Research stations unveils new hi-tech equipment
Agricultural research took center stage recently as the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University showed off some of the newest equipment and technology being added at the 18 research stations operated across the state. (Photos from the event)
Deans Richard Linton of N.C. State and Bill Randle of N.C. A&T joined Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in an event at Central Crops Research Station in Clayton to showcase “Ag Innovations @ Work.”
The new additions are part of a two-year, $5 million research stations upgrade funded by the N.C. General Assembly. This investment is designed to improve efficiency on the farms, enhance research capabilities, and reduce fuel and repair costs in the short term. Long-range goals are to help farmers meet future food needs.
“Globally, agriculture will be challenged by a growing world population. The United Nations predicts farmers will need to produce 60 to 100 percent more food by 2050 to meet world food needs,” Troxler said. “How do we get there? The success we’ve had today is a result of agricultural research.”
Guests were able to ride along on auto-steer tractors, hear details about how the technology works from company representatives and visit with researchers from N.C. State about what projects they are currently working on.
Travis Lassiter, a worker at Central Crops Research Station, explained some of the advancements the equipment will provide as he plowed rows with a new John Deere 7330 tractor equipped with the Trimble auto-steer technology.
While taking your hands off the steering wheel and letting the tractor drive itself is novel, Lassiter said some of the benefits come in maximizing your fields, reducing the stress of keeping the rows in a straight line and eliminating the guess work out of precisely lining up equipment with the rows at harvest time.
“With this technology, it will put my rows in in a straight line sub-inch on every pass,” Lassiter said, adding that this advance helps reduce mental fatigue and physical fatigue, especially when working on larger fields.
The new equipment also makes record-keeping easier, particularly in terms of planting specifics.
“We have 130 little fields at the station and once you go over a field one time, the computer stores the information and keeps it for that field,” Lassiter said.
While auto-steer technology is not new in the ag industry, it is new to the research stations. The stations specifically purchased a variety of brands of tractors.
“You will notice there is not just one brand of tractor represented here,” Troxler said. “If you look across the state, you will see many brands on farms as well. We need to be using the types of equipment in research that growers are using, or considering for their own farms.”
North Carolina has a long history of investing in agriculture research, work that has helped developed new plant varieties especially suited for North Carolina soils and climates and improved production techniques. Those investments have helped grow agriculture and agribusiness into a $78 billion industry.
“Studies have shown that for every dollar invested in agricultural research in our state, there is an economic return of about $20,” Linton said.
The stations have proved their worth, Troxler said, but were in serious need of equipment upgrades.
“Agriculture is the economic engine that drives our economy,” Troxler said. “Thankfully, our legislators understood that that engine was in need of a tune-up.”