Throughout this course, we have heard names of the big agricultural companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and more. I understood that they played key roles in the industry, but I actually had no idea what exactly they entailed. Mr. David Mayonado’s guest lecture helped me have a better understanding of not only what Monsanto is, but delved deep into the nitty gritty of GMOs and today’s pesticide industry. He began his lecture by walking us through agriculture’s past and its evolution of pest management, from hand and animal labor, to the beginnings of mechanics, to the introduction of chemicals, all the way up to the present day’s ability to utilize biotechnology. He helped further break down what exactly GMOs are and how they worked, and talked about various crops that are genetically built to naturally fight pests, rather than requiring a heavy application of chemicals. He then switched gears a little bit and focused on explaining to us exactly what Monsanto is, and how it was recently bought out by Bayer. All in all, I now have a much clearer understanding of pest management and the companies and minds behind it
I was able to go see Bill Couser and Bill Northey speak about creating sustainable agriculture. Although I had to leave early due to an evening class, I gained a lot of knowledge about production agriculture in Iowa from Bill Couser.
One of the big points that stuck out to me from Couser was the fact that he said he tries to farm in a renewable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, but yet profitable way. Although this is pretty much commonsense, his reasoning for doing so is what stuck out to me. He wants to not only promote sustainable farming in general, but most importantly he wants to give the generations to follow nutrient rich, well managed, profitable land. Throughout his presentation you could tell that all the different management methods he has put into place since the 1930’s has been made to do just this. Putting in place different systems to control runoff and nutrient leeching from his feedlot, implementing more cover crop coverage on his land, practicing more no till methods, and also producing more commodities from one crop are all practices he has incorporated to better off his operation which ultimately will better off the upcoming generations. It interesting to see how leaving a productive farm goes hand in hand with environmental stewardship/sustainable agriculture. This is something I see in my operation at home, as I am getting older I see these little management decisions my dad makes to continue to create a sustainable and profitable farming operation. I also really enjoyed his comments on trying to control, or lack there of, the weather as a farmer. Weather is a continuous battle that farmers face.
Overall it was great listening to Couser speak about sustainable agriculture and see how even in Iowa, the concepts still hold true for farming in Pennsylvania. I always enjoy seeing how different operations run and the different systems they have in place.
On November thirteenth, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey visited the University of Delaware to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. Bill Cowser produces corn, beef, soybeans, and ethanol in Nevada Iowa. Cowser’s farm has grown from accommodating 50 beef cattle in the early 1900s to accommodating a couple thousand beef cattle. Cowser has worked with the EPA to accommodate the high levels of rainfall in Iowa through a multi-step filtration and reuse program on his farm. Cowser also raises his beef cattle on concrete so he is able to retain and use the manure produced on his farm. Agriculturalists are also looking at the way that they are affecting the environment through water management and nutrient management. A variety of cover crops are utilized to protect the soil from erosion as well as absorb excess nutrients in the soil. There is also research and development occurring to reduce nutrients that wind up in rivers and other bodies of water. Currently there is an issue with hypoxic zones in bodies of water that wind up killing aquatic life. Thanks to technology, crop fields are no longer blanketed with fertilizer or pesticides. Technological advancements have allowed farmers to tailor the application of sprays and other materials based on the needs of different areas of a field. This technological advancement has also saved farmers money. Corn is the crop that allows processing plants to produce ethanol. There are 42 ethanol plants in Iowa presently and these plants produce 4 billion gallons of ethanol a year. Half of the corn being produced in Iowa goes to the production of ethanol. Ethanol is produced for less than traditional gasoline. Agriculturalists are finding a way to utilize all components of the corn plant. Husks and other components can be used as feed, fertilizer, and the production of charcoal and other products. It was interesting to learn about aspects of modern agriculture and biofuels from Bill Cowser and Bill Northey.
Dave Mavonado came to speak to the class about Industry and Academia in Agriculture and how much it has evolved since it all started. The main thing that he talked about was how much the agricultural business has changed and developed over the last century. The reason why it has changed so drastically was because of the four topics Dave spoke about: labor, mechanics, chemical usage, and biotechnology. Back in the day, it was all hands on deck. Farmers mainly relied on the use of animals for labor. Such as pulling plows. There would also be groups of people in the fields harvesting the produce by hand because they didn’t have combines or tractors like we do today. It wasn’t up until steel came about that helped the agricultural industry evolve the way it did. Tractors slowly started making its way into the business and helped the farmers produce a higher yield of crops because they were able to get through everything much faster. Next was the use of chemicals. This allowed protection of the plants to repel itself from pests that might damage or kill the crop. Finally, biotechnology. With biotechnology we are able to produce a much higher yield in a shorter time frame without harming the produce like GMO’s. There’s also CRISPR which allows scientists to take a certain gene out of the plants DNA and make it better so the farmer can produce more.
Dave also talked about the different grants that were and still are available today. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established the raising of funds to create land-grant colleges. The Morrill Acts mission was to take kids who did not know a thing about agriculture and teach them about practical agriculture, science, and engineering. But in order for kids to learn about agriculture they needed the land. Hatch Act of 1887 lead to the creation of agriculture experiment stations to be affiliated with the land grants. If it wasn’t for these grants who knows what the agricultural industry would be like today.
On Saturday, October 20th we visited the Hoober shop in Middletown, DE. The day was full of learning, and receiving experience many of us have never had. First, we learned about the company, including it’s history and services. After understanding what the company provided, we toured the facilities and saw the shop. Tractors and spreader were being worked on, and we also looked at some combine and harvesters. While all of this was great, the best part of the day was riding the tractor/sprayer. It was intimidating at first, but once you got the hang of it, it was smooth sailing. We also learned about drone usage in agriculture, which actual requires a state permit to operate. Overall, the day was filled with fun and learning, and each student gained a valuable experience in precision ag.
When we went to the Hoobers it was really eye opening to see how much work goes into precision agriculture. And how much everything cost through equipment and how much things have changed for the good of farming. Between farmers and techs at hoobers where the tech can actually enter the computer from his office instead of riding out to the field. To see what’s wrong with it most of the time also they can fix certain things through the computer. What I enjoyed besides the driving the sprayer which I never drove before. Was walking through the mechanics shop and how much time and efforts they take in making sure everything is up to par before people by them from Hoobers. Also with the gps in the tractor and sprayer that we got to drive was cool you could press one button and hook on to the preset track and the auto steer would kick in and you didn’t have to touch the steering wheel.
I am really glad I had the opportunity to be exposed to and drive important machinery used in the agricultural industry. Since I grew up in a suburb not too far outside of New York City I haven’t been around farm equipment for a substantial part of my childhood. I am constantly being impressed by the knowledge of people I’m surrounded by. I was also impressed by the fact that the tractors are able to be programmed so they can self-steer themselves. I also felt a strong sense of community while being at Hoober, Inc. Especially when learning about how the company handles customer service. Unlike some bigger companies, you have the opportunity to get to know the support team on a more personal level. It is important for farmers to get their machinery fixed fast, so they can get back to what needs to be done. Customer support is so important, especially as precision agriculture continues to be become more advanced.
On Saturday October 20th, 2018 we went on a trip to Hoober’s company in which we got to learn more about the company and precision agriculture. While there they talked about precision agriculture and its uses in agriculture. They also mentioned how it helps get things done faster for farmers. After they talked to us about the company they gave us a tour of the place. While walking around we got to see new tractors, combines and a drone. During the walk they pointed out different things about the equipment and mentioned how it is designed better than the way it used to be designed. In the combine for example there are less chains going through it to move everything so it runs better. Now it uses hydraulics to move everything. This has made repairs easier and improved the efficiency of farmer’s completing their task. The drone is useful since it is able to scout a large area of field without the farmer having to go out and walk his field. This helps the farmer see how much damage was done to a field due to flooding from rain and how much of his field is still good. It was also fun getting to drive a tractor for the first time. It was different but easy due to the explanation the workers gave of operating it. It was a good learning experience about precision agriculture and a way to see changes to the machines.
I’m very sad to have missed this field trip, because I really wanted to drive a tractor! The only experience I have driving equipment that Hoober sells is our zero turn lawn mower we own at home, and smaller tractor I use to do the barn chores. From the album online, I was able to see just how big those tractors are. From the video we watched in class, I got a taste for what precision Ag is, and I think it’s fascinating that this technology is available to us. I also think the use of drones for surveying is a great application of the technology. The only thing that scares me is just how reliant we’re becoming on technology. When I think of driving a vehicle, it’s hard to imagine the functions being almost entirely automatic. Knowing your precise location, speed, efficiency, etc. is very impressive for a computer to do, but what if something goes wrong?
An important takeaway for me is advocacy and education about this type of technology. There are immense opportunities for experts in the tech field to grasp onto and be the people who take this technology into the future. It’s extremely important that people start to become educated about where this industry is heading, and we need those innovative thinkers to help guide us in the right direction.
Dan Severson came and guest lectured in class on Monday about the livestock industry in Delaware. He started out by giving a brief overview of general trends in farming, and then meat consumption trends over the years. I was not very surprised when he said the consumption of beef and veal have been decreasing while pork and chicken have been increasing. This is probably due to many recent trends that red meat is harmful to your health, so consumers are choosing cuts of pork and chicken to eat versus beef. After that he discussed a lot about the differing operation methods for many species of livestock including cattle, hogs, sheeps, goats, dairy cows and a couple other specialty species. I was surprised to learn how much of a market their is for goat products. Dan said a lot of international folks seeks out goat meat for religious purposes and holidays, but also products like goat milk cheesecake and ice cream are made. He also talked about the dairy industry and how farmers are struggling to make ends meet due to the milk market. People don’t drink cow’s milk like they used to and it is affecting dairy farmers.
At the end of his lecture Dan spoke about the future of the livestock industry. He touched on how genetics and technology has already and will continue to impact how we raise our animals. But he also spoke about how farmers are running into the problem of the next generation not wanting to continue to farm, and how all these different factors is going to affect the ability to feed the ever growing population. Overall, Dan gave a great overview of the livestock industry touching on past, current, and future trends.
This past Saturday the class took a field trip to Hoobers to see how much precision agriculture has truly impacted the industry. On the field trip my fellow classmates were able to see and experience how the use of GPS is used to work a field, auto steer technology, and drone technology. Although I was not able to actually attend, precision agriculture is something I a lot of experience with. Much of what was shown and talked about on the tour, I have actually been doing on my family’s farm for many years. Precision agriculture is something that still continues to amaze me every day.
One aspect of precision agriculture that I was able to work a lot with this summer, and that my classmates got to see, was the use of drone technology. This summer my family’s farm has really dove into the use of drones for crop health and scouting purposes. I got to see and actually fly drones over our fields and pretty accurately do stand counts, crop health indexes, and in general show problem areas in our fields that we would have never seen on foot. Seeing the information a drone can gather really gives farmers the opportunity to make the slightest change land management decisions to increase yield. For example, soil sampling specific sections of a field due to poor crop health during growth. Drones and many other aspects of precision agriculture shown on the Hoobers tour will continue to change the way we farm. Precision agriculture is something that still continues to amaze me every day and also is opening up so many new jobs for my generation.
On October 20, the AGRI 130 students had the opportunity to visit Hoober Incorporated in Middletown Delaware. We learned about the history of the company and its growth over the years. Hoober now has multiple locations in Delaware and Pennsylvania, but it is still a family owned business. Hoober is successful in the sale of specialty landscape equipment, tractors, and combines, as well as other equipment and parts. We had the opportunity to walk through the repair shop and see Hoober employees servicing a variety of agricultural equipment. It was cool to see a corn combine attachment up close and the engine of a tractor removed from the vehicle. After walking through the shop, we viewed the inner structures of a new Case IH combine. Crops are cut by the attachment and a spinning drum removes the grain from the stalk. The harvested grain is stored at the top of the combine while the rest of the plant material is shredded and spread back into the field. I had the opportunity to drive a large tractor and a sprayer around a field. It was interesting to see the amount of technology involved in modern tractors and sprayers. The vehicle I had the opportunity to drive also had the capability of driving itself using GPS implemented technology. After driving the vehicles, we watched a drone demonstration. Drone technology can be used to map crop fields and much more. Once programmed, a drone can fly (legally) up to 400 feet into the air and navigate a field to take pictures. The images are then used for field analysis so the farmer can specialize water, nutrient, and pesticide application depending on the needs of specific areas of the field. Drone operators must be certified by the FAA for flying commercially or recreationally. Thank you to Hoober Inc for giving AGRI 130 students this experience.
On our third field trip we went to Hoober, Inc. At Hoober, they are more into the Case farm equipment but they still sell Jon Deere and Kubota. They sell everything from agriculture equipment to construction to personal utility. In their showroom they have the lawn and gardening tools such as Kubota lawn mowers and UTVs. We then went into the machine shop were we got see some combines and other equipment being worked on. The guys said that it was easier to pull out the motor on a combine and do work to it than it is to try and work around it while still connected to the combine. One thing that surprised me was that just the combine itself costs $400,000 and it’s another $100,000 for the attachments like a corn head. Also, with the upgraded technology, like satellite, that is available to us today if a farmer has a problem with their machine and they aren’t sure about it, they are able to call the guys at Hoober’s and they are able to get into the devices in the combine and see what’s wrong and how to fix it. Afterwards, we went on a tour around the property and got to see more combines and other purpose tractors and farm equipment. At the end of the tour my classmates and I had the opportunity to drive a sprayer or a Magnum tractor. We had the opportunity to learn about the drone and what they are capable of. A fact about the drone is that it is able to tell the operator how many plants (seedling) are in a certain field. We also got the chance to drive a couple tractors too.
When I was younger, I used to ride the combine with my great grandfather or the tractor with my dad. Back then, it was a combination of a lot of peddles and even more gear shifts. When I got the opportunity to drive a tractor for myself this weekend at Hoobers, I got to see just how much technology has changed over the years. Now, when sitting in the tractor, it can drive itself. Upon first sitting in the tractor, I noticed that the seat adjusted to whoever may be sitting in it. Before that however, I was only used to the little springs under the seat that only bounced you up and down as you went through the field.
Another new thing I learned upon getting in the tractor is you reliance in technology. With the many screens in front of me showing me my speed, where I was going, and much more I realized how much enjuxnuity goes into these new tractors. In letting go of the steering wheel and allowing the machine to drive itself was the weirdest feeling, I felt as if I was still in control but at the same time I had no control. I was basing my trust in a big machine off of a little computer screen keeping me updated on pace and direction. The amount that technology has changed over the years is so eye opening. Instead of having to pay attention to each and every little detail while in the tractor, you now rely on the tractor to tell you when something is wrong or when something is going well. In relying so heavily on this technology not only opens new doors for future improvements but allows the industry to keep taking huge steps forward in becoming more advanced for the better of all involved. I am really glad I got this experience and was so interested in sharing the details about the newest technology.
On October 20th we had an awesome opportunity to go and visit Hoober’s in Middletown. We got the chance to chat with two of the workers there and learn a little bit about Hoober’s background and how the company expanded over time. They told us they also had locations in Mifflintown and Chambersburg, PA, both towns I am familiar with and live within a couple hours of; this painted a better picture of just how big of a company Hoober’s is. We toured the shop as a group and got a chance to have some up-close looks at the equipment they were working on. From combines to tractors to sprayers, we got a good overview of just how expensive and meticulous all of these machines are, and how big of an impact precision ag has had on the evolution of machinery used within the industry. Hands down the neatest part of the trip was the chance for everyone to either drive a tractor or a sprayer. Everyone got to drive at least one of the machines, and they both had auto-steer which was super neat. While others drove the machines, we got a chance to learn about drones and their use in agriculture. All in all, this trip gave us a unique opportunity to see precision ag up close and personal, giving us a broader perspective of the industry as a whole.