Clemson puts on precision ag 'road show'

At first glance, Clemson University’s Will Henderson looks like he’s moving a house. The white box trailer hitched to his pickup truck resembles that of a popular moving and storage company.

Instead, Henderson is towing the newly equipped Clemson University Mobile Precision Ag Lab, a mini data-center on wheels that takes Clemson agricultural research from the field to the farmer.

From the back of the trailer, Henderson can share real-time results of Clemson studies and demonstrate the principles of precision agriculture.

Think of it as less “U-Haul,” more “U-Learn.”

“It’s a traveling road show for precision ag,” Henderson said.

Precision agriculture is the practice of using remote-sensing, soil sampling and information-management tools to optimize agriculture production.

The intent is to improve the accuracy of applying water or chemicals within a field. The finite management of precision agriculture is in contrast to whole-field or whole-farm management where decisions are uniformly applied. This approach helps protect the environment and improve both yields and the grower’s bottom line.

“It’s micro-managing individual parts of the field,” Henderson said. “Precision ag can help increase a farmer’s net return by applying these principles on a site-specific basis.”

Recognizing that not everyone has the time and means to visit field days at Clemson’s research and education centers, Henderson can take the Precision Ag Lab to agricultural events and on-farm workshops around the state.

After connecting a laptop computer to a high-definition television, Henderson can stream data live via the Internet from the Edisto Research and Education Center, where Henderson is based, and other Clemson research centers statewide.

Data from in-ground moisture sensors, yield monitors and other devices allow farmers and growers to view test results up close and learn how they could apply the techniques on their own land.

Henderson even has an “ag cam” that he plans to mount in a combine or cotton picker cab and focus on a precision ag display, such as a spray or steering system. The image can be streamed wirelessly to the trailer via the Internet.

Instead of groups of people climbing into the cab to see how the system operates, the live video can be viewed on the Precision Ag Lab’s TV for discussion in a group setting.

“What we’re aiming to do here — much like the principles of precision agriculture — is help make farmers and growers as efficient as possible, and ultimately save them money,” Henderson said.

TAGS: Management
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