Purdue University: Refocusing On Technology

Unravelling the complexities of modern cropping systems will be a key focus for Purdue’s agriculture department.
Unravelling the complexities of modern cropping systems will be a key focus for Purdue’s agriculture department.

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels made waves in the state back in 2005 with his Major Moves campaign, an aggressive 10-year plan designed to improve the state’s infrastructure and prepare it for maximum competitiveness in the area of transportation efficiency.

Now serving as the President of Purdue University, Daniels has embarked on an infrastructure retooling project of a different sort with an investment of more than $20 million into the university’s College of Agriculture. And a key component of the plan is a re-focusing of effort in the area of ag technology and precision.

“One of the critical questions we face is how to feed a growing world population,” Daniels said during a President’s Forum at Purdue on September 12 where he announced the investment. “This initiative can lead to answers to that question by helping to produce plants that have higher yields and can grow in a variety of environmental conditions.”

Back To Its Roots

Technology research and education is certainly nothing new on the Purdue campus — in fact, it was on the leading edge of ag tech when it started to gain ground in the 1990s with the advent of public-domain global positioning systems, yield monitors and a newfangled thing called the Internet. It has also been collaborating with CropLife® magazine on the Retail Precision Adoption survey since its inception in 1994.

The initial focus was on making variable rate fertility provide a consistent payback for growers, but an economic downturn in the late-1990s and early 2000s — coupled with the growing simplicity of cropping using the Roundup Ready weed control system — made maintaining funding for precision-type programs a real challenge.

“We’ve had a group here that has worked on precision technology and techniques through the years, but it never grew to the levels that we had originally imagined,” says Dr. Daniel Ess, associate professor and Extension agricultural engineer at Purdue.

“Today, there is a huge demand with employers needing positions filled in the technology area,” he continues. And while we have been placing people in precision ag jobs for some time, we simply need more people here on faculty to support the teaching efforts. And as the technology becomes more widespread and more complex, there’s an opportunity for us if we produce better educated students and re-focus on research.”

“When it comes to precision farming, Purdue was one of the first places to take a hard look at the economics of precision, but after the initial push toward agronomic practices in the mid to late 1990s, most of the investment throughout the industry went into the automated part of precision farming — for example guidance and sprayer section controllers,” says Bruce Erickson, who is returning to the agronomy department full time after two years with the American Society of Agronomy. “That technology did not rest on the site-specific characteristics of the field, but only on the position in the field.”

“Today, our challenge is to characterize the interactions and complexities of crops, soils, and the growing environment in any one season. We knew these responses and interactions were complicated, but they’re probably even more complicated than we first realized,” he continues. “We need to better understand all the variables so we are able to manage them better in the field.”

Using the university’s ACRE research farm and some additional manpower — including 10 new professors in the College of Agriculture — Purdue intends to take a leadership position among land grants for research into how crops respond to various factors, the genetic basis for this, and how to characterize this in the field.

“Fields are biological systems, they can change and compensate, and don’t always respond as we think they might.  One of key things precision ag can help with is in better defining the complexity of the crop environment,” says Erickson.

Apps And Extension

In addition to precision, Purdue will be working on applications that will make using technology and sharing data accessible to more growers, regardless of size.

“Part of what’s driving the movement here is the opportunity to produce something that is more open source, something that will appeal to those who haven’t adopted much in the way of precision technology to date,” says Ess. “We would like to ‘democratize’ this whole business so that someone who does not have the acreage resources or huge dollar revenues can use the technology they already have on hand.”

Ess is also part of a group working to bring a new Agricultural and Biological Engineering professor on board to help lead precision teaching and research efforts as part of the agriculture’s education and outreach efforts. In addition to delivering more, better educated graduates to serve the needs of businesses bringing technology to growers, Purdue will be extending the availability of online courses.

“The technology in terms of delivering education from a distance is rapidly changing, and there is certainly a significant need for agronomic education,” says Erickson. Not everyone is in close enough proximity or has the time or resources to take a class on campus. Part of our mission as an organization, as it has been since its beginnings, is in taking the education to the people, and that’s a significant area of investment.”

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Precision AgUAS: The S Stands For Smart, Service And Sensors
May 1, 2014
The only thing occuring more rapidly than the technologies’ evolution is the clamoring to implement UAS into agriculture as soon as possible. Read More
Precision AgAg Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014
April 1, 2014
It's been a busy first quarter of technology developments in 2014. Here are some of the highlights, and things to watch in the months ahead. Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgMaximizing Returns From Water Inputs
March 3, 2014
Irrigation manufacturers have developed some vital new technologies to fine-tune irrigation and save growers money, water, energy and labor. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More