By Martin Rickatson

Recent introductions in the precision farming technology sector offer opportunities to bring its value to a wider audience, and put a broader range of possibilities that were previously only available to specialists into the hands of farmers and contractors.

CNH Industrial has announced it is to market a range of precision farming technologies pooled from specialist developers, made available under both its New Holland and its Case IH brands and marketed under the AgXtend name.

Designed to complement the existing Case IH Advanced Farming System (AFS) and New Holland Precision Land Management (PLM) products, there will initially be a range of five AgXtend products.

Mounted on the tractor’s front linkage or weight frame, CropXplorer uses a pair of optical sensors to measure crop biomass, before processing this data to calculate the crop’s actual nitrogen requirement. It then automatically adjusts the application rate of the spreader on the tractor’s rear linkage. CropXplorer also includes a Map + Overlay mode, allowing yield potential maps to be used in combination with on-the-go sensor measurements.

Control is via a dedicated terminal which is compatible with ISOBUS fertiliser spreaders as well as most non-ISOBUS spreaders that are capable of variable rate application.

Also front-mounted, the SoilXplorer sensor and mapper comprises a contactless soil sensor which uses electromagnetism to measure soil conductivity at four different depths – 0-25cm, 15-60cm, 55-95cm and 85-115cm.

It can be used for mapping fields, to record soil heterogeneity (its composition or character) and to determine soil type maps and relative water content maps. Secondly, it provides information that determines the presence and depth of compacted areas, so variable depth soil cultivation can be practiced with compatible equipment.

For working with forage harvesters, combines and balers, NIRXact uses near infra-red (NIR) technology to accurately measure yield, moisture and crop constituents, including ADF (acid detergent fibre), NDF (neutral detergent fibre), starch, ash and crude fat.

This provides a range of benefits, such as allowing contractors to sell their services based on the number of tonnes harvested, and farmers to adjust nutrition for dairy and beef cattle.

When used with a slurry tanker, NIRXact can also be used to enable the amount of nitrogen applied to fields to be monitored and adjusted by varying the slurry application rate according to its constituent levels.

One of the most interesting items in the AgXtend stable is XPower, a system of controlling weeds using electricity. Designed as a non-chemical method of non-selective weed control and pre-harvest desiccation, the system destroys plants down to their roots and works via direct contact, with effects said to be visible in just a few hours. Application booms with working widths from 1.2 to 3m are available.

Lastly, also new is the FarmXtend app, a smart weather application which works with a complete set of connected in-field sensors, allowing users to monitor in-field weather data to support decision-making around activities such as spraying.

This works in conjunction with the WeatherXact connected weather station, which senses temperature and humidity at 1.0m above ground and at crop level, together with the RainXact connected rain gauge and SoilXact, which records soil moisture and temperature at different depths.

Meanwhile, French firm Sencrop has also recently launched a weather station system, labelled ‘Connected’. It incorporates both rain gauge and wind speed gauge elements, in addition to thermometers and hydrometer, and records rainfall, temperature, humidity and wind speed.

Data is transferred using wireless technology to a phone/tablet app. Sensors can be placed where the user desires, and there is a screen ‘dashboard’ to indicate their location and the key data from them. Alerts can then be set for thresholds of factors such as temperature.

LAMMA saw precision farming specialist, Patchwork, launch its latest Black Box terminal, the Black Box Marine, designed to offer a combined guidance and rate control system for sprayers and fertiliser spreaders.

Using an Android-based tablet, it harnesses Bluetooth connectivity to communicate between tractor and implement, making it possible to govern functions such as variable rate application of inputs, section control of spreaders and auto shut-off of sprayer sections or nozzles, to minimise input wastage.

Data required for application is transferable to the unit via a USB memory stick or wirelessly, or can be up/downloaded to/from the Cloud via Patchwork’s Blackbox Core PC software.

KRM, the UK agent for fertiliser spreaders from Danish firm, Bogballe, also launched a tablet control system at LAMMA, designed to work integrally with its Calibrator Zurf controller and utilising a dedicated app which includes spreading charts and settings.

Like many similar tablet systems, it is being pitched as a universal alternative to using ISOBUS-based ‘plug-in’ technology to link tractor and implement. Again, using Bluetooth to relay data between tablet and terminal, it’s possible to control functions such as guidance, auto shut-off, section control and variable rate application.

Other recent device-based app developments aimed at enhancing arable productivity include the TLC Plus, from tyre maker, Trelleborg. This compares current tyre pressures with those best suited to the tractor weight and application, and set when the tyres were fitted.

The system alerts the operator should a pressure deviation occur, allowing it to be addressed in good time before field damage can occur.

The firm also revealed more about the ongoing development of its ConnecTire technology, which monitors pressures, temperatures and slippage using rim-and carcase-based sensors. Data is then transmitted to the app via Bluetooth or wireless.

In this way the number of machine passes over the field can be tracked and minimised to minimise compaction.

Other systems:

Not all recent precision farming developments concern in-field operations and such technology is also becoming increasingly important in grain storage.

New from BDC Systems at LAMMA, recently, was a remote moisture monitoring system for grain in the process of being dried, designed in conjunction with moisture meter maker, Sinar, to minimise the risk of over-drying.

Sampling units are fitted to the wet and dry elevators of a drying system, and samples monitored via a moisture probe, with the resulting readings showing the percentage moisture of each.

The data can be viewed remotely via an app, and/or the system can be linked to the company’s dryer control system. Retrofitting to existing grain systems is possible.