning receivers that will read the signal from a new free source of differential correction called the wide area augmentation system (WAAS). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designed WAAS to improve the integrity and accuracy of the current GPS. Its performance is similar to that of other existing L-band systems with accuracy hovering around one meter. However, the FAA recently delayed introduction of the signal to improve its integrity and meet safety standards. Therefore, the signal's message format may change, and the signal may not cover all of the continental U.S.

Higher accuracy. John Deere's new StarFire position receiver features a new L-band signal network that brings new levels of GPS accuracy to GreenStar precision farming systems. It offers three signal options: WAAS (6-ft. accuracy), single DGPS frequency (30-in. accuracy) and dual DGPS frequency (10-in. accuracy). The WAAS signal is free, the single DGPS signal costs $500/year, and the dual DGPS signal costs $800/year. Deere offers a "buy two years and get the third year free" promotion for both the single- and dual-frequency subscriptions. With the StarFire receiver, you can start at a basic level, then upgrade the signal as your needs change.

The StarFire uses a 10-channel engine to track as many as two signals from 10 GPS satellites at once. Suggested retail price is $4,000. However, current GreenStar mapping system owners can exchange their C-band receiver to an L-band version of their current receiver for no charge, or they may upgrade to the StarFire receiver for $600. Deere will no longer support the current C-band receiver. For more information, contact John Deere North American, Dept. FIN, Ag. Mrktg. Center, 11145 Thompson Ave., Lenexa, KS 66219, 888/476-7827.

No cable antenna. Trimble's new AgGPS 114 DGPS Smart Antenna features a built-in receiver and an antenna in one housing for a smaller, lighter, less expensive product with simplified wiring. It eliminates the need to run an antenna cable from the top of a cab into its interior in order to receive GPS signals from satellites.

"Before this you would have to buy both the antenna and receiver individually and mount the antenna on the outside of your tractor, combine or sprayer cab and mount the receiver on the inside and connect them with a coaxial cable," explains George Huber, sales and marketing manager for Trimble. "And the receiver had to have a power and a data cable connected to another device in the cab."

This device, which weighs only 2 lbs., can be used with any precision farming device, including a yield monitor, a lightbar for vehicle guidance, and variable rate planters and applicators. The receiver receives L-band differential correction, which is a subscription service broadcast by Ominstar or Racal, to ensure position accuracy to within less than one meter. It also will be able to receive the free WAAS signal. Suggested list price is $3,000. Contact Trimble Navigation Ltd., Dept. FIN, 9290 Bond, Suite 102, Overland Park, KS 66214, 800/865-7438.

Combination receiver. AGCO is offering a Beacon/ WAAS combination receiver and antenna built by Northstar for its Fieldstar precision farming system. With a flip of a switch, the 12-channel GPS receiver can switch from the Coast Guard's Beacon signal to the WAAS-only signal. In the Beacon mode, the WAAS signal is used as a backup. AGCO also offers sub-meter accuracy with a new DGPS Beacon-only free service from CSI and L-band DGPS (global) satellite sub-meter correction service from Racal, which requires a $500/year subscription fee after the first year. Suggested retail prices start at $2,720, with the new Beacon/WAAS combination DGPS at $3,540. For more information, contact AGCO Corp., Dept. FIN, 4205 River Green Pkwy., Duluth, GA 30096, 816/452-4813.

WAAS ready. Every domestic Satloc SLXg and SLX300 receiver that is in the field can be WAAS ready with a simple firmware update. Satloc's new SLX300 receiver has the capability to use WAAS, Beacon (300 Hz) and/or OmniStar L-band technologies. Suggested list price: $4,000. For more information, contact Satloc Inc., Dept. FIN, 15990 N. Green Way Hayden Loop, Suite 800, Scottsdate, AZ 85260, 480/348-9919.

Vision System

In January 1999, Wag Corporation purchased the Vision System from Rockwell. The system is a crop reporting and analysis tool that combines GPS with the record keeping and database management of geoprocessing software.

WAG has expanded the architecture of the Vision System to make it compatible with most all GIS software systems. The company now has agreements to interface its technology with Agvance Mapping, AGIS, View-Point, Farm Trac, Farm Site, Site Pro Mapping, FarmYes, FarmHMS, FarmGPS, and SST software and expects to announce additional agreements with other software suppliers. The new 6.02a version software for the Vision computer display (VCD) includes enhanced data management functions for soil sampling, field application, harvest, mapping and navigation.

With Wag's new "rent to own" program, growers, ag retailers and custom applicators can rent a VCD for $1,300 for six months of continuous service. Customers who elect to buy the display at the end of the agreement can have 80% of the rental charge applied toward a special purchase price of $4,200.

The limited-time offer also includes a six-month rental of a Beacon receiver for $400, with 80% of the rental charge applied toward a special purchase price of $1,300. Wag also offers a six-month rental of a C-band receiver for $700. These offers are available while supplies last.

The company also offers a new L-band receiver, engineered for upgrade to the WAAS signal, for use with its Vision System package. The WagStar DGPS, 12-channel receiver simultaneously provides 1 and 10 Hz signals, permitting the use of variable rate in application, or planting, and a guidance system at the same time. It requires just one cable to the control pad.

Jim Denton, Wag president, says the company's precision farming systems are designed to allow users to add functions and technology as needed. "You can start out with the WagStar receiver, then add the CPM control for data recording without guidance," he says. "Or you can expand that by adding the approach lightbar, or expand beyond that with the Vision System to add soil sampling, yield monitoring, or variable rate input for seeding or fertilizer or chemical applications."

Price of the Vision System with the WagStar receiver is $11,200. Price of the WagStar receiver alone starts at $3,000. For more information, contact Wag Corp., Dept. FIN, 386 Hwy. W., Tupelo, MS 38801, 662/844-8478.

Remote display and logger

Now you can program and control any of Trimble's DGPS receivers and lightbar guidance systems remotely with the touch of a keypad with the new AgGPS 70 remote display and logger. The device, about twice the size of a handheld calculator, is mounted in the cab and can display up to two lines of text or 16 characters.

The remote display and logger also can be used to log where you have driven in the field or applied chemicals, fertilizer or seed varieties. "Farmers are getting more and more questions nowadays about when they applied chemicals and where," Trimble's Huber says. "This gives them a record of what has been done in the field."

The information is stored on a compact flash card, the same thing used in digital cameras, that the user can take back to the office and enter into a software package.

Suggested list price is $1,500 or $3,000 when sold with Trimble's new AgGPS PSO Plus (see below). For more information, contact Trimble Navigation.

Lightbar guidance

Staying on target. Trimble's AgGPS PSO (parallel swathing option) Plus combines Trimble's AgGPS 21 lightbar guidance system with its remote display and logger to allow you to set swath patterns, swath width, start point and end points for your vehicle to follow during the application of chemicals, thereby eliminating the need for foam markers.

Steering is guided by a lightbar, which consists of a row of lights that show how much to turn the steering wheel to the right or left in order to stay on your assigned path. It works with Trimble's AgGPS 114 DGPS to provide accuracy to less than one meter. "Our customers report that when they are driving down a line in the field and using these receivers for guidance, they are within 6 to 12 in. of the true line that they want to go," Huber says.

Lightbar guidance offers advantages over foam markers, according to Huber. First, it allows you to operate in low-visibility conditions. Second, it allows you to apply products 10 to 20% faster because you do not have to turn your head to watch whether you are following the line of foam extending 30 to 60 ft. from your cab and you do not have to stop and refill foamers.

Third, operators report getting up to 5% more coverage out of every tank of product applied because they have more confidence in the accuracy and do not feel the need to overlap the swaths to ensure adequate coverage, Huber says.

Suggested list price is $3,000, which includes lightbar, data display and logger, cables, sound alerts and software. For more information, contact Trimble Navigation.

Lighting the way. Wag's new Vision 2000 GPS guidance system provides accurate, dependable guidance for every precision agriculture application. Designed to accommodate multiple rigs in the field, the Vision 2000 allows you to continuously log field operations 10 times/sec. and create maps with the Wag Trac Map desktop software, which is included with the guidance system.

Wag's approach lightbar features six rows of LED lights, a choice of six guidance configurations and 16 brightness levels, and a choice of parallel, skip parallel, tandem parallel and continue patterns. The lightbar is designed to be mounted outside the tractor cab to improve peripheral vision and enhance safety of operation.

All Vision 2000 components, including the approach lightbar, are combined in three compact, durable components. Suggested retail price is $13,000 (a $3,000 cash discount from this price is available for a limited time).

Also available is the Vision G2000, which offers parallel pattern, two-job memory, and two latitude/longitude points. The Vision G2000 is fully upgradable. Suggested retail price is $8,000 (a $1,500 cash discount from this price is available for a limited time). For more information, contact Wag Corp.

Low-cost guidance. Satloc offers a new low-cost guidance system called LiteStar for both straight-line and countrour swathing guidance. Cost of the lightbar guidance alone is $2,000. The full LiteStar system with a GPS receiver retails for $4,500. Contact Satloc.

Tractor autopilot

For operators who want to take their hands completely off the steering wheel, Trimble introduces the AgGPS Autopilot for farm tractors. "The whole idea behind Autopilot is not necessarily to take the operator out of the vehicle," Huber says. "The idea is more like cruise control on your car. Except this is cruise control that keeps you driving on a straight, predefined path."

The device allows you to attend to jobs other than driving, such as monitoring implement or engine functions. And it permits you to operate the tractor 24 hours a day to make the best use of your capital investment.

Autopilot receives its primary location signal from up to eight GPS satellites simultaneously and its differential correction from a base station established on the farm. The signals are converted into real-time kinematic (RTK) position that is accurate to one centimeter horizontally and one centimeter vertically as the tractor is driving down the field. The signals feed into a controller that drives the vehicle by tapping into the tractor's steering system.

It is designed to work on leading makes and models of tractors. The company will begin marketing the product this fall. Price will be announced later this year. For more information on these products, contact Trimble Navigation.

Internet access

Data management. MPower3 now offers an entry-level, Internet-accessed data management service for storing precision farming data for manipulation and retrieval. Called nForm, the package allows growers and their input and service providers to enter and retrieve data offline. An nForm subscription provides database access through a confidential, password-protected Internet location within the mPower3 Web system. Subscribers can get reports on various aspects of each field's inputs, productivity and management. With the assistance of the dealer or mPower3 specialist, subscribers can query the database about numerous variables to help in field management decision making. Sale of nForm is based on a 12-month enrollment. Cost is $50/month. A weather data package, called nAble, also is available from mPower3 for $50/month. For more information, contact mPower3, United Agri Products, Dept. FIN, Box 1286, Greeley, CO 80632-1286, 877/676-9373.

High-speed service. San Diego-based Tachyon and Colorado-based mPower3 have joined together to market Tachyon's high-speed, two-way, satellite-delivered Internet access. Tachyon.net with mPower3 integrated agricultural data systems will provide a global agricultural Extranet capable of linking growers, suppliers and markets.

This alliance will offer broadband Internet, Intranet and Extranet access to rural areas where high-speed traditional landlines and cable modems often are not available or cannot support needed service levels. With a price tag of about $1,000/month, this service is geared for businesses with multiple users at one site.

For more information, contact mPower3 at the address given above or contact Tahyon.net, Dept. FIN, 5808 Pacific Center Blvd., San Diego, CA 92121-4204, 858/882-8100.

For a comprehensive look at the current and future products of precision farming, watch for a special section in our upcoming July/August issue.

Biotech education

Biotech companies unite to promote the safety of their new crops.

In an effort to combat misinformation and help ensure that genetically engineered crops get a fair hearing in public debate, a newly formed Council for Biotechnology Information just kicked off a three- to five-year public information program in the U.S. and Canada.

A pledge of $50 million from the council's seven founding members is funding a communications program that includes grassroots local programs, a Web site, a toll-free information line, brochures, and national television, magazine and newspaper advertising. Aventis CropScience (formerly AgrEvo and Rhone-Poulenc), BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont, Monsanto, Novartis, Zeneca Ag Products and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) formed this coalition to provide information - based on scientific research, expert opinion and published reports - to the public about the potential benefits of the technology.

Timely or late? "Clearly, our industry should have reacted before this, but we're out of the starting blocks now with this effort," says Dan Eramian, council spokesperson from BIO. "We must overcome the misinformation being spread, and share the potential this technology holds with the public."

Jeff Bergau, Monsanto spokesperson, thinks that this effort is timely. "There is a very low awareness of biotechnology among consumers," he says. "We've seen that consumers are more likely to support biotechnology if they have more information about it. And the goal of these efforts by the council will help consumers educate themselves."

Several core beliefs drive the council's biotechnology information initiative. The council believes that biotechnology is safe because it is extensively researched and reviewed and is subject to rigorous government regulation. Biotechnology products are tested more thoroughly than conventional crops before they ever come to market. The council believes that all foods, including those derived through genetic modification, should continue to be subject to a rigorous government regulatory process that evaluates the safety of the products to the consumer and the environment. This process should be based on responsible science that meets state-of-the-art scientific standards. The council believes that biotechnology can deliver significant benefits for consumers who seek better-quality, better-tasting and more nutritious foods; for farmers who want more efficient methods to grow crops with less impact on the environment; and for developing countries seeking ways to help feed a growing population.

Supporting the technology. BIO's Eramian says that while some aspects of the program are still being formulated, many key elements are already in place. Television advertising, designed to raise awareness about biotechnology and direct people to sources for more information, began in early April. Print advertising will follow in the coming months. The council's Web site features facts and information about biotechnology, including data from a variety of sources, a discussion of benefits, links to other academic, government and scientific organization sites, and third-party opinions and referrals. Other information coming to the Web site includes safety data on commercial biotech products, white papers and a sponsorship of a university-managed Web site containing scientific data. Consumers also can call a toll-free phone number at the council to obtain a free brochure entitled Good Ideas Are Growing.

The council also plans to implement an outreach program in the near future to establish a dialogue with the food industry, health professionals, academia, scientists and other interested parties.

"We want growers to know we're working diligently to give people information on biotechnology and share with them how important this technology is to farmers," Bergau says. "When we tell consumers that some crops from biotechnology can reduce the amount of pesticides applied, they understand the benefit immediately."

For more information, contact the Council for Biotechnology Information at 800/980-8660.

Feed industry effort. The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) also has a plan to provide biotechnology information to consumers. It has compiled a new Food Safety Leadership Plan to convey its positions on food safety issues related to the feed industry. Included in the packet is a four-part biotechnology question-and-answer series about present and future benefits of biotechnology, regulatory requirements, and food safety and labeling concerns; speeches about biotechnology and feed industry issues; quotes and opinions; and a white paper on food biotechnology.

The packet is being distributed to association member companies, ag organizations, key legislators and the general public on request. For more information, call AFIA at 703/524-0810.

Tips to keep hydraulics in shape

A pro offers tips to help you maintain your hydraulic system to prolong equipment life.

It's imperative that you keep your hydraulic lubrication system clean and properly maintained, says Harold Tucker, lubricants technical director and our source from Phillips 66. The cost of equipment, repairs and your downtime demand this.

"Modern-day systems experience increased pressures, speeds and temperatures," Tucker says. "A lot of times, the only time the fluid gets changed is during repairs."

Brake squeal or chatter could indicate that your hydraulic fluid's frictional properties have depleted. If brakes squeak, don't assume the brake discs must be replaced; try changing the hydraulic fluid first.

Hydraulic fluids are amber to dark amber in hue. If the hydraulic fluid mirrors used diesel engine oil or is milky in color (water contamination), change it. Thick fluid can mean the oil is old; thin fluid means it could be contaminated with another fluid. In either case, change the fluid.

Use an oil analysis program to evaluate fluid for quality and cleanliness. An evaluation will alert you to potential problems, and documentation showing proper fluid maintenance will help at resale. Analysis kits are around $15.

Minimize contamination by keeping hydraulic hoses off the ground (use a rack to hold them) and keep caps or plugs on connection points when equipment is not in use. Dirt is the number one cause of bearing failure. One grain of sand can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

If you share hydraulic equipment with a neighbor, know what product he uses. If it's vegetable based and you are using a mineral-based fluid, you may not want to swap equipment: The lubricants are not compatible.

Disease defense, naturally

Product uses protein to heighten plant's own protection system to control disease and pests.

A quiet discovery eight years ago in a Cornell University lab of a new type of natural plant protection has led to the development of a product called Messenger.

The new product promises broad- spectrum control of viral, bacterial and fungal disease as well as reduced insect damage. In addition, field trials with Messenger show increased yield, stress tolerance and plant vigor in many crops tested.

Messenger relies on the Cornell discovery of a protein, produced by bacteria commonly found in the environment, that causes a plant to launch a defense against disease. In response to the protein, the plant's natural defense mechanisms and growth systems kick in.

A research team headed by Zhong-Min Wei isolated the protein and named it harpin. They discovered that spraying the harpin protein on plants initiates their self-protection against pathogen attacks.

Eden Bioscience began research, development and testing of the protein. The company hopes to market Messenger for citrus, cotton and tomato, pending EPA approval. The product is not genetically modified and is considered safe because harpin is a naturally occurring protein.

The company says Messenger will be available in powder form. When mixed with water, only 1 tsp. of the product will be needed to treat one acre. It also may be used as a seed treatment on some crops.

The company plans to conduct field trials in corn and soybeans this summer, with tentative plans to release a product for those crops within two years.

For more information, contact Eden Bioscience, Dept. FIN, 11816 North Creek Pkwy. N., Bothell, WA 98011-8205, 425/806-7300.

Cornering GPS

Prototypes of GPS-guided irrigators are achieving pinpoint accuracy.

Dreamers in the center pivot irrigation business are forever trying to design a fully automated rig. Manufacturers and researchers in the industry have been after full automation as if it were the Holy Grail.

You may remember seedigation, which really didn't catch on, and chemigation and fertigation, which did. Then there was automated watering based on "communication" between ground moisture sensors or leaf monitors and computer-driven center pivot systems.

So it comes as no surprise that manufacturers and researchers alike have their eye on GPS technology.

Prototype stage. In 1995 Dale Heermann and fellow researchers with the USDA-ARS in Fort Collins, CO, found that GPS receivers mounted at the pivot tower could provide position accuracy comparable to that of buried wire. This paves the path toward identifying exact field position with computerized mapping technology that, in turn, can vary the rate of application - on a per-nozzle basis - of water, chemicals and nutrients to plants in specific parts of the field.

"It's just a matter of time," says Charles Meis, vice president of engineering for Lindsay Manufacturing. His company has a prototype GPS guidance system for selected Zimmatic irrigation units that will provide circle-like accuracy and convenience on corner systems and lateral move systems.

"We had a prototype out last year, and this year we are going into the field with 10 more. We plan to have a product we can retrofit on our more recent machines," Meis says. He hopes to be at that point within two years.

Al Sawtelle, project manager for Valmont Industries, says his company also is in the hunt for GPS cornering systems. "We're far enough along that we would feel safe putting them into the marketplace," he says. "The technology is extremely accurate - within 4 to 6 in. of ground zero. However, it is unlikely that it will be cost-effective in the near future, not with $2 corn. Unless we can provide a product that can either add value or create enough savings for a payback, it doesn't pay to introduce GPS technology to the market."

Four-inch accuracy. At Lindsay, Meis says GPS offers just the accuracy and automation potential the company was looking for. However, he is bothered by one hang-up that occurs when the corner unit is turned on. There is about a 20-min. delay as the computer looks for the constellation of satellites and starts processing data. "I don't know if farmers have that kind of patience. This summer we would like to get that time down. That may not be possible," Meis admits.

He says Lindsay recruited a company to bring in the GPS technology with the understanding that the contract would be fulfilled only if the corner system was accurate to within 8 in. "We ran the system 20 hrs., back and forth over 1,500 ft., and it was within 4 in. They got their check," he says.

Saving input dollars. The corner systems may provide the same precision farming possibilities as field mapping and apply water and chemigation as accurately as the main system. They also may offer the guidance of steerable corner arms that can cover up to 14% more acres. Meis sees a good economic fit for GPS guidance initially in applications where farmers are using buried guidance systems and in the rocky terrain where such guidance systems cannot be buried. "Gophers can't eat a GPS," he quips.

The big payback will come, however, when the technology will help drive input savings.

"The time is coming for this kind of technology," Meis declares. "As farms become larger with fewer operators, we'll see even more dependence on this sort of automation, but now with GPS we'll add the accuracy."

"Accuracy is the key," Meis continues. "Those fertilizer and custom applicators can cross a field at 20 mph and be within 40 ft. and be okay. I've got to do the same within a foot. And with this prototype, I can get to within 4 in. You tie that down with our systems that allow our growers to preprogram their irrigation programs and to remotely control and operate multiple systems, and it all comes together," he says.

For more information, contact Lindsay Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 156, Lindsay, NE 68644, 800/829-5300 or circle 205; or Valmont Industries, Dept. FIN, Box 358, Valley, NE 68064, 800/825-6668.