Read it on the go, tillage in the know

A set of soil sensors can be installed on cultivators and vertical tillage implements to provide real-time readings that help growers create a uniform seed bed and create high-resolution soil maps that can inform future planning.

Veris Technologies introduced Vision for Decisions this year, which the company calls a seeding environment support system that uses four kinds of soils sensors and its SoilViewer tablet for immediate in-cab displays of soil properties.

“When guys are going out there doing their tillage they are also creating data sets, getting in-cab information, to do a better job of not smearing the soil and creating compaction, or bringing up too big of clods,” said Tyler Lund of Veris.

He said the company has produced soil sensors for seven years, but for the 2020 season the system has been reconfigured and can now be installed on cultivators and vertical tillage tools.

The VerisiScan Plus platform has four sensing modules including moisture, temperature, organic matter and soil cation exchange capacity (CEC) sensors.

“As he’s going across the different soil conditions he’s alerted with gauges and dials and even a map of what that sensor is seeing so he can make adjustments to the tillage tool, go shallower or deeper,” Lund said.

“They have data and sensors driving those decisions that are on the tool themselves, so as he’s driving across the field, he’s fine tuning the adjustments, not just one depth for the whole field, but a depth for the different zones.”

He said this system is especially helpful in fields where soil types and conditions vary considerably and operators may want to run their tool a little deeper in areas with silty soil that is a little drier compared to areas with heavier clay that is prone to smearing.

On drier years the system could help with moisture management by showing operators where to run the tillage tool just above the moisture so that the soil isn’t unnecessarily dried out.

The temperature sensor can help operators find the optimum depth to place the seed when it’s installed on a planter.

With the system installed on a tillage tool used on the pre-seeding pass, operators can use the sensor information to help manage soil temperature by working the soil a little deeper in the cold areas to help catch up to the warmer areas of the field.

“You could go a little deeper, expose more to the sun and warmer temperature. The other way is that information would be available for the planter as a no-go decision, about maybe I should just wait a few days, or what part of the field should I start planting in, or what depth,” Lund said.

“Planting decisions can be made even before the planter hits a field by mounting to the seedbed preparation tool.”

The CEC and organic matter sensors are used for longer-term decision-making about the productivity properties of the soil in different zones.

CEC readings are gathered by measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil, which provide soil depth and water-holding capacity information that has significant implications on management decisions.

Information about the organic matter content of soil can also be used to create variable rate prescription maps.

“When farmers are setting their seed rates, they want to challenge their better soil and pull back rates on their poorer soil. That organic matter layer is crucial for that. So we use that and the soil type together to understand where to set different agronomic input levels, like seed, nitrogen and other fertilizer.”

Veris has a simple application programming interface (API) with John Deere and Climate Corp., and the system’s data is compatible with all of the major farm management software as an import, Lund said.

There is no subscription or annual fee to use Veris’s Vision for Decisions, but there is a US.25 cent per acre fee for the company’s data processing and digital services, including management zones and prescription support.

“After the maps are made, the data comes to our processing centre and our team reviews it and provides a report card and some data quality metrics to the grower,” Lund said.

“In the cab it’s free to use. You can just keep running and incur no fee — no annual fee, no per acre fee. It’s really just when they want to move it out of that and into other systems.”

He said people who collect the data own the data, and Veris will hold onto farmers’ field information only as long as the customer wants it to.

“We don’t claim any ownership of the data,” Lund said.

The cost to install each of the four sensors on a tillage tool ranges from $12,000 to $17,000, depending on the implement type, with vertical tillage tools being the most expensive.

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