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Polymers

With the explosion in seed treatments and expensive seed traits, a final polymer coating on the seed makes big sense (cents). New polymer coatings are available to better preserve the seed. The polymer helps reduce dustoff from the expensive seed treatments, which in turn reduces chemical exposure to workers. The new polymers also aid flowability of seed in the increasingly more precise and expensive planters. -Karen McMahon

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Quad tracks

Case IH last year took the wraps off a high-hp, row-crop tractor with tracks called the Steiger Rowtrac, a takeoff of its Steiger Quadtrac four-track system. The launch of this tractor speaks to growing demand for tracks, which spread out the weight of the vehicle better than most tires can to reduce soil compaction while providing great traction and pulling power in the field.

Other examples of tracked tractors include the original rubber-tracked AGCO Challenger, New Holland’s SmartTrax, John Deere’s RT series, and coming soon Versatile’s Delta Track, which is a story we broke last month. Tracks also are an option on other farm vehicles, including combines, planters and grain carts. -Jodie Wehrspann

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Remote integrated display access

This term refers to the ability to access integrated machine displays remotely. As a result, support technicians may diagnose and fix problems without going to the field. Obviously, remote access is a huge timesaver and keeps tractors, combines and sprayers up and running when balky displays have halted field operations. Manufacturers call this capability various names, including Remote Display Access (John Deere), Remote Assistant (Trimble) and Virtual Wrench (Leica). -David Hest

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Robots

Research on robots continues to progress as engineers tackle reliability issues of the small task masters. Concept robots are nearing commercialization in Europe, though. One German robot is built to sense crop conditions, apply chemicals and even pull weeds. The University of Illinois has a similar program and students design these robotic workers. In contrast to operator-run equipment, robots are small and expected to be used in multiple numbers. -Karen McMahon

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Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program is good for ethanol but continues to be a contentious program among agricultural groups. RFS established the country’s first renewable fuel volume mandate in 2005 when it was created. Originally, RFS required 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline by 2012. It was expanded in 2007 under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Now called RFS2, the program includes diesel (in addition to gasoline) and increased the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The goal for RFS2 is to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of renewable fuels, reduce imported oil, and encourage development of the renewable fuels industry.

The American Petroleum Institute as well as a number of organizations in the livestock, poultry and grocery industries have sought (and continue to seek) to waive or repeal RFS. -Lynn Grooms

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Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)

The Renewable Fuel Standard compliance program is based on the use of renewable identification numbers (RINs) that are assigned to batches of renewable fuel by producers and importers of those fuels. EPA developed the RIN system to ensure that biofuels are being blended by obligated parties (entities that refine, blend or import more than 10,000 gallons of gas or diesel) to meet their biomass-based diesel or ethanol volume requirements in the RFS.

RINS can be sold or traded and used by an obligated party. A RIN “moves” with the gallon of renewable fuel until it reaches the retail market or is purchased by an obligated party. A RIN is a 38-character numeric code which represents information such as renewable fuel producer, plant location, date, feedstock and so on.

In 2011, the EPA charged two companies with fraudulently producing invalid RINsearly on in the program, and individuals at those companies are now facing prison time. The National Biodiesel Board’s RIN Integrity Task Force worked with the petroleum industry to provide a solution to uncertainties in the RIN market and offered inputs into the design of the Genscape RIN Integrity Network dashboard. For information, visit genscape.com. -Lynn Grooms

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