Over a 10-year period, conservation tillage became the most popular tillage practice on U.S. cropland, said a USDA agency on Thursday. The Natural Resources Conservation Service said the practice, which leaves crop residue on at least 30 percent of the soil surface to reduce erosion, had been adopted on 53.4 million acres by the mid-2010s.
The United States will launch a "coalition for productivity growth" to promote the use of high-tech tools such as gene editing and precision agriculture to build a more sustainable food system, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The coalition would stand in contrast to the EU's Farm to Fork Strategy of greatly reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides and putting 25 percent of European farmland into organic production.
Half of the farmers in the biggest corn, soybean, and wheat states employ precision agriculture in their operations — from GPS guidance of tractors and combines to deploying drones to scout fields or monitor livestock — twice the national average, said a USDA report on computer usage on Wednesday. Far more farms have a cellular internet connection than broadband; 18 percent have no internet access at all.
President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment, said the White House on Tuesday. The "right-to-repair" rules were expected to include smartphones and other widely used devices.
Syngenta yesterday announced its acquisition of FarmShots, a North Carolina-based data company that assesses plant health and other farm conditions. The acquisition marks the latest move by seed and ag-chemical companies to grow their presence in the farm data sector.
The research firm CB Insights says investors put more than $700 million into agricultural-technology companies in 2017, far more than the combined $565 million of the two preceding years, said the Financial Times.
EU regulators are looking "very carefully" at competition issues in Bayer's proposed purchase of Monsanto to make sure farmers will have a choice of products at affordable prices, said Bloomberg. The wire service said Bayer, based in Germany, was to receive a so-called statement of objections as soon as this week, which could lead the companies to offer a package of concessions.
A three-member team of engineers in Britain, working as the Hands-Free Hectare initiative, are "the first people in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without direct human intervention," says The New Yorker. The engineers say their underfunded experiment with a plot of barley shows the potential of autonomous agriculture, in which machines work the field without farmers at the steering wheel.
John Deere’s $305 million purchase of Blue River Technology, “a startup that makes robots capable of identifying unwanted plants, and shooting them with deadly, high-precision squirts of herbicide,” is yet another indication of the “growing appetite for high tech in agriculture,” says Wired.
Farmers, especially big operators, may be slightly more wired into the internet than rural Americans overall, and the urban-rural digital divide is narrowing, says a USDA report that provides a comparison with other measurements of the United States online. Based on a biennial survey of farmers, the USDA said 71 percent of U.S. farms have internet access.
A large-scale hog operation in Iowa will use positive pressure filtration, the same technology used by hospitals and manufacturers to avoid contamination, “to help prevent the spread of deadly viruses,” says Successful Farming.
Farmers are calling for free access to the software that runs their tractors and other farm equipment. "You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, a farmer in southeast Nebraska.
The owners of a one-acre greenhouse in London, New Hampshire rely on automation to reduce the risk of contaminating the greens that go into its packages of lettuce blends, says Produce Retailer. "From seeding to harvest to packaging, no one touches anything" at lef Farms, which sold its first order in January.
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Montana Sen. Jon Tester says the government should deny on antitrust grounds Bayer's proposed $66 billion purchase of Monsanto, given that it would result in a company controlling nearly 30 percent of the world's seed market and a quarter of pesticide sales.
Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto, says it will develop its own in-field network of weather and soil monitors—including a sensor that tracks nitrate levels—to broaden its agronomic models that help farmers decide their crop strategies. The nitrate sensor could mean more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer and less runoff into waterways.
Funding worldwide for agriculture-technology startups in the first six months of 2016 dropped 20 percent, to $1.8 billion, from the same period last year, even as the number of overall deals rose, Reuters reports.
Lightweight drones "can monitor crop health in real time for farmers who are trying to manage farms that are hundreds or even thousands of acres," says the White House in hailing the release of U.S. ground rules for commercial use of the aircraft.
Thanks to sensors and computer control of water and nutrients, technologically advanced growers like California almond farmer Tom Rogers are leaders in what The Economist calls "smart farming."
A common job for cowboys — for some, it's an all-day duty — is riding through herds to check on cattle health. With labor getting harder to find, Salah Sukkarieh, an Australian professor of robots, is developing a solar- and electric-powered four-wheel robot to handle the work, reports the Washington Post.