Doc Callahan occasionally helps with this blog, and when he stopped by this morning, he mentioned he had been to the Farm Progress Show. We made the mistake of asking him what's buzzing at the huge gathering.
A couple of things bogged me down there. The streets in the exhibition may be paved, but the parking area is like a scene from Duck Dynasty goes swamp roving. I lost a flip-flop in the mud and switched to my 5-buckle boots. The other mucky topic is grain prices. They seem to be on quicksand at the moment, and that's a concern for many in the agricultural economy.
But let's look on the bright side. The Show is a wonderful promotion for agriculture, with new tech and familiar faces everywhere. Five webcams, an interactive map, and an informational app keep you on your toes. It's a great place to learn and exchange ideas. I’ve always figured by the time I discover a hip happening, it’s already gathered dust—like the word “hip” itself.
But I did notice some common threads. Here are a few buzzwords:
- Be smart. Smart machinery, smart plants, smart livestock feeders, smart apps. There is apparently no room for dumb anything on the farm, and that explains why my days working the back forty were short-lived indeed.
- Precision. From planting to nutrients to milking, you need big data and you need to know how to use it. If you’re not sure how to be precise, ask your smartphone. Be polite.
- Innovation. Better yields feed more people. A vacuum planter with quad hydraulic systems and sync row timing must be good (and expensive). The only thing quad about planters in my day was that the machine planted four rows at a time, and the only thing in sync was that the dust, heat, and noise all attacked my senses at the same time.
- Management. Whether it’s nitrogen, residue, insects, or disease, farmers need to know how to “manage.” A farmer needs to micro-manage nowadays. When I was a kid on the farm, we were happy if we managed to make it through a hay baling job or a pig vaccinating session. We were crisis managers.
- Sustainability. Everyone wants to save money and protect the environment, and plenty of companies and organizations had information--water quality seems to be a key issue (can you say "Toledo"?). I learned that radishes make good cover crops, watersheds are important, and managing nutrients is crucial.
- Transformers. OK, no one posted that word, but many of the machines look like science fiction creations. A new type of manure spreader apparently scoops, transports, and dumps like some type of Star Wars apparatus. And drones (unmanned aircraft systems) are popular. If they combine a drone with a manure spreader, I’ll really start to worry.
As you can tell, I’m constantly behind the curve, so take the above for what it’s worth. As one company’s slogan said, “Put your farm in the cloud.” Hmmm. Some of us have been living with our head in the clouds for years. Maybe I’m a step ahead with that trend. Doc
Editor's Note: Adding to the mud problems, day three of the show was cancelled due to rain. Regarding some of the key topics mentioned by Doc, CAST has several highly respected research papers that address the above "buzz" issues. They are science-based and peer-reviewed publications, and you may access them free at the sites listed below:
Herbicide-resistant Weeds Threaten Soil Conservation Gains: Finding a Balance for Soil and Farm Sustainability
Benefits of Controlling Nuisance Aquatic Plants and Algae in the United States
Animal Feed vs. Human Food: Challenges and Opportunities in Sustaining Animal Agriculture Toward 2050