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

SIMPAS
Precision AgAMVAC, Simplot to Collaborate on SIMPAS Prescription Application System
July 31, 2017
AMVAC Chemical Corp. has announced collaboration with the J. R. Simplot Co. to field test the proprietary SIMPAS prescriptive application Read More
EquipmentAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
TMX-2050-In-Cab-Display-Launch-Run-Screen
EquipmentGPS Auto Steer: Innovating in a Mature Market
July 17, 2017
In the world of Big IRON, GPS auto steer has closely mirrored the evolutionary path of consumer GPS Navigation systems Read More
Agronomist and farmer on iPad inspecting weeds
Precision AgPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
Trending Articles
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Cause of Gar Tootelian Fire Under Investigation
August 7, 2017
Over one hundred firefighters and equipment responded to a four-alarm shop fire at the Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) facility in Read More
Rob Versprille
ManagementCeres Solutions, North Central Co-op Merger to Bring New Opportunities for Indiana, Michigan Farmers
August 1, 2017
More than 40,000 customers and almost 9,000 Indiana and Michigan farmers will begin doing business with the new Ceres Solutions Read More
CPS-Norwood-and-Dupont-reps
Eric SfiligojA Message to Ag Retailers: Do Tell Your Good Stories
July 26, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance ag Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow’s Tim Hassinger Named President, CEO of Lindsay Corp.
July 24, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Latest News
RoGator RG1300B AGCO
EquipmentAGCO Opens Nominations for 12th Annual Operator of the …
August 18, 2017
AGCO Corp. has announced the opening of nominations for AGCO Application Equipment’s 12th Annual Operator of the Year. The award Read More
ManagementTravels, Mergers, and CropLife 100 Updates
August 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips they’ve taken, the latest news on market consolidation, and the 2017 Read More
Corn Seed
Seed/BiotechSeed Innovations Benefit All of the Seed Industry
August 17, 2017
Innovations from throughout the seed industry help address many of the economic, environmental and health issues we face as a Read More
SpreadersGVM to Introduce New Prowler at MAGIE
August 17, 2017
The newest Prowler in GVM’s line-up will be introduced next week at the Midwest Ag Industries Expo (MAGIE), August 23 Read More
AcreEdge bag
Seed/BiotechLandus Cooperative’s AcreEdge Seed Brand Gears Up for 2…
August 17, 2017
Growers in more than 26 Iowa and Minnesota counties are seeing field signs with a new brand name at end Read More
Engenia soybeans
ManagementCorn and Soybean Yield Forecasts Larger than Expected
August 17, 2017
The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels Read More
ManagementU.S. Ag Secretary Introduces SCORE
August 17, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a new agreement to support new and beginning farmers. On August 5, Perdue joined Read More
CHS-FFA-Minnesota
CropLife 100CHS and FFA: A Homerun Partnership
August 17, 2017
CHS hosted the Minnesota FFA for its annual FFA night at CHS Field. FFA students, educators and CHS leadership enjoyed Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Gar Tootelian Foundation Donates Half Million Dollars t…
August 16, 2017
Students at Immanuel Elementary are looking forward to the first day of school for two reasons this year. One, they Read More
Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fi…
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Top 10 Crop Protection Companies, Post-Mega Mergers
August 14, 2017
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. In fact, some prominent celebrities such as David Letterman spent much of their Read More
ManagementThe DuPont-Granular Deal, Dicamba Update, and Upcoming …
August 11, 2017
Matthew Grassi joins Paul Schrimpf for the second week in a row to talk about DuPont’s acquisition of Granular, as Read More
Soybeans weeds
HerbicidesOngoing Evaluation Key to Controlling Weeds, Improving …
August 10, 2017
As the sun bears down on record U.S. soybean acres this August, farmers keep their eyes on their fields to Read More
Young Corn Plants
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Offers Novel Product to Battle Pythium, O…
August 10, 2017
After a season plagued by seedling diseases caused by cool, wet soils at planting, farmers have a new option to Read More
Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to …
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality…
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Natives-First-Purple_Prairie_Clover
Seed/BiotechLa Crosse Seed Continues Focus on Soil and Water Conser…
August 9, 2017
La Crosse Seed is doing its part to lead communication to ag retailers across the country on the importance of Read More
HerbicidesAg Secretary Perdue Comments on Dicamba Issue
August 9, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a Read More