Cost-Saving Irrigation Measures Growing in Popularity on Nebraska Farms

Farmers across the state aren’t getting much of a post-planting reprieve, as temperatures continue to heat up and rainfall continues to stay away lately across most of the Cornhusker state. As such, irrigation motors are firing up rapidly as producers fret about their emerging crops amidst the hot, dry conditions.

Peer pressure is most certainly a factor, it seems, when it comes to irrigation. Many producers convince themselves that their soil moisture is adequate for another day or two, but when the neighboring pivot fires up that evening, it can be difficult to not follow suit.

Many times, however, soil moisture conditions are adequate, and, increasingly, farmers across the state and nation are trading in guessing for certainty by utilizing the latest moisture monitoring technology, with significant cost-saving results.

A popular source for this innovation around Nebraska is through San Diego-based company AquaSpy, whose high-tech soil moisture probes deliver real-time data to producers, revealing the detailed moisture content and temperature of their fields at different depths and times of day. Farmers are then able to determine vital information about their crops, including how deep the roots have penetrated and how well the plants are utilizing the fertilizer at varying depths.

This probe-data is wirelessly sent in real-time to an easy-to-manage dashboard, which may then be accessed on any computer or mobile device, allowing users to monitor their fields at any time and place.

Armed with this detailed analysis, producers are able to actively manage their irrigation efforts based on hard data, not conjecture.

North-Central Nebraska farmer and AquaSpy user Tim Schmeeckle revealed that he ran his center-pivots three fewer times with AquaSpy than the year before. With the costs associated with pumping and labor to run each pivot estimated to be around $1,000, Schmeekle estimates a savings of $30,000 that year.

“It is kind of like a fuel gauge on your car,” he said. “We know how much moisture we started with. We know how much the roots are taking out of the ground, and we know how deep we are putting that water back in.”

The Nebraska Ag Water Management Network has estimated a water-savings of 2 inches per acre for those utilizing any soil moisture monitoring technology—a cost saving measure that adds up to $10-$30 per acre.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, moisture sensor technology not only reduces pumping costs, but may also improve crop growth and yield by helping farmers avoid the detrimental effects caused by overwatering upon soil conditions and nutrient leaching.

Producers who are ready to give such technology a try are encouraged to install their sensors early on in the season to ensure proper operation. Early installation helps minimize root damage, allows time for the sensors to acclimate to the soil moisture conditions, and ensures a better chance for proper soil contact.

Controlling input costs and keeping a tight rein on irrigation output has a significant effect on a producer’s bottom line—now more than ever. If you are considering utilizing moisture sensing data into your operation, please let us help you decide the best way to move forward with this exciting technology.

UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s. If you have questions about yields and productivity on your rented farmland, give the UFARM managers contact us today!

Sources consulted: Freeman, Mike. “Drought-Stricken Fields Get Boost From Technology.” The San Diego Union-Tribune. The San Diego Union Tribune. 17 Jul. 2014. Web. 13 Jun. 2017.  Nygren, Aaron. “Value of Using Sensors for Irrigation and Tips for Proper Installation.” Cropwatch. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 8 Jun. 2017. Web. 13 Jun. 2017.

 

What Benefits Can Agricultural Drones Offer Landowners?

Drones in Nebraska Agriculture

Technology continues to advance in many industries, and this is also true in agriculture, where farmers and landowners continually endeavor to make the most of their land and resources. Advances in precision agriculture, with the latest innovations in GPS mapping and all its applications in the field, are helping farmers tighten their profit margins, operate more efficiently, and with greater ease than ever before.

Perhaps the latest technological application is the use of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, in the agricultural industry. Drone use among farmers is surging in record amounts. Farmers and companies who manufacture and design systems by which to collect data are eager to incorporate them into their business models.

It’s no surprise that the largest application of domestic drone use will likely come in the agriculture industry. Many ag operations span vast numbers of acres in lowly populated areas, virtually eliminating the privacy and safety concerns that the UAVs cause in more densely populated areas. According to a recent story in USA Today, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents producers and users of drones and other robotic equipment, predicts that 80% of the commercial market for drones will eventually be for agricultural uses.

It’s no wonder farmers are showing an interest. Until now, farmers have had to rely on walking their fields or monitoring them via manned aerial flights or satellite in order to gather data and valuable information about their land. With drones, farmers are able to gather types of data that were previously unreachable, and in turn make needed changes during the same growing season. Using the data gathered from drones, farmers can improve their yields, apply fertilizer, water, or chemicals only where they are needed, map their fields, monitor crop health, check for signs of disease, and save time in the process.

The drones themselves come in a range of prices and capabilities. Farmers can use simpler quadricopters that cost around $500, with digital cameras to quickly monitor a field—a quarter can be covered in 10 to 15 minutes. Other drone systems can range anywhere from $2-30,000. These advanced systems are mounted with infrared sensors that are able to gather all sorts of information, such as moisture content. Such systems then download the information into software that guides tractors through fields. While the initial investment may appear steep, the ROI is quick—often within one year.

As farmers and drone companies press ahead with the technology, they are waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to put forth rules for drones under 55 pounds—which would cover most farm-use drones. These rules are expected to come about yet this year. Until then, there is a degree of uncertainty among farmers and drone makers about how much flexibility the federal government has given agriculture to employ the aircraft.

Kevin Price, a former Kansas State professor who now works for the drone company Roboflight, insists that: “It’s going to blow your socks off. There is no question this technology is moving forward and it’s going to move fast,” said Price.”

If you would like to find out more about the latest ways you can incorporate technology on your farm, contact a UFARM representative. United Farm and Ranch Management (UFARM) is a Nebraska-based company devoted to meeting landowners’ needs. UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s. Contact Us.

 

Sources consulted: Doering, Christopher. “Growing Use of Drones Poised to Transform Agriculture.” USA Today. 23 Mar. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.  Ramstad, Evan. “FarmFest is Abuzz About Drones.” Fredericksburg.com. 09 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.

Benefits of Precision Agriculture

Precision FarmingWith all the new advances in agriculture cropping up over the last several years—whether it’s advances in equipment or developments in seed hybrids—perhaps none is doing more to change the farming landscape than the advent of precision agriculture. Farmers across the nation are turning toward this technological innovation, and are readily seeing its myriad benefits to their farming operations.

Precision agriculture, also known as site-specific farming, is made possible by combining the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the geographic information system (GIS). By uniting these two systems, it is possible to analyze, interpret, and manipulate large amounts of geospatial data with efficiency and in real time. Farmers are applying this technology—in whole or in part—to nearly every aspect of their farms, including farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping.

What are the potential benefits of adding precision technology to your farm? Naturally, there is a strong economic advantage: Precision technology enables users to increase their farm ROI. This comes from a combination of better efficiency at planting to greater yields at harvest, as well as more effective applications during the growing season. What’s more, it is apparent that these economic advantages are made manifest in a short amount of time—often in the first year.

In addition to greater ROI, farmers who have adopted precision ag technologies in their operations report other benefits. For example, autosteer in tractors and combines lowers stress on both shoulders and minds, as operators are able to pay more attention to what is going on over the whole field, rather than focusing intently on driving in a straight line.

Experienced users of precision technology on their farms will admit to a certain degree of skepticism at first, both in regard to the initial investment and the overall perception of need. However, the cost savings combined with the other more tangential benefits readily eradicate any initial uncertainty. Experts in the field and farmers themselves will admit that one needn’t go “whole hog” when adopting these systems on their farms. Often, taking it step by step is the best and least stressful way of incorporating these technologies. A great example of this is in seed control—an area that has seen significant cost increases. Implementing precision technology in this area alone could cut down on overlap during planting and offer significant savings.

Naturally, technology moves quickly, and even more exciting innovations in precision agriculture are on the horizon. One such advancement is with planters—including high speed planters and multi hybrid planters, which will allow farmers to micromanage their fields at small areas that would have seemed impossible 10 years ago. These multi hybrid planters will enable farmers to plant a suitable hybrid for each portion of their field, thereby increasing their yields and profitability.

Are you looking to incorporate precision technology on your farm and are not sure where to start? Let the experts at UFARM offer a helping hand. We’ll do all we can to help you choose the best way to optimize your farming operation.

United Farm and Ranch Management (UFARM) is a Nebraska-based company devoted to meeting landowners’ needs. UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s.

Sources:

“Agriculture Applications.” GPS.gov. 27 Sep. 2013. Web. 28 Jun. 2014.

Johnson, Jan. “Precision Agriculture: Higher Profit, Lower Cost.” Precision AgWorks. PrecisionAg.com. 01 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Jun. 2014.

Scott, Jessie. “The Planter of the Future is Here.” Agriculture. Agriculture.com. 15 Jun. 2014.Web. 28 Jun. 2014.

Emerging Technology Trends in Agriculture

Center PivotAs with any industry, technology is changing the way farmers manage nearly every aspect of their farming operations. New developments in technology are making it possible for farmers to be more productive, from the seeds they put into the ground, to the machinery they use to plant and harvest their crops, to the data they obtain about their fields, to the ways they monitor and grow those crops. Keeping up to date on the latest technology in each of these areas is critical to staying ahead of the curve, and to caring for the land in the best way possible.

Some of the most innovative technological advances in agriculture are in the area of crop biotechnology. Scientists now understand more about seed genetics than ever before in history, and are creating highly specialized seeds that are able to perform in many varying types of fields with an astonishingly high degree of specificity. Faced with a growing world population, farmers in the US and around the world will need to double food production to meet the demand by 2050, according to United Nations figures and reported by Robert T. Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto Company.

Speaking to a group at a Farm Journal forum last year, Fraley explained how biotechnology and communication technology will converge to create even more remarkable innovations in the industry. “‘The farm tractor today has more computer power than the first spaceship that went to the moon,’ he said, explaining that DeKalb will launch a FieldScripts program in 2014 that will help farmers vary planting within 10-by-20-meter grids. The program will match the best seed and planting rate with zones on a farm.”

As Fraley reported and many producers can already attest, technological advances in machinery go hand in hand with the types of seeds that are being planted. Farmers are taking advantage of different software programs and GPS technology that work together to help them plot their fields, dividing them into specified groups based on characteristics such as soil type. These software programs also keep track of yields and many other types of data.

Aside from these innovations, farm machinery is also steadily advancing, making planting, spraying, and harvesting more efficient and accomplished with greater ease. For instance, farmers are now able to use direct injection sprayers that can apply different chemicals at variable rates. These sprayers eliminate the need to mix chemicals in a separate tank, thereby eliminating the need to clean the tanks. They also lessen exposure to the chemicals by the operator, and put less excess product on the ground. An in-cab control console allows the farmer to control the rates at which the chemical is applied.

Technological advances are also present in irrigation and drought management practices. Especially after 2012’s drought, farmers are focused on using their water resources as efficiently and economically as possible. They are taking advantage of software that monitors their pivots’ output and texts them when the pivot has completed its circle or has encountered a problem, saving time and money. Innovations that peek under the soil in the form of highly advanced soil moisture probes are increasingly being utilized by farmers to ensure that their crops are getting the right amount of moisture at the correct depth and at the right time during the plant’s growth cycle. These moisture probes are able to communicate directly to a computer or smartphone, so that producers can stay on top of their crop’s progress at all times and from any location. Another developing irrigation technology are variable rate pivots that can be programmed to water less or more based on different aspects of the field.

Today’s advancing farm technology makes it an exciting time to be in agriculture, and farmers are doing important work by using it to grow the crops that feed their families and the world.  Our UFARM managers understand the importance of this emerging technology and can help landowners determine what kinds of technology are valuable to have on their farm.

Sources: (Thompson, Boyce. “Fraley: Technology Will Be Key to Feeding the World Population.”Farm Journal. Agweb.com. 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.)