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Farming gets precise – Audio

Precision farming now and the future

Brian Luck, Extension Agricultural Engineer
Department Of Biological Systems Engineering
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 890-1861

3:05 – Total Time

0:23 – Precision technology in use
0:44 – Tools of precision farming
1:35 – Technology may reverse trend
2:01 – Example of robotic field operation
2:22 – Research focus: forage harvest efficiencies
2:52 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: Brian, can you start out by telling us a little bit about the practices, the technology, that farmers are beginning to use?

Brian Luck: What we have is a management of scale. So we’re looking at managing the field, not basically as a one whole field unit, but down to say different soil types, even down to say one meter square; managing that spatial variation over the field.

Sevie Kenyon: What kind of tools are farmers using to do that kind of management?

Brian Luck: So we have global-positioning systems on all of our newer machines now that are able to tell the machine where it is in the field. Then we have variable rate drives on a lot of our agricultural equipment so we can do fertilizer application, we can do chemical application, and we can do seeding to vary rates across these fields based on spatial variability.

Sevie Kenyon: Brian what are some of the potential benefits of this level of technology?

Brian Luck: The goal here is to place your inputs where they will do you the most good. So ideally, you want to put your fertilizers and your seeds and everything at higher densities on your better soils. We have control capabilities on our inputs to place them exactly where they need to be.

Sevie Kenyon: Brian where do you see this kind of technology going in the future?

Brian Luck: Eventually, I think agricultural equipment will get smaller. I think we can potentially look in the future at having completely autonomous smaller vehicles that you turn loose in the field and they perform their task. So multiple, smaller machines can could potentially cover as much ground as our large ones.

Sevie Kenyon: Brian do you have an example of a step toward that robotic field operation?

Brian Luck: I do yeah, there’s equipment now that is a completely autonomous grain cart that can be called from the edge of the field to the combine, controlled in the combine, and unloaded on, and it goes back to the edge of the field, and waits for the truck driver to unload it.

Sevie Kenyon: Brian, where’s your research focus likely to take you?

Brian Luck: Well I haven’t been here very long but my initial thought for research is looking at the logistics and some of this data that our tractors and implements are producing, so essentially figuring out where inefficiencies are say in forage harvesting process. I can collect data from the harvester from the trucks hauling from the packing tractor, things along those lines, all that information is on there, the machine. So you collect that data try to figure out where inefficiencies are, and make things more efficient.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Brian Luck, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, now celebrating 125 years, and I am Sevie Kenyon.