The world of agriculture has never experienced such rapid innovation in technology, new products, equipment and research than any other time in history.
Here's a look at some of those advancements.
A: Autonomous tractors
The tractor replaced the horse and plow well over a century ago. And not long after that, foresighted innovators were thinking ahead to a time when a tractor wouldn't need a driver at all. However, it's only been the past few years where technology has made the concept of autonomous tractors economically feasible. There are already a handful of autonomous tractors on display. In the future, it likely will become a commonplace to see them in the fields.
Where would we be without seed development? One can only imagine. However, for more than 150 years the U.S. has developed into the world leader in crop genetics. This fact has led to the creation of countless seed varieties and hybrids. It allowed a diversity of crops to be grown successfully in many climates and become resistant to disease, drought and pests. Today, seed development research, both private and public, continues as the demand to feed a rising world population increases.
C: Crop sensors
Farmers no longer have to determine their field applications before getting into the tractor cab. Thanks to variable rate crop sensor technology, the amount of application can be performed in real time. In the future, it would help producers avoid applying more fertilizer than is needed and decreasing leaching and runoff into ground water.
D: Drought resistant corn
Last year's drought across much of the Corn Belt put the need for more drought-resistant corn varieties front and center in the discussion of future corn production. While more acres continue to be planted in so-called non-traditional corn growing states, success in the Corn Belt drives the market. And with drought always a concern, development of drought resistant varieties couldn't come at a better time.
E: Eco-friendly farming
There are no better stewards of the land than farmers. And finding alternatives to traditional power resources is always on their minds. Solar projects, wind energy production and converting bio-waste into an energy source are among the ways farmers and ranchers are doing their part to tap into renewable energy.
F: Farm management software
The computer certainly made bookkeeping on the farm much faster than the days of pen and paper. Eventually, new software programs enabled even a novice bookkeeper to grasp accounting practices. Today, accounting software is tailored for individual businesses and industries, including farming.
G: Global Positioning System
It's been around for years, but its uses in agriculture continue to evolve. Where would farmers be without GPS? It provides precise data in field mapping and scouting. And assists in the application of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
H: Hydrogen-powered tractors
An alternative to conventional tractors powered by gasoline, hydro-powered tractors run on fuel cells. Some manufacturers, like New Holland, already are developing hydrogen fuel cell powered tractors. Hydrogen-powered technology is not just reserved to the freeway.
M: Mobile devices
Where would farmers be without them? With a few touches of a Smartphone or iPad producers have access to crop data in real time. Whether they are in the tractor, at home, or in town, a farmer is never disconnected to their farm.
O: Odor eaters
Yes, even technology is out there to reduce odor. Operators of large animal feedlots, including hog farms, are well aware of the “big stink” about the smell. Chemical engineers continue to work with biofiltration techniques that use bacteria to eat air pollution. It may one day lead to a significant reduction in animal waste odor.
P: Pest control
Years ago farmers had little in their arsenal when it came to combating insects. Thanks to research and development of plant varieties and insecticides, it because a winnable battle. Continued research from entomologists have also enabled farmers to learn of these insects' movements and traits. And that has also helped in pest control and limiting crop loss.
R: Remote sensing
With today's expanding operations stretching farmers and ranchers in many directions, tools are available to closely monitor animals, environmental conditions and equipment efficiency through remote control and digital camera technology. It's not a new concept, but it continues to evolve to encompass many tasks in agriculture.
S: Soyoil in tires
Farmers soon will be operating their equipment on tires made in part by soybeans they are producing. Technology is moving ahead on the use of soyoil in tractor tires. About 90 pounds of it go into manufacturing every 900-pound tractor tire, according to Bridgestone Americas. The company, which manufactures tractor tires under its Firestone brand, recently unveiled its soyoil tractor tires at the Commodity Classic this winter.
What if an implement dealer could connect to your tractor's diagnostic system while you're out working in the field? Imagine if repairs could be made over a computer instead of having a service mechanic come to the farm, or the need to bring the machine into the shop? Telematics technology could be the next big advancement in farm equipment maintenance.
U: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
No longer is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) reserved for military purposes. These drones could become a farmhand in the sky, assisting in surveying crops. The practice of UAVs monitoring fields is already being conducted – and with favorable results.
V: Variable rate irrigation systems
Water is a precious resource, and no one knows better than farmers. Drought conditions have generated more emphasis on irrigation systems to prevent crop loss. Technology is enabling farmers to closely monitor irrigation rates and avoid wasting this resource.
W: Weed research
Weeds cost farmers millions of dollars annually in yield loss. And that is why advancements in weed resistance remains critical. Whether it's through the private sector, or through USDA or university-subsidized programs, weed research continues to develops products and methods to mitigating weed damage in farming.
Z: Zero-till farming
It's been around for decades in the U.S, but it continues to gain greater acceptance for its ability to retain moisture, limit erosion and enhance soil nutrients. Research and development continue to improve the performance and durability of no-till planters and sprayers.