sealPurdue News

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,

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

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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