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Articles from 2017 In June

7AgStoriesNEW051517-1540x800 NolanBerg11/flySnow/SteveOehlenschlager/ThinkstockPhotos

7 ag stories you might have missed this week - June 30, 2017

Here are 7 agricultural stories you might have missed this week.

1. Farmers shifted acres to soybeans from corn and wheat, according to USDA's planting data released June 30, 2017. Planted soybean acreage is up 7% from last year. – Farm Futures

2. Bacterial leaf streak disease has been confirmed on corn from south central Nebraska. The corn plants were at the V4 growth stage. It's the earliest that the disease has been confirmed in a field. – Nebraska Farmer 

3. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad are celebrating the reintroduction of U.S. beef into the Chinese market. Activities included a ceremonial slicing of prime rib and a grocery store visit. – Farm Futures

4. The $300 million Seaboard Triumph Foods pork processing plant being built at Sioux City, Iowa, will open in September. The facility is set to process about 10,000 hogs per day and expand to 21,000 hogs per day next year. One third of the hogs processed at the plant will be purchased from farmers who don't have contracts with Seaboard or Triumph. – Wallaces Farmer 

5. H5N8 bird flu has been confirmed on at least two farms in South Africa, leading to other African nations banning the import of poultry from the country. – Reuters 

6. Monsanto Company announced third quarter earnings on June 28, 2017. Results were led by momentum in soybean technologies. Net sales were $4.23 billion, compared to $4.19 billion for same quarter a year earlier. – Farm Futures

7. Archer Daniels Midland Company is building a new flour mill in Mendota, Ill. The facility will have a daily milling capacity of 30,000 hundredweights and the ability to grind soft and hard wheat varieties. It is set to begin operations in mid-2019. – Prairie Farmer

And your bonus:

A group of elite scientists will hold a yearlong brainstorming session to study the question of how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Dubbed Science Breakthroughs 2030, the committee will meet five times this year. – The Washington Post

Row of round cotton modules shows production of Arkansas field
Dozens of round modules grace the edge of a cotton field near Portland, Ark., in 2016.

U.S. 2017 cotton acreage highest since 2012

U.S. cotton farmers appear to have planted 12.1 million acres of cotton in 2017, 20 percent more than in 2016 and the highest acreage since 2012, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The increase is not quite as high as USDA-NASS was forecasting in its March Planting Intentions Report when it placed 2017 U.S. cotton plantings at 12.2 million acres. A cool, wet spring in the Mid-South may have limited the increase.

In other highlights of the June Acreage Report, USDA-NASS estimated a record high 89.5 million acres of soybeans planted in the U.S. for 2017, based on its surveys of growers across the soybean-planting regions. More attractive soybean prices at harvest apparently led growers to switch out of corn and into soybeans.

USDA-NASS said producers planted 94 percent of the soybean acreage to herbicide-resistant seed varieties, meaning the GMO-planted soybean acreage was basically unchanged from 2016.

Much of the increase in soybeans came from corn acres, which USDA estimates are down 3 percent from 2016 to 90.9 million acres. Compared with last year, planted acres are down or unchanged in 38 of the 48 estimating states.

Some analysts had been speculating that soybean acres might exceed those of corn in the U.S. for the first time.

Growers surveyed by USDA-NASS said they had either planted or intended to seed 2.56 million acres of rice, an 18.6-percent decline from 2016. Low rice prices in relation to other crops and flooding in north Central Arkansas each contributed to the decline. To read more about rice, visit

Today’s Acreage and Grain Stocks reports and all other NASS reports are available online at

Yellow, white lines on golden market background. maciek905/Thinkstock

Soybean and wheat prices speed higher after USDA reports

Soybeans and wheat futures posted sharp gains after USDA said farmers planted fewer acres of those two crops than what traders had expected.

Corn acreage of 90.9 million was on the high side of trade forecasts, but those futures rose in unison with the soybeans and wheat.

Listen to the report using the audio link on this page.


Farm Futures Senior Editor Bob Burgdorfer comes to Penton Farm Progress with experience as a reporter covering grain markets and other global news with Reuters, Inc. A journalism graduate from Kansas State University, Bob has also worked at daily newspapers and Knight-Ridder as a commodity reporter, covering grains and livestock. He has earned five writing awards for his coverage of Mad Cow Disease, immigration issues and other international breaking news stories.

For more corn, wheat and soy news, commodity marketing recommendations and daily commodity charts, subscribe to Farm Futures' free e-newsletter, Farm Futures Daily, and keep up during the day with Farm Futures on Twitter.

ISU nitrogen water week400 Lynn Betts
Iowa State researchers Benning tested nitrate levels at this site with nine bioreactors; multiple experiments are ongoing on each one.

Tile water nitrate testing

Think Different.

The recommendations Iowa State University makes on water quality practices for Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy are based on monitoring and research going back as far as the 1970’s that continues to this day. It’s expensive, but essential in verifying practice performance and informing both farmers and the public.



In a series of half-day programs at five ISU water quality sites the last week of June, called Nitrogen and Water Week, Extension specialists explained what’s involved in setting up research and water quality monitoring programs, then followed up with research results.

Lynn Betts

At the ISU nitrogen and water week workshop near Boone, Iowa, farmers and ag business reps viewed ISU water quality research equipment, including the first site to ever be monitored for water quality in the 1970s.

“We have 172 plots in all, and take about 4,000 water samples a year from them,” ISU Agricultural Engineering Specialist Dr. Matt Helmers told a group of farmers and agribusiness reps at the ISU Ag Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm near Boone. He said ISU has more than a $500,000 investment in drainage water quality monitoring infrastructure and monitoring equipment, the first of which was installed more than 40 years ago.

“Our goal is to help farmers manage nitrogen and other nutrients for improved profitability and improved water quality,” said Jamie Benning, ISU Water Quality Program Manager. That includes helping meet Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy goal of a 41 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loading in streams and rivers.

Lynn Betts

Mark Johnson reviewed research results on water quality monitoring plots, encouraging farmers to use research to play the odds on nitrogen rates. He said using yield goals to plan N application rates is no more than a wild guess.

ISU monitors the concentration of nitrate-nitrogen, or nitrate N, in tile drainage water, measured in milligrams per liter, explained Dr. Kapil Arora. Researchers also measure total nitrogen load, or nitrogen loss exiting tile drainage lines, in pounds per acre, as well as the volume of water leaving tile, in cubic feet.

In-line flow meters, area velocity meters, passive sampling, and sump pumps are all part of the monitoring equipment being used. The equipment is not inexpensive—setup cost for 32 plots of pumped monitoring recently was $150,000, the area velocity meters used in some cases are about $2,500 per sensor, and auto samplers are about $3,500 each. But the equipment is essential to verify and inform both farmers and consumers how well water quality practices are working.

Lynn Betts

The quick check of one bioreactor with N test strips showed nitrate levels in tile above a bioreactor at 15 mg/L, and nitrate-N levels after bioreactor treatment at 7 mg/L.


Cover crops, edge-of-field are best

The research has been key to choosing which practices are most effective economically and environmentally. “There’s a lot of emphasis on how much nitrogen to apply, when to apply it, which form to use, and that kind of thing,” said ISU field agronomist Mark Johnson. “But those in-field N management practices don’t give big numbers in reduction of nitrates leaving the farm. Rates, timing and source of N provide only 4 to 10% reduction of nitrate-N in water for the most part. The big numbers come with cover crops, living mulches and edge of field practices like wetlands, drainage water management, bioreactors and saturated buffers.”

Johnson said a 10% reduction of nitrates in water could come about if the farmers who over-apply would use ISU’s corn nitrogen rate calculator to reduce rates to maximum return to N rates (MRTN), and not base N rates on expected yield. He also said use of nitrapyrin (Instinct, N-Serve) in the spring shows no yield or water quality benefit. Rye cover crops have the biggest impact in reducing in-field nitrate-N loss to water, he said. “My biggest disappointment is the low adoption rate for cover crops,” Johnson said. He also noted the huge benefits that can come from putting 10% of a field into prairie strips.


Key findings from 21 years of research

ISU has focused research on the effects of nitrogen management on crop production and tile drainage water quality near Gilmore City in north-central Iowa since 1989. Takeaways offered by ISU from that research include:

·         When N-fertilizer is applied at economic N-rates, the average concentration of nitrate-N in tile drainage ranged from 12 to 16 mg/L, slightly above the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L).

Courtesy Iowa State University

Rye cover crops reduced nitrate-N concentrations in both corn and soybeans by more than a third.


·         When similar N-application rates to corn are used in 1) a corn-soybean rotation and 2) a continuous corn rotation, similar nitrate-N concentrations are observed in the tile drainage. When an additional 50 lbs N/acre are applied to continuous corn, however, nitrate-N concentrations are about 25 percent greater than the corn-soybean system.

·         A fertilization rate of 120-160 lb-N/acre for a corn-soybean rotation allowed the corn to reach its yield potential.

·         Over the long-term, approximately 10 inches of the annual 30 inches of precipitation exited through tile drains. This resulted in an average nitrate-N loss of about 36 lb/acre through the drainage system with a 150-160 lb/acre N-fertilization rate to corn in a corn-soybean rotation. Due to weather conditions, the annual N-loss varied from 0.9 lb/acre to 94 lb/acre.

Courtesy Iowa State University

A consistent 150-160 lb N/acre fertilization rate at Gilmore City produced a wide variation in nitrate-N concentrations over 26 years (blue line) because of weather conditions, including a spike in 2013 after N remained in the soil from a dry 2012.



·         In a corn–soybean rotation with no N fertilizer applied, there was still a 15-20 lb N/acre loss through tile drains at nitrate-N concentrations of 6-8 mg/L.

·         In general, concentration of nitrate in the tile drainage was similar for the corn and soybean phases of the corn-soybean rotation.

·         The nitrate concentration in tile drainage from treatments fertilized with liquid swine manure was similar to those treated with equal amounts of commercial fertilizer. Generally, yields were improved using swine manure.

·         During the nine years that timing of fertilizer application was studied, there was little difference in the concentration or loss of nitrate between spring- and fall-applied N fertilizers.

·         Use of a cover crop has the potential to reduce nitrate-N concentration in drainage water.

·         Perennial land use (orchard grass and clover mix) has the potential to dramatically reduce nitrate-N concentrations in drainage water.

·         Overall, long-term research has shown that nitrate-N concentrations generally exceeded 10 mg/L under a corn–soybean rotation when fertilized at common rates; even when no fertilizer is applied, there is loss of nitrate. Based on these studies, high nitrate-N levels are less about mismanagement of N-fertilizer and more a result of the land use and cropping practices.

Courtesy Iowa State University

Cover crops (green line) cut nitrate-N concentrations in continuous corn, but planting prairie dramatically cut N concentrations, whether fertilized or not. ISU says that indicates the potential of prairie strips as a nitrate removal practice.



USDA shocks markets with low soybean, wheat acres

Farmers shifted acres to soybeans from corn and wheat according to the planting data released Friday by USDA, but soybean prices surged in Chicago markets as the total area for that crop was less than what many in the trade expected.

Wheat futures also rose as USDA’s wheat acreage was shy of trade forecasts, with the spring wheat acreage under all forecasts in a Reuters’ survey.

Also on Friday was USDA quarterly grain stocks, which were up from a year ago for all three crops, as expected, but the soybean supply of 963 million as of June 1 was under average forecasts. Corn and wheat stocks of 5.23 billion and 1.18 billion, respectively, were on the high side of trade estimates.

“Today’s reports continue the recent history of surprises at the end of June,” said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst. “Soybeans got a boost on both acreage and stocks, but not enough to tighten the balance sheet if yields hold up. So far, the crop is looking in pretty good shape but July and August weather will be crucial.”

USDA said farmers planted 89.5 million acres of soybeans, while traders in the Reuters poll on average expected 89.75 million and Farm Futures expected 90.10 million. A year ago, they planted 83.433 million.

The corn acreage of nearly 90.9 million was on the high side of trade forecasts and above the March estimate of 89.996 million. A year ago, farmers planted 94 million.

All-wheat acreage of 45.66 million was shy of nearly all trade forecasts including Farm Futures’ 46.15 million, with a larger-than-expected reduction in spring wheat. Spring wheat acreage of 10.9 million, compared with the 11.2 million average forecast and the 11.31 million USDA had in March. A year ago, farmers planted 11.6 million.

“USDA’s corn numbers were bearish on both acreage and stocks, suggesting lower than anticipated feed usage this spring,” said Knorr. “The combination could add 300 million bushels or more to supplies in the coming year, increasing the burden for weather as the only card left for bulls. Basis will weaken on any rallies now as growers get more desperate about liquidating inventory, especially if pollination goes well.”

In midday trading, CBOT soybean futures were trading nearly 30 cents higher for the day, winter wheat was up about 27 cents while Minneapolis spring wheat was up 35 to 43 cents. Corn futures were about 7 cents higher for the day.


Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


The news from the cities of our region hasn't been good when it comes to crime. To assume that all of Heartland has rampant growing crime problem would be a mistake. Statewide in Minnesota, crime is down. 23% fewer murders in all of 2016. Crimes per 100,000 is about the same as it was in 1966. 

These June crop acreage reports most always bring significant reaction in market. 

The storage units, sometimes thieves prey on those. In Indiana, police say they have apprehended man and woman who went around taking stuff from storage units.

helathy soil c0002-1 Photos by Tiona Kimble

Healthy soil absorbs huge rains, halts erosion

Kudos to the central Illinois family farm of Kirk and Tiona Kimble for capturing cool images of a four-inch rain event in late April – showing the differences between a field of cover crops and a conventional-tilled field.

Their comment when they sent me the photos: “We believe it’s a pretty good testament to the benefits of covers for erosion control! And it seems like we continue to face these huge rain events every spring, so we’re happy we adopted covers to build our soils and keep it in the fields.”

Some history:

  • The Kimble’s, who farm 2,100 acres from their base in Chillicothe, Illinois, began experimenting with cover crops seven years ago. Almost every acre over the past three years has been seeded to cover crops.
  • They don’t have any tillage equipment on the farm, and planting gets easier every year.

Now, we’ll let Tiona’s photos speak a thousand words…



Photos by Tiona Kimble

This soon-to-be soybean field is shown on April 30th, 2017, after a huge 4-inch rain event. A nice cover crop of cereal rye, seeded last October – holding all soil and water in the field.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

This conventional-tilled field, adjacent to Kimble’s field of cereal rye cover crop, shows extreme erosion – soil and water running into the ditch along the road.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

Same conventional-tilled field, with no grass waterway, shows a river of erosion flowing into the ditch, filling a culvert.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

Back to cover crop field, with a grass waterway, that shows a small amount of water standing in the waterway.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

A look down the 70 lb./acre, 15-inch drilled rows of healthy cover crop – just waiting to be sprayed and soybeans planted into it. Kimble said after 2 more inches of rain a week later, along with cold temperatures, forced him to spray only a day before planting and seed into the cover crop mat, which worked better than he expected.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

Not only is this erosion bad for water quality, the soil loss costs farmers current and future bushel loss across an entire field.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

These erosion channels move water and soil particles even faster during these more frequent huge rainfall events each spring.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

Kimble said he found this Mallard nest full of eggs as the cover crop was dying back. Yet another environmental bonus for this cereal rye.


Photos by Tiona Kimble

Kirk Kimble exhibits other cover crops during his Soil Health Partnership field day, working with NCGA to help educate other area farmers on the values of soil health



Beijing-beef-carving1540x800.jpg U.S. Meat Export Federation
NCBA President Craig Uden, left, Secretary Sonny Perdue and Luan Richeng, vice president of COFCO Group, carve U.S. prime rib at a ceremony in China marking the reintroduction of U.S. beef in China.

U.S. officials celebrate reintroduction of U.S. beef in China

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad today formally marked the reintroduction of American beef products to China by slicing Nebraska prime rib in a Beijing ceremony. 

The first shipment of U.S. beef arrived in China on June 19, 2017, after a 13-year hiatus.

Related: Perdue traveling to China to celebrate reintroduction of U.S. beef

“Beef is a big deal in China and I'm convinced that when the Chinese people get a taste of U.S. beef, they're going to want more of it," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. "This is also a good harbinger of the kind of relationship that can be developed. We hope there are other things we can cooperate on and we're going to use U.S. beef as the forerunner.”

Branstad, who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China on May 22, said the return of U.S. beef to China is an important step forward in expanding U.S. agricultural exports.

“This is an exciting day – we’ve been waiting nearly 14 years for this,” Branstad said. “I want to express my excitement that one of my first official duties as ambassador from the United States to the People’s Republic of China is to be here with my friend, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, to welcome American beef back to China. I want to reiterate our commitment to expanding trade and increasing American exports, and we believe beef is a great beginning for this process.” 

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden, a cattle feeder and rancher from Elwood, Nebraska, echoed these sentiments, noting the excellent potential China holds for U.S. beef exports. 

“This is a great day for U.S. beef producers, and we look forward to supplying U.S. beef to many Chinese consumers in the years to come," Uden said.

President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, officials with the U.S. Trade Representative, and Secretary Perdue announced the deal brokered with China to allow the return of U.S. beef to China in May. China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and in 2016 was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of more than $5.4 billion. 

Earlier in June, USDA announced the final details of a protocol to allow American companies to begin shipping beef exports to China. To date, producers and processors in Nebraska and Kansas are eligible to ship beef products to China, having followed the requirements set forth in the USDA Export Verification Program and according to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service export requirements. USDA maintains a public list of companies that are eligible, and will continue to update it as more companies complete the export documentation requirements.

Also on Friday, Perdue held a series of meetings with Chinese government officials, including Vice Premier Wang Yang and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu, to discuss expanding trade between the United States and China.

Following Friday’s events in Beijing, Perdue planned to travel Saturday to Shanghai where he will tour a major Chinese supermarket where other American products are offered. 

Perdue will be joined by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service representatives, Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, USMEF staff and U.S. beef exporters. The group will distribute samples of U.S. steak cuts and chuck eye roll to City Super customers and speak to the unique attributes of U.S. beef. Funding support for this event was also provided by the Nebraska Beef Council.

“It has been a long road back for U.S. beef in China, and USMEF is extremely pleased to see such great enthusiasm for its return,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. “Buyer interest is very strong, and we are excited about the opportunity to work with U.S. exporters and future customers in China to build a solid foundation for U.S. beef in this dynamic market.”

Source: USDA, U.S. Meat Export Federation


Keep stored grain cool, dry during summer

Stored grain needs to be cool and dry during summer storage, a North Dakota State University Extension Service grain-drying expert says.

"Cold or cool grain has been safely stored through the summer for many years," notes Ken Hellevang, an Extension agricultural engineer. "Keeping the grain as cool as possible should be the goal of summer grain storage."

Allowing grain to warm to average outdoor air temperatures during the summer can lead to insect infestations and mold growth. The optimum grain temperature for insect activity is approximately 70 to 90 degrees. Reducing grain temperatures below 70 degrees will lessen insect reproduction and activity, and temperatures below 60 degrees will reduce insect activity greatly.

Aeration fans should be covered to prevent wind and a natural chimney effect from warming the grain. Wind blowing into uncovered fans or ducts will move air through the grain in a way that is similar to operating an aeration fan.

Hellevang warns that using aeration to warm the grain increases its moisture content by up to 1 percentage point.


Good Bin Roof Ventilation Important

One challenge to keeping the grain cool during the summer is that solar energy on the bin roof heats the air above the grain. Convection currents in the grain flow up along the bin wall and down into the grain near the top middle of the bin, drawing this heated air into the grain. Ventilating the space between the grain and the bin roof can reduce the amount that the grain near the top of the bin is warmed.

Natural ventilation to cool this space can occur if the bin has openings near the eave and peak; these openings work like the vents in a building's attic. The heated air rises and exits near the peak, drawing in cooler air near the eave.

This natural ventilation will not occur unless the bin has adequate openings at the eave and peak. Roof exhaust fans controlled by a thermostat also can draw the heated air out of the bin if openings are available to allow air into the area above the grain.

 When to Use Aeration

Hellevang recommends cooling grain in the upper portion of the bin by operating the aeration fan about every three weeks during a cool morning. Using positive-pressure aeration to push air up through the grain enables the cool grain in the bottom of the bin to cool the air, which then cools the grain near the top of the bin.

Run the fan only long enough to cool the grain near the top surface. That may require running the fan for a few hours during a cool, dry morning for a couple of days. Running the fan more than necessary will warm more grain at the bottom of the bin, increasing the potential for storage problems.

If the air dew point is warmer than the grain temperature or if the air relative humidity is very high, some moisture will condense onto the grain during fan operation. Condensing moisture will release heat that will warm the air slightly, reducing the effectiveness of the aeration. The grain moisture content increase is typically less than 1 percentage point because the grain warms and is no longer cool enough to cause moisture to condense onto the grain.

Therefore, select mornings when the air is cool and dry.

Unload Some Grain

Some people unload some of the grain periodically during the summer to remove the warmed grain at the top. The grain unloads in a funnel shape in bins with a center sump, with the grain from the top flowing down to the unloading sump at the bottom of the bin.

Removing peaked grain reduces the potential for grain warming at the top of the bin. A cone-shaped peak has a larger ratio of surface area to grain quantity, which leads to more grain warming than occurs with leveled grain. In addition, because air takes the path of least resistance, the aeration airflow will be near the bin walls, with little airflow through the peak. This makes the peak difficult to cool.

Summer Moisture Recommendations

Verify that the grain moisture content is dry enough for storage at summer temperatures. The recommended long-term storage moisture contents are: wheat,

13.5 percent; barley, 12 percent; corn, 13.5 percent; soybeans, 11 percent; grain sorghum, 13 percent; oil sunflowers, 8 percent; and confectionary sunflowers, 10 percent. The market moisture content may be higher, but storing warm grain at higher moisture contents may lead to mold growth on the grain.

Make sure the moisture content measured by the meter has been adjusted for grain temperature. Confirm the accuracy of the measurement by warming the grain sample to room temperature in a sealed plastic bag before measuring the moisture content.

Grain Storage Time

Grain storage life depends on the grain's moisture content and temperature. The allowable storage time is cumulative, so if half of the life is used since harvest, only half remains for the rest of the storage period. This is particularly crucial for grain being stored into late summer or for more than a year.

Each 10 degrees the grain temperature increases reduces the allowable storage time (AST) by about half. For example, the AST for 15 percent moisture corn is only about 70 days at 80 F. The AST increases to 125 days at 70 F and 240 days at 60 F. This emphasizes the importance of keeping the grain as cool as possible during the summer.

The AST typically increases by 50 to 75 percent for each percentage point reduction in grain moisture content, depending on grain moisture and temperature. For example, the approximate storage life of 15 percent moisture corn at 70 degrees is about 125 days. The AST increases to about 200 days at 14 percent moisture.

However, that is only about 4.7 months, so if corn is stored at 14 percent moisture and 80 degrees during the summer, little storage time remains. This stresses the importance of controlling grain moisture content and temperature.

Where to Measure Grain Temperature

Measure and record the stored grain temperature at several places near the top surface, along the walls and within the grain. Temperature sensors are an excellent tool when monitoring stored grain, but remember that they only measure the grain's temperature next to the sensor. Because grain is a good insulator, the grain temperature may be much different just a few feet from the sensor. Increasing grain temperature may be an indicator of an insect infestation or mold growth.

"Mold growth and insect infestations occur rapidly at summer temperatures, so stored grain should be checked every two weeks," Hellevang says. "A situation with only a few insects can turn into a major infestation in less than a month. Using insect traps or placing grain samples on white material helps you look for insects."

New approach to an autonomous tractor Dot Technology Corp.
The Dot Power Platform offers an innovative solution to the automation challenge. The power unit works with specially designed implements.

New approach to an autonomous tractor

ust what will the future of autonomous vehicles look like? If the folks at Dot Technology Corp., have any say it sure won't look like a conventional tractor. The company is unveiling its new Dot Power Platform during a major farm show in Canada in July. Farm Progress caught up with the inventor to learn more about the thought process behind this innovative design.

Norbert Beaujot is the farmer/engineer- inventor of this new approach to autonomous power, which features a U-shaped design that actually wraps around specially designed implements. "Initially I was trying to build a self-propelled seeder," Beaujot recalled. "Then I realized it would be more valuable if the machine could handle all implements."

He doesn't recall when he came up with the idea that the Dot Power Platform should be U-shaped, but once he started down that road it all made sense. The platform will only work with implements that are Dot Ready, which means they're designed for the implement to slide into Dot and connect.

"With this design, implements don't need wheels or hitches to work," Beaujot explained. "It takes about 10 seconds for Dot to connect to the implement and a little more time to hook up the hydraulic and electrical connections."

Implements that are Dot Ready will get savings because they will have no need for axles, spindles, hubs, tires, hitches, folding mechanisms and other features that can add cost. Beaujot estimated that Dot-ready implements could be as much as 20% less in price than conventional versions. The Dot Power Platform itself will be priced about the same as a conventional tractor of similar horsepower, he added.

The U-shaped Dot has four hydraulically powered wheels which use electronically controlled steering to guide the implement through the field on the predetermined path. Power for the machine comes from a 4.5-liter Tier 4 163-hp Cummins diesel engine. And of course there's a lot of programming involved and sensors to make sure everything operates both safely and efficiently.

Driven by labor

Beaujot is also a farmer and sees the practicality of bringing autonomy to farm equipment. With less available labor in agriculture, it makes sense. "And this technology can bring younger people to agriculture, they already understand the technology," he added.

Based in Western Canada, Dot Technology Corp. sees the large prairie fields where autonomy would be simple to implement, but Trent Meyer, executive vice president., adds that these tools are scalable up and down for larger and smaller farms. "The size of the power unit means it can work in larger farms and in smaller operations based on the location and the intensity of the farming involved," he said. "Small farms up to huge farms can see the same kind of savings with this technology."

Dot Technology Corp.

Norbert Beaujot farmer/engineer- inventor rethought the autonomous power unit and created the Dot Power Platform.

Meyer added that not only is this tech being driven by lack of labor but also the need to find the right labor. Add in the rising pervasiveness of lower cost sensors and autonomous advances for cars and other use means there are opportunities here. "It's a cross between the price of labor going up and the price of tech going down," he added.

The Dot platform is going into limited release in 2018, and those initial units will be around the company's headquarter area in Canada, but Beaujot sees potential for this technology around the world. The next step is engaging implement makers to design machines that are Dot-ready.

"We will talk with shortline companies about making machines that can work with this system," he said. "Seed Master makes the air seeder that works with this and they could build other implements. We'll have some other examples at Ag in Motion."

Ag in Motion is a relatively new outdoor farm show in Saskatchewan where farmers will get their first look at the Dot Power Platform in action.

Looking ahead

Beyond talking with implement makers to make Dot-ready tools, farmer-inventor Beaujot has other ideas as well, including the potential for leader-follower tech. "Someday someone could have three or four of these following a guy in a half-ton with an electronic link," he said. "We know that technology exists in drones that can follow the user, it's a matter of working with someone on the link."

That multi-machine in one field tech offers enhanced productivity while not raising the labor bill. Dot Technology Corp., has already multiple patents granted and pending on this productivity tool.

For more information on this technology, and what Dot Technology Corp. is doing, visit And check out the company video about the product below: