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

ScoutPro iPad
Precision AgWhat’s Trending In Soil Testing And Scouting
April 6, 2016
Keeping up on soil testing and scouting, especially following unusual weather conditions, can play a role in maximizing yields. Soil Read More
EquipmentDTN Launches Ag Retailer Focused Data Management Program
April 5, 2016
As farm data multiplies exponentially, ag retailers need help leveraging the power of big data to better serve their customers Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
EquipmentDeere’s Acquisition of Hagie: 3 Things We Learned
March 29, 2016
It seems like the biggest news stories in agriculture always break on a Tuesday. Today John Deere announced it had Read More
HerbicidesPrecision Ag, Weed Control Practices Both Key In Herbicide Resistance Fight
March 15, 2016
Integrating precision ag technology with long-time weed control practices may allow producers to increase weed control effectiveness, reports Loretta Sorensen Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
ScoutPro iPad
Precision AgWhat’s Trending In Soil Testing And Scouting
April 6, 2016
Keeping up on soil testing and scouting, especially following unusual weather conditions, can play a role in maximizing yields. Soil Read More
Latest News
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesSurvey Provides Insights On Giant Ragweed In The Corn B…
May 2, 2016
A new survey published in the journal Weed Science offers insights into the distribution and management of giant ragweed, a Read More
Truck dumping dry fertilizer
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics Q&A: Southern States’ Joe Wlod…
May 2, 2016
Joe Wlodkoski, Director of Agronomy Procurement, Fertilizer, Southern States Cooperative, is a 40-plus year fertilizer industry veteran. He is quite Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More
MicronutrientsCharah Add Three Warehouses For SUL4R-PLUS Fertilizer
April 28, 2016
Charah, Inc., a total solutions company providing unparalleled service and innovation for the coal-fired power generation industry, announced today that Read More
Spenser Forgey, Yahama Fortix
FungicidesIndiana Farmer Wins Arysta LifeScience FORTIX Fungicide…
April 28, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently presented Spenser Forgey, a grower from Young America, IN, with a new 2016 Yamaha Grizzly Read More
Corn Field
HerbicidesNew Wilbur‐Ellis Herbicide Targets Volunteer Corn
April 28, 2016
Wilbur‐Ellis Co., a recognized leader in marketing and distribution of crop protection products, as well as precision agriculture technology, has Read More
StewardshipNRCS To Help Farmers Measure Conservation Impacts On Wa…
April 27, 2016
The USDA has announced the availability of $2 million to help farmers install edge-of-field stations that monitor water quality as Read More
Planter in Iowa
EquipmentTop 10 Twitter Pics For #Plant16
April 27, 2016
Despite some wet weather in parts of the Midwest, growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s Read More
HerbicidesHELM AGRO Launches New HELM Sulfentrazone 4F Herbicide
April 26, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the federal Section 3 registration of its new HELM Sulfentrazone 4F herbicide. Classified as a Read More
Valley Irrigation Valley 8000 series on corn
EquipmentValley Irrigation Receives Environmental Stewardship Ho…
April 26, 2016
Valley Irrigation has been recognized as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site by the Groundwater Foundation. The Groundwater Guardian Green Site Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
ManagementIllinois Leads The Nation In 4R Certified Nutrient Mana…
April 22, 2016
As Illinois agriculture works to educate farmers about minimizing environmental impact and optimizing the use of ag nutrients, Illinois now leads Read More