I really enjoyed touring the Jeschke's farm in May. It was a gorgeous beautiful day, full of insightful discussion among farmers, agricultural advocates and fellow moms. Even knowing how much technology has developed over the years, I was still surprised by the integrated use of technology on the Jeschke's farm, from GIS, GPS, and even Drones!
Programming the Planter
In undergrad and grad school, I also took classes on GIS (Geographical Information Systems), which used layers of data maps to study the socio-economics of urban areas. Combining different layers of data can give you insight into a geographical area.
I saw Tyson demonstrate how farmers are utilizing the GIS technology on their crops. Farmers use soil borings to determine the nutrient levels in the crops after harvesting. They need to determine how and where to replenish the nutrients in the soil. By overlaying this data with 2 or 3 years of crop yield data, the program will derive a map detailing how many seeds should be planted in which areas, thus providing the best information. The final map looks like this:
The green areas of the map show where they will plant the highest number of seeds. The red areas show the lowest, yellow the middle range. Where you see the green and orange squares, those are test plots for comparison.
They transfer this data to the Planter, which uses an automated system to distribute the pre-determined amount of seeds throughout the crop. The planter uses GPS for guidance and to plant the correct amount of seed. They may plant 35,000 seeds in one area and 25,000 seeds in another area that has been predicted to produce a lower yield.
GPS Crop Management
Paul Jeschke demonstrated how the Sprayer uses GPS software to control the amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides distributed on crops. The program tracks the location and amount of chemicals that have been sprayed, which minimizes over spraying, or double spraying. The sprayer has 5 zones which are controlled separately, and can be shut on or off to control where the chemical is being applied.
We were able to see a demonstration of a drone, otherwise known as, unmanned aircraft. These are fitted with a video camera. Matt Boucher showed us how farmers can use them to fly over their fields and capture a bird's eye view. It shows them areas of the farm, which they could only see if they walked the entire farm. And really shows them more, because it's hard to see walking through a corn field. This allows them to target very specific areas of concern, further cut down use of sprays, lower costs, and improve yield, which can be a big help to the farmer and the environment.
It is easy to see these farmers, Paul, Tyson, and Matt, get excited about the technology they use. Just like we want the latest in smart technology to help improve our lives, they want the best for their farms.
I wonder how farmers can benefit from all this data being collected? What could happen if they all shared the data collected on their farms?
What is next for farming technology? Can farmers utilize new solar roadways that are currently being tested and developed?
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Crystal Lake, Illinois
Mysi is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.