Advanced biofuels
In the future, farmers will grow more than just corn to produce advanced biofuels. This new classification of fuels is 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to gasoline or diesel produced in 2005. Corn ethanol is not considered an advanced biofuel. Instead, fuels like biodiesel made from soybean oil and ethanol made from Brazilian sugarcane are classified as advanced biofuels.

The Advanced Biofuels Association reports that many products from advanced biofuels will be hydrocarbon-based molecules that are interchangeable and will not require separate pumps, pipelines, or new flex fuel cars. The advanced biofuels and products include biodiesel-ester, biogas, butanol, ethanol, renewable crude oil, renewable diesel-hydrocarbon, renewable jet fuel and renewable gasoline. -Lynn Grooms

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The plethora of agricultural apps available on tablets and mobile devices is a testament to farmers' quick adoption of mobile and tablet technology. There are apps available to farmers for checking commodity prices, monitoring the weather, planning optimum seeding rates, navigating their way through farm shows, managing data from the cab, mapping field boundaries, soil sampling, and much more. -Kathy Huting

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Five years ago we predicted the introduction of autonomous tractors and we were right. Today, two companies have introduced vehicles that drive without human operators. Kinze Manufacturing introduced their Autonomous Harvest System where the tractor/grain cart runs between the combine and unloading site without an operator. The tractor is outfitted with sensors, cameras, radar, GPS and guidance equipment to safely navigate through the field. The combine operator oversees it and issues commands to the tractor. The Autonomous Tractor Corp. unveiled its prototype Spirit tractor with tracks and no cab. The Spirit operates with a laser and radio navigation system and is designed low-cost, efficient and reliable. Watch for updates on these two systems along with newcomers to the technology. -Karen McMahon

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Big Data
Big Data is the buzzword used to describe the massive amounts of information being collected and stored on all of us. On the farm, this data may include crop yield history, product usage, order status, payment history, vehicle status, and field data such as soil types, moisture levels, available nutrients, pest pressures, and weather—all tied to a geo-referenced dot on a map.  
These mounds of data have become big business for companies, ready to step in to store, manage and analyze the information for the end purpose of helping farmers make better business decisions. Faster processing speeds, Cloud-based storage, and advanced analytics are giving rise to these tools, moving us from an era of precision data to decision data.
Farmers, who have been historically private about their business affairs, are giving companies access to their information out of survival, knowing that the stockpiles of information will be used to take the guesswork out of producing a crop. -Jodie Wehrspann

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The global market for biologicals is between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion and is projected to grow to approximately $3 billion by 2020, according to the industry analysis firm Frost & Sullivan. While there is confusion over the product category itself, which includes biorationals, biostimulants and biopesticides, there is no doubt it will grow. More biological products are being incorporated into conventional corn and soybean farming as part of a pest management and/or plant health program. -Lynn Grooms

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Brown revolution
There’s nothing like a $15,000/acre price tag to spark interest in building a land’s fertility, which has spawned the “Brown Revolution.” First reported in our sister publication Corn & Soybean Digest in January, the Brown Revolution refers to soil as a factory for increasing yields. Research for the Brown Revolution focuses on soil microbes that convert sunlight, water, CO2 and crop residue into crop yields. Factors that play into this are moisture, nutrients, crop residue, tillage practices and pest control. In other words, it’s all about getting your soil in top condition to produce top yields. -Karen McMahon

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CAN bus
Controller area network, called CAN bus for short, is an integrated electronics network that originated in the auto industry. It allows multiple controllers to exchange information on a single circuit or “bus,” allowing for such things as raising and lowering all four windows of a car. The same technology now dominates farm machinery to automate complex sequences such as turning a tractor and raising an implement at end rows.

One of the most recent applications is Claas’s Cemos Automatic, displayed this year at the international trade show SIMA in Paris, where it won a gold medal. The control system, designed for its Lexion combines, takes over the task of applying the correct sieve, fan and separator settings in place of an operator. -Jodie Wehrspann

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Cloud computing
Accessing remote computing resources through the internet – so-called cloud computing – is becoming commonplace in agriculture. Powered by wireless connectivity, typically through cellular modems, cloud computing capabilities make it possible to eliminate the frustration of shuffling thumb drives to keep precision ag data up to date. Cloud-based precision software options provide any-time, any-where data access. Linking to high-powered computers and sophisticated software promises to streamline decision-making by making information available to key farm management players. -David Hest

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