Drought tolerance

The 2012 drought was the perfect time for companies to test new drought-tolerant corn hybrids. For example, Syngenta reported a 17% advantage with its Agrisure Artesian trait under extreme drought conditions in last year’s field trials.

The drought-tolerant hybrids will be vital for maintaining yields this year as the drought lingers in many areas. But companies are racing to meet demand. Monsanto's Genuity DroughtGard corn hybrids are now available to farmers in the Western Great Plains through a stewarded commercial introduction. The product was developed in cooperation with BASF.

DuPont Pioneer is doubling the acres on which its Optimum Aquamax drought-tolerant hybrids are planted this year compared to 2012. Optimum Aquamax corn leaves are slower to roll in water-limited environments.

While the focus has been on drought-tolerant corn, drought-tolerance research is being conducted in soybeans, too. At a recent media event, DuPont Pioneer representatives said the company is working on drought-tolerant soybeans by using its proprietary Accelerated Yield Technology and by leveraging its Aquamax technology in corn. But a commercial release of a drought-tolerant soybeans is not yet planned. -Kathy Huting

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Electric-driven motors

There are three forms of tractor power: mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical. Agricultural engineers are studying how to exploit those forms of tractor power to improve efficiencies of the tractor implement system. “With tractors, we are always looking to get the most power out of it — whether it be ground power, hydraulic, or PTO power — for the amount of money we spend to create it or for the fuel required to run it,” says Douglas Otto, engineer with CNH and program chair of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). “Because of that, additional research is being done on mechanical power, and whether it is the most efficient way, or if there is another way that would be more efficient.”

For example, he says operations that require a variable-speed drive, like planting or spraying, have historically been powered by hydraulics. “Some studies have shown that electrical power is a cheaper way to go,” Otto says.

Planter manufacturers including Horsch, Kinze and Precision Planting all came out this year with electric-motor-driven seed meters. The companies claim seed meters driven by electric motors result in better seed placement and faster planting speeds than what is offered by mechanical systems that use chains and sprockets. -Jodie Wehrspann

More on electric drive

Article: Electric variable-rate planting from an entrepreneur
Horsch planter advances electric-drive technology
Video: Kinze electric seed meters explained at National Farm Machinery Show
Video: Monsanto, Precision Planting produce FIeldScripts for variable planting control

FMIS - Farm management information systems

Precision farming is going beyond GPS-based field guidance and control systems. Now it is integrated with accounting software programs called farm management information systems (FMIS) to help farmers manage their business. Such systems include geo-referenced records management, business planning, cash flow projections, systems decision making, and equipment utilization.

Many manufacturers offer these data management solutions. Examples include CLAAS’s Farm Management System and John Deere’s FarmSight strategy. The Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) is working to develop compliance standards that will ensure that data collected can be shared across the different platforms. -Jodie Wehrspann

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