Machinery Chatter
Jim Patrico Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Tuesday 09/11/12

Small Devices Do Big Jobs

The tools keep getting more portable. Trimble recently introduced handheld versions of two devices, which previously were most often attached to vehicles.

The Greenseeker Handheld Crop Sensor uses directed light to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which represents the health of the plant. Those readings can help a farmer determine how much fertilizer to apply. (Photo Courtesy Trimble)

It's common practice these days to mount a GPS receiver and laptop or handheld computer to a pickup truck or ATV when collecting data for laying out drainage or tiling systems. But what happens when even those hardy vehicles can't get to an area, say a ditch, a muddy field or a field with growing crops you don't want to disturb?

That's why Trimble came up with the WM-Topo survey system, which mounts a GNSS receiver and a Nomad handheld computer on a pole so they can be hand-carried to hard to reach places.

Downside for the specialized gear is the cost of almost $17,000. But farmers likely will be able to rent the device from a dealer, rather than purchase it.

Trimble also introduced a handheld version of the GreenSeeker sensor. Until now such sensors have been mounted on a sprayer toolbar for instantaneous readings as a fertilizer rig is going through a field. They use directed light to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which represents the health of the plant. Those readings determine how much nitrogen that area will receive from the sprayer. The handheld version lets a farmer or consultant scout a field in advance to take similar readings and assess the field's overall needs prior to a fertilizer application. Precision maps can make sure fertilizer get to the right areas in the right amounts.

Cost: $495.

Vermeer is taking a different approach to small. It is installing QR coding decals on its Rebel 20 Series balers. The idea is to answer customer questions about simple maintenance issues.

Pass your smart phone in front of the barcode symbol, and an Internet-based video appears on the phone. The video is an instructional tool that talks about how to properly thread net wrap or twine through the baler.

"It's help in your pocket," said Joe Michaels, director of Vermeer's Forage Solutions.

Vermeer is starting this program with its smaller balers but could spread it to other tools in it line. Subject matter of the videos also could expand.

Speaking of bales, when New Holland introduced its new Big Baler, it reintroduced the latest version of its RFID system for tagging and bales. Wave the handheld reader near a tag that the baler has been attached to the twine around a bale, and it will record data about:

*Date, time and location the bale was made;

*Bale weight;

*The high and average moisture content;

*Amount of preservative added.

The information can then be uploaded to a computer to track a producer's hay inventory and to provide verification and information to potential hay buyers.

That can be a big deal to hay producers.

Posted at 7:15AM CDT 09/11/12 by Jim Patrico
Comments (2)
I hope we can see more devices like this make it into the hands of the Farmers. There's way too much "spin" going on about "Crop Science", "Plant Health" Nutrient Indices" and "Transgenics". When you can see for yourself, you become your own best witness. The eyes have it-keep this Technology coming!
Posted by Ric Ohge at 10:07AM CDT 09/25/12
Also, and maybe just as important, is the Trimble "WeedSeeker" (see at: Technology can enable you to integrate the same kind of Technology as in the "GreenSeeker", but use it to specifically target the weeds only. If you use Herbicides, but want to save money, this will definitely help. If you're planting non-GMO seeds, this could enable you to deal with weeds without having to use resistant trait crops.
Posted by Ric Ohge at 10:33AM CDT 09/25/12
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