Tools, Technology Featured at Southwest Ag Summit

RDO Water to host live demo and panel discussion SWAgSummit

Author: RDO Water

Year after year, the Southwest Ag Summit continues to be a premier ag industry event that attracts professionals and students from Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico. Whether it’s the field demos or exhibitor show, the panel discussions or breakout seminars, or even the always-anticipated breakfast burritos or the always-sold-out Harvest Dinner, this annual event provides education, enjoyment, and the opportunity to see longtime colleagues and make new connections.

The Southwest Ag Summit is February 22-23 at Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ. RDO Water in Yuma has been involved for several years. Especially in the past few years, the team has established itself as a leader in technology and become one of the most anticipated live demos at the event. This year’s demo is no exception, as the team is highlighting both soil moisture management tools and UAV technology.

An automatic moisture sensor will be displayed, with explanation of how such tools factor into an irrigation management strategy. The team will also discuss the use of drones in agriculture; specifically, using aerial imagery to identify areas of field stress, drought, or unhealthy field conditions, and the opportunity it provides growers to respond to and adjust operations quickly to minimize yield loss.

In addition to the live demo, RDO Water is sponsoring Thursday morning’s keynote panel, “Connected by the Colorado River,” at 7:30 a.m. The panel includes Chuck Cullom, Central Arizona Project; Tom Davis, Yuma County Water Users Association; and Dr. George Seperich, Arizona State University. A Water Panel Breakout will follow at 9:30 a.m.

Both RDO Water and RDO Equipment Co. will have booths in the exhibit area. Throughout the duration of the event, team members will be available to meet with customers, answer questions, and discuss the companies’ total solutions approach to agriculture equipment and irrigation. Visit RDO Water at booth, #27 and RDO Equipment Co. at booth #26.

Visit the Southwest Ag Summit website for more information on the event, including online registration, educational sessions and a full event schedule.

Interested in finding out more about soil moisture management tools and UAV technology? Join us for the RDO Water demo or visit booth #27 at the Southwest Ag Summit exhibitor show.

If you’re unable to attend the show but would like to learn more, contact your local RDO Water store in Arizona or California.

Deserts – Key to Feeding Future Global Population

Food crop production must expand into land areas considered to harsh, wet, or dry RDO-Water

Author: Lee Allen, Western Farm Press

Merle Jensen may not walk on water, but he knows a lot about it – the water part anyway.

He says, “Farming’s future is totally dependent on the availability of good water for crop production and the proper placement of that water for higher yield. The whole future of growing crops is dependent on the best method of irrigation and fertigation, and farmers would be wise to consider adapting the concept of drip irrigation now – or they might find themselves out of business.”

Jensen, a retired professor Emeritus plant scientist at the University of Arizona (UA), spent his career growing vegetable crops in harsh desert climates over the world – from Mexico and Latin America to Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“There are over 20,000 miles of desert coastline in the world that, if made habitable, could feed millions of people,” he says, strongly recommending drip irrigation for plants grown in sand.

In most cases, edibles are seeded directly into leached beach sand and once growing are put on constant liquid-feed solutions of commercial-grade fertilizer applied through the irrigation system.

With a United Nations estimation that the world’s population will grow by an additional 4 billion to 11.2 billion by 2100, there’s a major concern by food scientists about where food will be grown.

“Vast areas of prime agricultural land are being taken out of production each year and we’re losing farmland and rich river valleys,” Jensen says.

“Production of food crops will have to expand into land areas always thought as too harsh, too wet or dry. If we are to successfully increase our supply of food, we must increase the output our land is producing.”

He adds, “Growth in food production will not keep pace unless we extend agriculture into new areas. And toward that end, the day will come when the world’s deserts must be cultivated.”

That day is here thanks to a variety of issues that work in conjunction toward a common goal, including trickle irrigation where measured amounts of a water and nutrient mix drip onto plants from a narrow hose running the length of the furrow, using whatever soil is available, including sand in Iran, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, and the American Southwest.

A People magazine feature on horticulture quoted Jensen saying, “Year-round growth can give yields 10 to 40 times greater than standard open-field production.”

Another publication, Horticulture magazine, cited “the outlandish world of Merle Jensen” who “has a penchant for blending Buck Rogers with Rube Goldberg for futuristic desert farming.”

Well, the future is now.

According to scientists with degrees from Cal Poly, Cornell, and Rutgers, the pro versus con formula is pretty simple. Over the short term, the negatives include a higher cost to implement along with salinity hazards and an increased sensitivity to clogging.

Jensen replies, “Expensive, yes, but the future alternative is you’re either in production or out of it, and you won’t be in production if you don’t find a way to conserve water.”

Advantages tend to outweigh negatives – maximum use of water maximizes crop yield, less weed growth or soil erosion, relatively low labor and operational costs, less evaporation compared to surface irrigation, and decreased tillage.

AgricultureGuide.com notes, “One of the most important aspects of this method is that the watered zone is only along the plant line, leaving the rest of the field dry – using the least amount of scarce and/or costly water possible. Because the watered zone is shadowed by the plant itself, evaporation is minimal, consumption is lowered, and the required moisture level in the root zone is maintained. Additionally, fertilizers can be used via the drip system, thus reducing that volume needed.”

Jensen proved the efficacy of drip irrigation at the UA’s Environmental Research Laboratory.  Time magazine, in 1967, reported on Jensen’s experiments in the integrated production of vegetables, electricity, and desalted water in the soil-poor desert of Arabia’s Abu Dhabi.

They termed the growing of food in Sadiyat, a sandy, essentially barren, uninhabited island, ‘sand culture.’ And they proved it would work in an area with strong prevailing winds and rainfall that averaged less than two inches per year.

The facility and a previous prototype in Puerto Penasco, Mexico were intended to make a coastal desert agriculturally productive.

In Sonora, plants were seeded in separate plots of beach sand or sphagnum peat moss/vermiculite and grew equally well in either drip-irrigated medium. Once the efficacy of the concept literally bore fruit, it expanded to other countries throughout the world.

Another strong proponent of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is fellow Arizonan Howard Wuertz of Sundance Farms in Coolidge, the 2016 winner of Netafim USA’s Award for Advancement in Microirrigation – http://www.westernfarmpress.com/irrigation/wuertz-honored-subsurface-drip-irrigation-pioneer.

“SDI delivers many benefits and we encourage growers to take measures to ensure the sustainability of their farming operations for generations to come,” says Wuertz.

“Successful farming in the desert is not only about using water more efficiently, but about being productive with the resources we have and subsurface drip irrigation has allowed us to boost our productivity per acre with less water than traditional irrigation methods.”

The Wuertz family estimates a reduction in water usage up to 50 percent on their 3,200-acre farm.

While Wuertz has been referred to as “the father of subsurface drip irrigation,” Jensen claims some of that parentage too due to his longevity in drip cultivation trials throughout the globe.

Former colleague Hassan Elattir, Morocco’s first horticulturist, worked with Jensen to initiate drip irrigation there. Elattir praises the growth since their first drip irrigation experiments in 1975.

“By 2020, there will be more than 500,000 hectares of crops under drip irrigation,” Elattir says.

And that’s good news as the estimation is that more food will needed in the first half of this century than was produced in the previous 100 centuries combined.

Jensen isn’t one to generally say ‘I told you so,’ but in this case, he does.

“The projects we’ve been involved with have demonstrated it is possible to produce vegetables in many sandy areas of the world where almost nothing now grows,” said Jensen.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

Wild, Wacky Winter Weather

Weather’s effect on alfalfa and forage fields Alfalfa

Author: Mike Rankin, Hay & Forage Grower

The weather geeks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tell us that 2016 was the second warmest year for the U.S. in the 122 years of record keeping. It was the 24th wettest year, but we also had double the record number of inland flooding events.

What’s done is done, but 2017 is not exactly starting out as anything close to normal in many U.S. regions. The impact on the forage industry, especially alfalfa, looms heavy; it almost always does in matters concerning weather.

Let’s begin in the West where Dan Putnam, extension forage specialist for the University of California-Davis, recently reported that some fields in northern California are flooded from relentless rains. It was needed moisture, for sure, but Putnam points out that there can be consequences to long-term ponding on alfalfa fields.

“The extent of either (plant) death or damage depends upon temperature, drainage, alfalfa growth status, and duration of flooding,” Putnam notes in a recent Alfalfa & Forage News blog.

He explains that dormant alfalfa varieties under cool or cold conditions may tolerate winter flooding more so than the green, actively growing plants in the warmer, desert regions. This is because plant respiration rates are much slower, somewhat buffering the effect of anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions caused by flooded or waterlogged soils.

In addition to the impairment of the plant to “breath,” Putnam notes that flooded alfalfa plants may suffer root damage in the form of fine root hair death, pruning, and weakened nitrogen-fixing nodules. Saturated soils also impair the uptake of micronutrients and predispose plants to disease infections. New seedings planted last fall are especially susceptible to damage.

A warm and wet Midwest

Some early December snow set the stage for a desired winter groundcover in most of the Upper Midwest. It didn’t last long as temperatures warmed with the new year and were accompanied by volumes of liquid precipitation in many areas. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s are not normal for January, but they have been this year, even in the northern states.

Many fields contain standing water with thawed or thawing saturated soils. Given that winter is far from the finish line, the concern now turns to ice formation if the water doesn’t infiltrate the soil before colder temperatures return.

“A solid layer of ice restricts air diffusion and suffocates alfalfa plants,” says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin extension forage agronomist. “Solid ice is more devastating than ice that is cracked or where plant stems are sticking above the ice layer,” he adds. As with water, the duration of ice cover plays a large role in determining the potential for damage.

Undersander doesn’t recommend any remedial practices when ice forms over alfalfa fields. Practices such as pulling a disk across the field to break the ice or applying fertilizer to melt the ice are generally of little consequence and often can cause more damage than if fields were left alone.

The waiting game

It’s never easy to predict damage incurred to alfalfa during winter. Be it water or ice, the effects of damage, or lack thereof, are usually not known for weeks and sometimes months into the future.

Past history tells us that the spectrum of potential damage is wide, ranging from total death to slightly weakened plants. In the latter case, both Putnam and Undersander suggest conservative management during the upcoming growing season. Let plants reach 10 percent bloom to build carbohydrate reserves before taking the initial cutting. Also, be vigilant to ensure adequate soil fertility and control pests. Insects often prefer stressed plants. Where possible, also try to control weeds.

Though nothing can be done at this time, it doesn’t hurt to develop a backup plan if the worst-case scenario comes to fruition. Think about alternative crop rotations, possible interseeding strategies for new seedings, annual forages that could fill a short-term feeding need, and when or where new seedings might be established in 2017. Then hope none of those plans will ever be needed.

Full article shared from Hay & Forage Grower website.

What Will 2017 Mean for California Water Users?

What will 2017 mean for California water users and the farmers who need it to grow crops? california-water

Author: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

Winter across California has been a tale of two seasons in the past couple years.

Last year this time we were coming off a wet December. Little did we know at the time, but the taps would largely be in the “off” position for a couple months before faucets reopened and liquid gold began falling from the skies.

Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened. At least not yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Forecasters are calling for an “atmospheric river” to pummel California this week and bring continued blessings to a state parched by several years of severe drought conditions.

All this rain and snow is a good thing for Mediterranean Climate zones that produce the volume of food as California does.

The recent December freeze that kept citrus growers up at night wasn’t the blockbuster of previous seasons. Instead, it helped growers leave fruit on the trees rather than rush to harvest them.

Now they’re rushing as I write this because heavy rain is expected later this week in the San Joaquin Valley. The rain will put a temporary halt to citrus harvest as I’m told the fruit cannot be picked when it’s wet as it damages the fruit.

Meanwhile, tree nut growers were shaking their trees as part of their winter sanitation protocols to remove “mummy” nuts, a necessary activity to rob pests like the Navel orangeworm from a place to hunker down and over-winter.

Navel orangeworms, later in the growing season, can wreak havoc and cause yield losses in almonds and pistachios.

On the flip side of the natural water blessings California is experiencing, the State Water Board is moving ahead with plans to take half the natural flows from several key rivers used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and produce billions of dollars’ worth of crops.

The decision isn’t final and likely won’t be until later in the year. Though thousands of farmers and others reliant on waters from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers spoke in unified opposition to the state’s plans, the looks on the faces of water board members at public hearings suggested they were simply going through the motions to do what they want, regardless of how damaging it will be to the state’s economy and the people who live here.

This certainly won’t be the only challenge farmer’s face in 2017. Regardless of whether Mother Nature calls an end to the climatic drought, regulators and lawmakers appear to be laser-focused on continuing their regulatory drought in California.

Time will tell how effective the promises of the upcoming Trump administration will be to pull back on the onerous rules, regulations and laws keeping California farmers from adequate water supplies.

Meanwhile, bring on the rain.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

Crops Benefit from Holiday Demand

Marketers say the just-concluded year-end holidays brought an upturn in sales RDO-Water

Author: Ching Lee, Ag Alert

Year-end celebrations may be finished, but a number of California agricultural products continue to feel the benefits of a traditional bump in sales created by increased baking, feasting and toasting during the holiday season.

Holiday festivities boost sales across many wine categories but particularly sparkling wine, which remains a favorite for ringing in the New Year. About 30 percent of sparkling wine sales happen during the last two months of the year—10 percent in November and 20 percent in December, according to Nielsen. During the rest of the year, each month represents about 6 to 7 percent of total annual sales.

Table wine also sees a spike in sales—with the last eight weeks of the year averaging 9 to 10 percent of annual sales. This compares to average monthly sales of 7 to 8 percent the rest of the year.

“Wine sales are pretty consistent throughout the year,” said Gladys Horiuchi, spokeswoman for the Wine Institute. “Sparkling wine is the wine that shows the most seasonality of sales.”

That may be changing, as more people break out the bubbly for different occasions year-round. Horiuchi noted that sparkling wine sales in the U.S. have been on an upward trend. During the first nine months of 2016, U.S. sparkling wine sales grew 11 percent.

Turkey remains popular year-round as deli meat, but the whole-body bird is still a favorite for Thanksgiving and Christmas, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. About 30 to 40 percent of annual turkey sales occur in November, he noted, while 25 percent of what’s normally produced for Thanksgiving is for the Christmas market.

“Thanksgiving is a huge time for us,” he said. “This year was really good too, because we basically sold everything we produced for the holidays; all of the turkeys were gone.”

Chicken sales, however, typically drop off in November and early December, and tend to pick back up by the end of December, Mattos said, noting that January is usually “a huge chicken month because people are ready to cut back and eat something lean and healthy.”

Other poultry such as duck and squab also have become more popular during the holidays, especially in ethnic communities, he said. Those types of birds “are really big” during the lunar New Year celebration at the end of this month, he added.

California egg producers felt the pinch of low egg prices for most of 2016, as U.S. egg production recovered from the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza with fully restocked barns and supplies that now outpace demand.

San Diego County egg farmer Frank Hilliker said the holidays and winter season have helped to increase demand a tad, with people eating more eggs now that temperatures are colder. He’s seen a 10 percent jump in sales because of holiday baking, but he noted the stronger prices won’t last.

“It’s all going to go away,” he said. “Prices have been horrible since after Easter (last year) because of overproduction. I imagine sometime in January to sometime in February, we’re going to see the market go down again.”

Another baking staple—butter—also does well during the fourth quarter, said Beth Ford, chief operating officer of Land O’Lakes. The dairy cooperative typically begins planning for holiday production and building inventory during the second quarter by reviewing market trends and talking to its customers.

“Consumers continue to make the switch to butter from other products, continuing a several-year trend,” she said. “Over the last two years alone, our demand on a pound basis is up 15 percent from just two years ago.”

California almonds and walnuts are used in many holiday foods and fourth-quarter sales are typically the heaviest, said Chad Temel, who markets the nuts for Stockton-based Pearl Crop. He estimated the company ships 55 to 60 percent of its crop during the last three months of the year.

Because the company exports more than 95 percent of its nuts, Temel said the holiday rush usually starts as soon as the crop is harvested to allow for shipping time—and because the nuts often need to be further processed, packaged or used in different forms once they arrive at their overseas destinations. He noted export markets buy mostly in-shell nuts and prefer to do their own shelling.

The California Walnut Board began its advertising campaign with heavy emphasis on holiday baking in early November and ran it right up until Christmas, said Jennifer Olmstead, the board’s director of marketing and domestic public relations.

“November, December is a very traditional time of year to use walnuts, particularly for holiday baking,” she said. “We have really embraced that with a lot of our outreach efforts.”

Although shelled walnuts still make up the bulk of the domestic market, consumption of in-shell walnuts remains a popular tradition during the holidays, Olmstead noted. Walnut sales don’t necessarily slow down after the holidays, she added, as more nuts are moved to replenish markets.

Board Executive Director Michelle Connelly also pointed out that the holiday season for walnuts is not limited to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day in the U.S. A string of holidays in the fall through the end of January in Canada, Europe, India, Korea, Japan and China all help to bolster walnut exports and consumption, she said.

The use of California raisins in more recipes for moon cake, a traditional Asian pastry popular during the lunar New Year celebration, also may help boost sales later this month, said Larry Blagg, a senior vice president of the California Raisin Marketing Board. But November and December remain peak months for raisin consumption, as people use the dried fruit in their holiday dishes and baking recipes, said Jackie Grazier, marketing director for Sun-Maid Growers of California. Data from the market research company IRI show sales of raisins, not counting snack-sized units, are 30 percent higher during this period.

Not all holiday food items experience the seasonal market uptick, however. Even though flour is a major baking ingredient during the holidays, a rise in flour purchases hasn’t necessarily translated to better prices for wheat, said Claudia Carter, executive director of the California Wheat Commission. Unlike specialty products such as raisins, nuts and wine that are produced mainly in California, wheat is traded globally and grown in many regions of the world. Not only is there a huge surplus of wheat on the global market, but U.S. wheat consumption has been flat, she added.

“Wheat is more related to the commodity market and currently prices are very depressed,” Carter said.

Full article shared from Ag Alert, with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

Unique UAV event puts multiple eBee drones in the air for simultaneous, planned flight RDO-UAV

Author: Lindsay Paulson, RDO Equipment Co.

 

A dozen individuals from 10 states and numerous industries – what could they possibly all have in common?

On October 13 and 14, at a rural farm site near Billings, Montana, this group of professionals came together to participate in an event focused on one popular topic: Drones.

Led by the team from RDO Integrated Controls, 12 seasoned drone experts, across numerous industries, gathered to be part of a unique event and pioneering experiment in the drone world. An event and experiment devised from simple conversations between Sean Erickson, Technology Support Specialist with RDO Integrated Controls, and a few of his customers, drone leaders in their respective fields.

Setting the Scene
A division of RDO Equipment Co., RDO Integrated Controls provides solutions through GPS, lasers, GIS, survey, machine control, and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology. The company sells and supports senseFly, a leading UAV manufacturer, and its eBee and albris drones.

With the level of expertise and leadership it provides to professionals interested in UAV technology, RDO Integrated Controls makes it a mission to have a knowledgeable team dedicated to this area, as well as resources customers need to successfully implement drones in their businesses.

Erickson had received a request from a customer to create a “how-to” type document based on drone applications. After thinking about it and discussing the concept with a few veteran drone customers, Erickson had a spin-off idea.

“Instead of creating a document with info, tips, and best practices, I started thinking, what if we held an event that would bring together drone experts across different industries to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge,” he said.

Erickson began pitching the idea to experienced drone customers, particularly those with hundreds of flights under their belts. As interest grew and discussions continued, ideas started snowballing. One idea, in particular, became the basis on which the entire drone event would be based.

eBee to the 10th
“I knew there were cases of companies putting multiple drones in the air at one time,” Erickson said. “But I hadn’t seen a fully-coordinated drone mapping mission with multiple aircraft.”

Theoretically, Erickson was certain a planned multi-drone mission would work. And he felt the event would be an opportunity to put his theory to the test.

“At first, we thought about trying to fly two drones simultaneously,” Erickson said. Some customers were already doing this regularly so he then thought about going for five. Then, Erickson said, the thought was, “If we can do five, why not go for 10?”

Furthermore, 10 was an easy number to show scale and thus, 10 eBees flying simultaneously became the final goal for the event.

An event that had shaped up as an opportunity to prove Erickson’s original theory.

An event that had several drone professionals eager to take part in this first-time experiment.

An event, which became known as the eBee to the 10th, that was about to come to life.

Bringing It All Together
Day one of the eBee10 was focused on discussions about all-things in UAV industry including field gear, Part 107 testing, and data processing. Every attendee brought a unique topic to present, a format Erickson devised as a way to steer clear of lecture-style learning and instead encourage discussions and sharing of knowledge between attendees.

It was on the morning of day two that the experimental mission was scheduled. But before the group could head out into the field and test Erickson’s theory, the flight plan had to be finalized.

“Late on Thursday night I, my colleague, Dennis Louton, and two of our attendees, Dennis Ryan of Vertical Sciences, Inc., and Jordan Kessel of Baranko Brothers, Inc., created the flight plan,” Erickson said. They continued work into the early morning hours, testing the plan in the simulator and tweaking it until they had the final, working flight plan.

The following morning, Erickson and Ryan presented the plan to the team, at which time Erickson said he gave all attendees the chance to withdraw from the experiment.

“I knew what we were doing was unprecedented,” he said. “If, after seeing the plan and simulation, anyone felt it was too risky, I wanted them to have the opportunity to bow out.” Instead, the group was more excited than ever, and at 9 a.m. they headed to the site.

The test site was a private farmstead with 125 acres of mapped flight area. Erickson arranged permission to use the site while Dennis Ryan, as air boss, filed the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) as well as notified the local air tower of all details related to the test, including closing out the NOTAM when the mission was complete.

The launching and landing was done in two groups of five drones. After the first group launched, the second was launched a few seconds later, and all 10 were in the air simultaneously performing a single mapping mission, and controlled by a unified Ground Control Station. Five pilots were responsible for launching, landing, and observation, while five controlled the flight plan via onsite computers. Erickson was onsite safety office and Louton served as logistics officer, providing equipment and technology support. Radio communications kept the pilots in touch with each other and the local air tower.

 

The result? The eBee drones flew the flight plan, which covered 125 acres in seven minutes.

“It was quick and effective,” Erickson said of the experiment. “We showed that 10 drones could execute a flight plan simultaneously.”

Assessing Impact
While Erickson’s experiment proved what he originally set out to do, it also demonstrated another important concept: scalability. He explained, “To see 10 drones cover 125 acres in just seven minutes, shows that it’s possible to cover 1,000 acres in one hour. That’s huge.”

Generally speaking, a single UAV can map about 100 acres per hour. Substantial, for example, when comparing the time spent for a crop scout to walk fields or a crew to survey a jobsite. But to show the significance of the scalable opportunity provided by multiple drones, Erickson used an example of an emergency response scenario.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Imagine a disaster of such magnitude today. It would require a full-scale emergency response plan, which could include UAV technology; for example, searching for survivors using heat-mapping capabilities of drones.

See below to see the scalability opportunity with drones in this scenario:

640:         Acres in a Square Mile
170:          Square Miles (Land) of the city of New Orleans
108,800: Acres in the city of New Orleans

1,088:      Approx. hours it would take one UAV to map the city
45:            Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
108:          Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

108:          Approx. hours it would take 10 UAVs to map the city
4.5:           Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
10:            Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

It’s easy to see the potential impact of a multi-drone flight in this type of scenario.

And certainly this shows possibilities for companies of all sizes to grow with the ability to get more done, faster, using multiple drones. But, Erickson also took into consideration the hidden value in these results. How could this info apply to construction, roadbuilding, or engineering companies not necessarily looking to grow or interested in trying to operate multiple drones?

One example he noted was in partnerships between companies saying, “A construction company, an engineering firm, and a surveyor could team up for a project that they, individually, may not have been able to do.” This co-op model he describes would enable small companies to win projects against larger, full-service companies, potentially opening the doors to new clients and diversification of services.

Next Steps
While the event has ended, Erickson says his and his colleagues’ work is far from over. As he has begun analyzing the flight data from the eBee10, he has already found some areas that could be improved – likely, in the eBee10: Version 2.

“Yes, we definitely plan to hold another event like this,” an enthusiastic Erickson said.

Until that date, Erickson has stayed in touch with all engaged customers via a MeetUp website. Both eBee10 attendees and customers who were interested but unable to make it to the event have access to the site, designed with Erickson’s original goal in mind – to bring together drone experts to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge.

To say UAV technology is affecting the world is an understatement. Across numerous industries, drones are making work safer, faster, and more accurate than ever imaginable. As knowledge continues to grow, so too will the possibilities – and opportunities.

Contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls to learn more about complete UAV offerings.

RDO Equipment Co. Teams Up with Sentera

Partnership expands, brings new UAV products and opportunities to customers RDOPhantomDrone

Author: RDO Equipment Co.

RDO Equipment Co. has teamed up with Sentera, a UAV-focused company offering image and data solutions for drones. The new partnership enhances current UAV products and support offered by RDO Equipment Co., and extends the opportunity for the technology to more customers, primarily in the agriculture industry, and also to those in the construction, infrastructure, and public safety industries

What: New Offerings
Per the new partnership, RDO Equipment Co. is offering the DJI Phantom Drone equipped with Sentera’s Single Sensor, a premium NIR/NDVI sensor. Kris Poulson, Vice President of Agriculture at Sentera, explains why this sensor is ideally suited for agriculture use, saying, “The Single Sensor is designed to monitor crop health through NIR/NDVI data collection, allowing growers to quickly identify, assess, and address problems proactively.”

Also available, exclusive to RDO Equipment Co. customers, is Sentera’s AgVault™ image data management platform. This user-friendly system manages all RGB, NIR, and NDVI data, and seamlessly integrates with the John Deere Operations Center for easy management and sharing.

Why: Meeting Customer Needs
According to Jeff Lemna, Director of Customer Support, the partnership fills a customer need for an entry-level UAV option and easy-to-use data management platform, backed with strong technical support.

“There’s a large number of agricultural professionals interested in UAVs who are new to the concept and technology,” he said. “Our partnership with Sentera offers these customers the opportunity to add UAV technology to their operations with a high-quality unit and the support they need, at an affordable price.”

Lemna also spoke to the advantages the partnership provides all RDO Equipment Co. customers, saying, “Our new relationship with Sentera expands and strengthens our complete UAV offerings. Not only are we opening the door for new customers to enter the UAV space, we’re better able to support existing customers with new options.”

Where: Availability
At this time, six RDO Equipment Co. stores are offering the DJI Phantom Drone with the unique Sentera Single Sensor and access to Sentera AgVault software:

Yuma, AZ
-Breckenridge and Moorhead, MN
-Bismarck, ND
-Aberdeen, SD
-Pasco, WA

RDO Equipment Co. intends to expand to additional stores; in the meantime, customers can learn more about Sentera offerings and see product demos by contacting the precision product specialist team at their nearest RDO Equipment Co. store.

Get more info on precision agriculture offerings from RDO Equipment Co.

See complete UAV products, and learn more about service and support offered from RDO Integrated Controls, a division of RDO Equipment Co.

Early Start for California Desert Vegetables

Volumes of red bell peppers expected to pick up as Thanksgiving nears California-Lettuce-Field

Author: Mike Hornick, The Packer

Green bean prices were high and U.S.-grown red bell peppers are scarce as the California winter desert vegetable deal gears up.

 

Those volumes could pick up as Thanksgiving nears, and grower-shippers in the state’s Coachella and Imperial valleys expect ample supplies generally on mixed vegetables and leafy greens.

 

Cauliflower markets may strengthen as growing conditions suggest the volatility of that crop over the past year could return.

 

Bushel and 1-1/9 bushel cartons of round green beans shipped for about $39 from Coachella, Calif., on Nov. 3, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year’s price was $25.

 

“The green beans market looks like it’s going to be active for a while,” said Richard Cowden, sales and marketing at Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms. “Some of the growing districts in the east that were affected by Hurricane Matthew may have contributed to it.”

 

“We’re in the middle of green bean harvest, which we try to target for Thanksgiving,” Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, said Nov. 2. “We will have good volume through the month of November.”

 

Green bell pepper production in the California desert was already well underway as November began, but red bells were just kicking off.

 

“Prices are really good on reds,” John Burton, general manager for sales and cooler at Peter Rabbit Farms, said Nov. 1. “Market demand exceeds supply. It’s just the opposite on greens.”

 

Red bells were not listed among shipping prices from U.S. regions reported Nov. 2 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But Mexico greenhouse product crossing at Texas shipped for just $7.95-8.95 in 11-pound cartons, sizes jumbo and extra large.

 

Coastline Family Farms expected to start mixed vegetables in Brawley, Calif., around Nov. 21 and head lettuce there about Dec. 5.

 

Coastline focuses on Imperial Valley for the winter but has some early overlap with Yuma, Ariz.

 

Pacific International Marketing plans to start conventional spinach about Nov. 18 in Brawley and El Centro, Calif., and organic lettuce and conventional broccoli close to Thanksgiving.

 

With fewer U.S. regions supplying vegetables in the fall and winter, buyers have fewer choices and a bigger freight bill than they might have before. Celery hearts that shipped for $13.45-15.56 out of Salinas on Aug. 3, were up to $18.45-20.45 on Nov. 3.

 

Ocean Mist Farms anticipates good volume for its desert artichoke deal that starts in late November and runs until about March 10.

 

The Castroville, Calif.-based shipper, which grows more than 30 vegetables in the region, has doubled its brussels sprouts acreage and will for the first time offer Coachella-grown head lettuce to supplement Yuma production, said Jeff Percy, vice president of production for the southern desert region.

 

Ocean Mist will start romaine hearts around Nov. 16 with other leafy greens plus broccoli to follow Nov. 20.

 

“The plants look good, but I predict cauliflower will be about a week late, probably Nov. 25,” Percy said.

 

“The desert is a bit of a challenge,” said Henry Dill, sales manager for Pacific International Marketing. “The front end of the desert is coming on a little sooner than originally anticipated. Usually when that happens, your yields aren’t quite as good because some of the plants have grown fast. Sometimes you have seeder problems. You run into yields on your first couple fields that may not be as good.”

 

“If that’s the case, sometimes just 15% or 20% less in the pipeline can change the market,” Dill said.

Full article shared from The Packer website.

Indio Store Hosting Open House

Customers invited to get a first look at newly combined RDO Water / RDO Equipment Co. store RDO-Agriculture

Author: RDO Water

RDO Water / RDO Equipment Co. in Indio is hosting an open house on Thursday, November 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Customers and individuals interested in learning more about complete agriculture equipment and irrigation solutions are encouraged to attend the event to meet the team, tour the store, and enjoy lunch.

A full-service John Deere agriculture dealer, RDO Equipment Co. offers both new and used equipment, vast parts inventories, and service departments with highly-trained, certified technicians in all stores.

Bruce Daughters, Vice President of RDO Water, says he’s eager to show both RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water customers the advantages of working with a single enterprise. “We’re poised to offer Indio growers solutions for their agriculture equipment and irrigation needs, as well as access to new opportunities” he said.

RDO Water’s full irrigation offerings include pipe and system rental, pipe and pump repair, system automation, consulting, design and installation services, and products including drip tape, sprinkler heads, and fertilizer.
Team members from RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Water will be available to answer questions and talk with attendees about the products, services, and support offered.

“The RDO Equipment Co. team is really looking forward to the opportunity to meet RDO Water customers,” Joe Castillo, General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Indio said.

To learn more about the open house, contact your account manager, or stop by or call RDO Water in Indio.

Applications for Drones in Agriculture

Type of imagery plays major role in desired applications Drone-Agriculture

Author: Nate Dorsey, RDO Equipment Co.

The June 2016 update to the FAA’s Part 107 regulations for flying drones is just one factor contributing to the increase of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) use in several industries, including agriculture. But that’s only half of the story. As anyone in business knows, in order for a tool to make sense on a worksite, it first has to make sense on the bottom line.

In order to see a return from a drone investment on your farm, you need to know how to use a drone to save time, improve efficiency, and increase yields. Then, the real key to unlocking the true value of a drone comes from understanding the technology behind it.

Aerial Imagery
The high-quality images produced by drones are used for everything from pre-season scouting to monitoring crop health to identifying equipment issues. Drones produce three common image types:

Color (RGB)

-RGB images are similar to photos from a regular camera. They’re easy to understand, even for the novice drone user, but are the least descriptive of the three types.

Near Infrared (NIR)

-NIR provides images with higher levels of detail than those produced by RGB by utilizing color bands outside the light spectrum visible to the human eye.

Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI)

-NDVI uses both visible and near-infrared sunlight reflection to measure biomass (vegetation). Similar to NIR imagery, NDVI provides a higher level of detail than RGB images.

Each of these image types play an important role in the various applications for which drones are used.

Pre-Planning
The coverage area, vantage point, and speed a drone provides makes it a great tool for pre-season scouting. Using standard RGB imagery, the drone can produce 3D maps used for soil evaluations, topography reviews, and identification of drainage issues.

By gathering, reviewing, and evaluating this mapping data prior to planting, you only have a complete view of the whole area, but you may be able to identify problems and adjust planting strategy before, rather than during, the season.

In-Season Assessment
The primary advantage of drones over a manual scouting process is speed. An area normally monitored by a crop scout in several hours can be covered in a single, quick drone flight. This allows for one of the most common uses of drones in agriculture – ongoing monitoring of crop health throughout the season. NIR imagery is most valuable in this process for several reasons.

First, NIR images show heat so they can easily identify areas of plant and water stress. Their high level of detail offers additional applications such as weed detection, defining management zones, evaluating effectiveness of ponding and water management, and quantifying machinery-induced crop limiting factors. This ability to identify concerns and intervene quickly is directly linked to a better year-end harvest.

There are uses for RGB images in-season as well. They’re often used to identify planter skips and evaluate areas of lost production, allowing you to correct the problems.

Long-Term Analysis
In addition to their immediate help before and during the season, drone use can be beneficial over long periods of time. Like RGB and NIR, NDVI images can also show ponding, help assess crop vigor, and show changes in field conditions over time.

NDVI images measure the amount of biomass or “greenness” of a plant and create an index, which is then compared to areas of less vegetation and more vegetation. The numbers range from -1 to +1, with high amounts of biomass and green vegetation having increasingly positive numbers.

NDVI values are very sensitive to anything that affects light, such as haze, clouds, or even soil. For this reason, NDVI images are most effective in optimum conditions.

Bottom line: A drone is a helpful tool that can provide quality data and images but it’s up to you to analyze data and use it to make the best decisions for the crop and your farm.

Read the entire version of this article, recently featured in Progressive Forage Grower magazine.

To learn more about drones, contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls.