sealPurdue Agriculture Briefs

February 2000

Farmers can check out GPS fields on the Web

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Farmers who want to see site-specific farming technology work before they try it for themselves can "drive by" Purdue University test fields on the World Wide Web.

"Indiana farmers are exposed to a bewildering array of claims about the virtues of site-specific farming technology," says Purdue agronomist Bob Nielsen. "Our goal is to develop achievable and economical methods for interpreting yield variability in whole fields. That could help improve farm net income."

Precision farming uses technologies such as space-based yield monitoring and global positioning systems (GPS), variable rate material applicators and computer data bases to accurately place farm inputs such as fertilizer, herbicides or manure in the amounts needed on the specific places that they are needed.

Nielsen, somewhat of a skeptic himself, wanted to put site-specific farming to the test. He and other Purdue researchers set up test plots to find out if farmers could collect enough GPS data to interpret past crop yields and predict future yields – and if it was economically feasible to do so. The researchers began intensive crop data collection in 1999. Then, they set up the GPS Crop Management Technologies Web site, so that anyone who was interested could watch their progress.

"This site will display some of the georeferenced crop and soil data that have been and will be collected and analyzed on four research fields," Nielsen says. Farmers can virtually "drive by" and check out a crop's progress, any time of the day or night, by logging onto the World Wide Web.

As the 2000 growing season unfolds, the researchers will post data on plant populations and development, tissue samples, kernel development, ear counts, pod counts, grain yield and more. They'll also measure and map crop problems and pests as they appear during the year.

Already on the Web site farmers can find maps showing laser-guided topography; a new, intensive soil survey; soil electrical conductivity data; five years of yield monitor data; soil fertility data; and several aerial infrared images of 120 acres of corn and soybeans at Davis-Purdue Agricultural Center in Randolph County, Ind.

Nielsen never expected accurate yield predictions to come easily, but the more he worked with site-specific farming, the more he became aware of its complexity. "You're quickly reminded that many factors influence grain yield," he says, "and these factors usually interact with each other."

CONTACT: Nielsen, (765) 494-4802,

La Nina's persistence may mean another dry summer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Drought-like conditions could continue in the Ohio Valley right through next summer's growing season, according to Jim Newman, climatologist and Purdue University professor emeritus.

The cool La Nina waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, believed to be related to the 1999 summer drought in the eastern United States, are forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to strengthen and persist through spring and early summer, Newman says.

A westward and northern movement in drought conditions is expected through the coming summer, Newman says.

La Nina is more fickle than her brother, however, according to Ken Scheeringa, acting state climatologist in Purdue's agronomy department.

"La Nina events tend to be more difficult to recognize and trace than El Nino events," Scheeringa says. "La Ninas tend to be less strong than El Ninos and fluctuate in and out of existence more frequently."

Newman says that overall, La Ninas are associated with higher drought risks across the continental United States and Canada. "Drought is easily the No. 1 natural disaster in terms of its potential impact on food production and supply," he says.

A growing understanding of how ocean surface temperatures influence global weather has allowed modest success in predicting irregular weather events and seasonal weather trends, such as drought, Newman says.

CONTACTS: Newman, (765) 742-6323; Scheeringa, (765) 494-8105,

Purdue welcomes 2001 Farm Progress Show

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service specialists look forward to enhanced educational opportunities with the 2001 Farm Progress Show slated for neighboring farm fields in Tippecanoe County.

The Farm Progress Show Cos. will hold the show Sept. 25-27, 2001, at a 2,500-acre site south of Lafayette on U.S. 52. Recognized as the largest agricultural trade show in the Midwest, the Farm Progress Show rotates annually among Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The 2000 show will be in Illinois.

Purdue Extension has historically maintained a large presence at the show. "This has been a great way for us showcase research and education for Indiana farmers and agribusiness," says Purdue Extension Director David Petritz, who has been involved in nine shows.

Tom Jordan, Purdue Extension's program leader for agriculture and natural resources, says having the Farm Progress Show at Purdue's back door also provides opportunities for university activities that complement the show. Jordan says there may be tours for prospective students, agribusiness companies and livestock producers. There may also be educational seminars. "For example, Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics and the Center for Agricultural Business hosted 80 foreign agricultural journalists last time as part of an educational seminar sponsored by Ford New Holland," he says.

Jordan says the show also is a great learning event for people who want to know more about modern agriculture. "If people want to know more about where food comes from, and what it takes to be a farmer these days, they should try to make it out here," Jordan says.

One of the largest farm shows in the country with 600 vendors, the Farm Progress Show attracts an estimated 100,000 visitors each of its three days.

Purdue's Farm Progress Show presence will be overseen by Dana Neary, a Purdue Extension special events coordinator.

CONTACTS: Petritz, (765) 494-8489,; Jordan, (765) 494-8494,

Compiled by Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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