Michael Helling has done his homework on what’s hot in precision farming. He’s worked for the last 10 years in Trimble’s Agriculture Division and currently serves as marketing director.

“Precision agriculture is an arena that is constantly evolving as new technologies emerge,” Helling says. “With land availability decreasing, and the world’s population continuing to increase, farmers are feeling the pressure to increase crop yields.”

Farm Industry News recently asked Helling to identify a few of the recent trends he sees as shaping this industry. Here’s what he said.

Water management. “This is becoming a huge issue for farmers, whether it’s draining excess water from their field or making sure they are making efficient use of their irrigation efforts, especially in arid regions,” Helling says. “With Trimble’s FieldLevel II and WM-Drain, a farmer can begin preparing his field as soon as he is ready to address his water management issues.

“FieldLevel II streamlines the survey, design and grading steps required for land-leveling projects and has been proven to improve yields by 25 percent and reduce water usage by 30 percent. WM-Drain connects the survey, analysis, design, installation and mapping steps in surface and sub-surface drainage projects, and ensures optimal 3-D drain placement, which improves crop yields by controlling ponding, optimizing root depth, maximizing planting season, and minimizing nutrient loss.”

Wireless communications. “Having a connected farm, with seamless info flow between office, vehicles and handheld computers, is becoming an increasingly important option for farmers,” Helling continues. “It saves farmers time, increases efficiency and ensures better decision making. Trimble offers an integrated operations management solution called Connected Farm that provides information exchange across the entire farm.

Connected Farm provides wireless data transfer between the office and field, vehicle-to-vehicle information sharing, and vehicle tracking. With Connected Farm’s Vehicle Sync, multiple vehicles operating in the same field can share real-time wireless data, including guidance lines, coverage mapping, point/area/line features, as well as the vehicle icons of other operating units within a field. Trimble’s Connected Farm Web portal provides up-to-date fleet management information, a virtual dashboard of selected equipment information, fuel usage, engine reporting, performance analysis, and geo-fences to guard against theft or provide alerts when vehicle operators enter non-farming zones.”

Crop sensors. Crop sensors provide farmers with a more efficient and precise way to manage their inputs, such as fertilizer. The GreenSeeker crop sensor measures the health of a crop by calculating its NDVI (Normalized Differential Vegetation Index) and uses that information to determine how much fertilizer should be applied to various areas of a field, resulting in a more efficient use of the input. Trimble’s GreenSeeker crop sensor provides a more accurate way for farmers to apply the crop’s fertilizer needs and thereby lessen environmental implications, while improving profitability.”