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New technology discussed at VT Precision Ag Day
By JANE W. GRAHAM
BLACKSBURG, Va. (Oct. 25, 2016) — Farmers from throughout Southwest Virginia and a group of Virginia Tech students gathered at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm on a foggy Oct. 12 morning to learn about new technologies and how they can be used on the farm now and in the future.
The focus was on ways these new tools can help small farmers who are typical of this part of the state.
The sun broke through the fog in time for lunch and demonstrations of unmanned aircrafts, more often called drones.
The group learned agriculture appears to be one of the areas where these aircraft will be used the most in the future.
The information offered is applicable to both small and large farms the group gathered in the farm’s machine shed here were told.
“A lot of things we are capable of doing on small farms,” said Jason Frank Sr., a precision ag specialist with Southern States.
He said there are many ways to capture lots and lots of data, which can be used as tools to help in individual farming operations.
Yield monitors, controllers, and automatic steering are some of the possibilities.
They can not only check yield, but moisture, application data, sprayers and planting.
“What can we do about it?” is the question that then needs to be asked, he explained.
He added that yield is limited by what is lacking so the data can be used to identify the lack.
There are many factors that can be limiting.
Data collected with the new technology helps the farmer identify and analyze what is going on.
This leads to the development and implementation of a solution.
Frank said the farmer needs to know what the limiting factors are before he can do anything about the problem.
He told the group that there is software available to analyze the data as well as people who provide this service.
He said the pH of soils is the first thing to look for.
Other things to look at are potassium, magnesium and calcium levels and how they are affecting yields.
Compaction of the soils is still another.
Dr. Kevin Kochersberger and his Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering students demonstrated some of the unmanned aircraft they are working with in their classes and research.
He added that using drones was recently made easier by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Certification and a license are needed for commercial purposes and agriculture falls under this designation, he said.
Kochersberger said while flight time is limited on the Kentland Farm, its location, about seven miles from campus away from residential areas and the school’s airport, makes it a good place for drone research.