Technology: The Future of Farming
When you think of a farm, do you imagine a farmer milking a cow by hand, or planting seeds in a row? While it’s true that some farmers use time-honored methods to farm, others are embracing technology to improve productivity and profitability.
Computers & Electronics
Many farmers today use computers to make calculations, keep records, to get information, and to track data. Sensors on farm equipment like tractors, buildings, farmland, and animals can send messages to computers. These messages help farmers make important decisions more quickly and efficiently. Instead of adding expensive products to entire fields, farmers can use a GPS to determine which areas of their crops need fertilizer, water, or other inputs to improve their health and growth. Tractors can even use GPS and computers to drive themselves. This helps farmers plant seeds exactly where they need to go and save fuel. Some farmers use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips for food and livestock. These chips give producers important information about the product origin, production or handling methods, and location. Unmanned aerial devices, also known as “drones” are also useful for a few reasons. The drones fly high above the crops and can show farmers areas damaged by wildlife that might need to be replanted. They can also use ultraviolet light to show when minerals such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium are out of balance.
Agricultural biotechnology allows scientists to make changes to plants, animals, and microorganisms at the genetic level. They do this to improve yield or quality and reduce inputs such as fertilizer, water, and pesticides.This can be done by traditional breeding, changing genes within an organism, or introducing new genes from other organisms. Biotechnology can make plants resistant to drought, insect damage, and disease. It can help livestock grow faster with less food. Biotechnology can be used to produce medicines, vaccines, and replacement organs. Foods can be grown with better nutrition and a longer shelf-life. Genetically engineered plants are also being developed that pull toxins out of soils. There are many environmental benefits. In short, biotechnology allows farmers to do more with less.
Engineering & Conservation
Reducing human labor and growing more food and fiber per area has been one of the biggest challenges in agriculture history. Motorized equipment did not become common until the mid-20th century - until then most farms used animal-driven implements. We have come a long way since then. Technologies over the last 50 years have continued to improve production and reduce environmental impact. Modern tractors use less energy and reduce soil compaction, and farmers don’t need to till the soil as often. This reduces fuel use and soil erosion. Farmers are using conservation buffers and other best management practices on their farms to protect water, soil and wildlife. And since there are less people working on farms today, new machines make jobs easier, safer, and more precise.
Glossary of Terms:
- GPS - Stands for Global Positioning System - a U.S. government owned navigation technology that shows us where we are in space.
- RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) - Computer chip device that reads information from a distance. It can be used in products or animals to communicate information to a farmer or producer.
- Biotechnology - A scientific process used to change genetic information in organisms.
- Till - Preparing a field for planting by turning, digging, or agitating the soil.
- Conservation buffer - Small pieces of land planted with vegetation designed to keep soil in place and prevent erosion
Seedless watermelons were invented over 50 years ago, and they have few or no seeds. When we say seeds, we are talking about mature seeds, the black ones. Oftentimes, the white seed coats where a seed did not mature are assumed to be seeds.
TreeSnap, new phone app developed by the University of Kentucky Forest Health Research Center and the University of Tennessee Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology for Android and iOS cell phones is designed to connect scientists with foresters, landowners and interested citizens in an effort to protect and restore the nation’s trees.
As if owning and operating eight chicken barns wasn't enough, Campbellsville farmer John McLean is turning waste into wattage–literally. McLean owns two very different anaerobic digesters. Anaerobic digestion is a series if biological processes in which microorganisms break down biomass in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is biogas, which is combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels.
Solitary, silent, a fleck among the clouds, the age rules the air currents above the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Two miles below, UK graduate student Stratton Hatfield bounces along rough trails in a Land Rover; more visible to the eagle than the eagle is to him.
UKCAFE plant breeder Tim Phillips has developed a new tall fescue variety and named it after Professor Emeritus Gary Lacefield to honor his many contributions to the forage industry.
Jacqueline Smith, PhD '12, epidemiologist at UK's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has created digital maps of reported rabies cases in Kentucky. Smith is putting to use the knowledge she has acquired as an epidemiologist and in her studies in geographic information systems, or GIS mapping.
David McNear studies the rhizosphere-the area where plant roots, microbes, and soil interact. With a $500,000 U.S Department of Agriculture grant, he is exploring how phosphorus moves through the rhizosphere in a no-till cover crop system.
The new Breathitt Veterinary Center uses state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to provide vital services for Kentucky’s livestock and poultry producers, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Thursday in a dedication ceremony and open house for the new laboratory.
As discussions about the 2018 Farm Bill begin around the country and on Capitol Hill, Title VII, specifically known as the Research, Extension, and Related Matters Title, will not likely get much attention outside of the agriculture arena.
A University of Kentucky entomologist is using a social media platform to help producers cut down on unnecessary insecticide applications.
Ric Bessin started the Facebook page Swdinky to help growers monitor and potentially treat for the spotted wing drosophila, a fruit fly that can destroy soft-skinned, small fruit including grapes, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.
High tunnels are a low tech version of more elaborate, and expensive, greenhouses for production of produce crops. Dr. Shubin Saha, UK extension vegetable specialist says this form of “protected agriculture” is expanding, giving consumers more variety of products in more months of the year, and providing premium income for producers of these crops.
From fighting the spread of resistant weeds to more effective use of chicken litter as a fertilizer source, the Ky Soybean Board works with UK researchers each year to help fund their work on methods and practices to improve efficiencies on the farm. The board’s Davie Stephens of Hickman County is featured.
A feature report with the 2016 Farmer of the Year in Kentucky, Mike Bach of Bath County who has a 2,500 acres operation focusing on cow/calf production, field crops, peaches and asparagus. Bach talks about the tremendous advances in ag production through GPS technology and how it can assist in environmental protection and increase the bottom line.
It’s common knowledge that plants grow up from the ground, supported by a root system, but until now scientists were unable to understand how that process starts during fertilization at a cellular level. An international team of scientists that includes a University of Kentucky researcher has visualized how the fertilized egg cell divides unequally after fertilization.
There is perhaps no other area in the agriculture industry more demanding than the dairy sector with a seven day work week and many operations running 24 hours a day.
The way tall fescue and its fungal endophyte react to future climate change will depend on the genetics of each organism, according to researchers in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Faced with a pathogen, important signaling chemicals within plant cells travel different routes to inform the plant to turn on its defense mechanisms, according to a recent University of Kentucky study.
While there are some methods of farming that have changed little over the years, such as in tobacco production, there is no doubt advanced technology is changing the way producers grow their crops even in those Kentucky tobacco fields.
A bill proposed by Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts, that would have preempted state GMO labeling laws and instead, create a national, voluntary regulation, has failed to get the necessary 60 votes to make it to a Senate vote and is currently awaiting further action.
Bernard Peterson, his two brothers, and nephew are ninth and 10th generation farmers. They pride themselves on sustainability, innovation, and productivity.
As a third-grader, Ellis Shelley was not a typical child. A self-described science nerd, he often would rush home from school and into the barn to check on chicken eggs in the incubator.
Soil scientists in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment are getting promising results from several treatments that appear to be breaking down the fragipan, a cement-like layer common in many soils in Western and Central Kentucky.
PBS News Hour: What looks like an ordinary greenhouse is actually an around-the-clock Ebola vaccine factory.
The next time you enjoy a flavorful steak or a delicious chicken breast, the cook isn’t the only one you should thank. Kentucky’s veterinary diagnostic laboratories also play an important role in ensuring a safe food supply for the region.
Variable-rate planting, highly accurate seed placement and instruments that improve seed-soil contact produce more corn with fewer resources for farmer Quint Pottinger.
For Chris Kummer, 2013 has been a good year. The Franklin farmer’s 3,000 acres of cropland have produced one of the best bounties of his career.
Making jet fuel from tobacco is a technology under study at the Kentucky Tobacco Research & Development Center in Lexington, in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.