Development of a new method for cotton yield monitoring: Think big or go home!

Check out this story from Dr. Tony Grift regarding Brendan Kuhns, a graduate student working with the DIFM Project:

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New Project Coordinator

Carli Miller joined the DIFM team as the new Project Coordinator in November 2018, following Caitlin McGuire’s departure. Carli received her BS in Agricultural Communications from the University of Illinois in May of 2017. Coming from a strong agricultural background, she grew up on her family farm in Central Illinois- primarily raising corn, soybeans, and beef cattle.

Please contact her at cjmille5@illinois.edu.

DIFM in Farmdoc Series

DIFM was highlighted in an article on the University of Illinois Extension’s Farmdoc Daily website, written by Professors Jonathan Coppess and David Bullock. We’ve included the first paragraph, but follow the link above to learn more!

Nutrient loss in modern farming is a challenge that sits at the intersection of food production and the impacts of food production on natural resources (farmdoc daily, February 26, 2016; March 17, 2016).  Agricultural research represents an investment in solving such challenges through basic and applied research efforts, the results of which can be translated to farmers and industry through demonstration and outreach (farmdoc daily, August 23, 2018).  This article reviews USDA-funded agricultural research seeking to apply data, technology and a full range of science to the challenge of managing farm nutrients.

DIFM Travels to New York

Dr. David Bullock and graduate student Jaeseok Hwang went to New York to meet with Margaret Krause and Dr. Michael Goore of Cornell University and the Advanced Ag Alliance, a non-profit organization in New York dedicated to running on-farm whole-field agronomic trials with participating farmers. DIFM and the Ag Alliance agreed that DIFM would analyze and report on data from their experiments between 2015-2018, and will design approximately 20 trials for the Advanced Ag Alliance in 2019. These trials will focus on seed rate and seed variety. In return, they will provide funding for a grad student research assistant’s tuition and salary.

Jaeseok Hwang and Margaret Krause, meeting at Cornell University, to discuss Advanced Ag Alliance trials.

Following this, Bullock and Hwang went to Auburn, New York, to meet with farmer Todd DuMond. DuMond was the principal driver behind the Ag Alliance’s on-farm research project. DuMond has a BS and MS in Engineering from MIT, and is passionate about Data-Intensive Farm Management. They discussed field trial details.

DIFM grad student Jaeseok Hwang will conduct the statistical and economic analyses for the DIFM/Advanced Ag Alliance field trials in New York state.  Here, Jae is shown at the farm of farmer Todd DuMond, who founded the AAA.

Paula Girón named International Plant Nutrition Institute’s (IPNI) 31 Scholar Award recipient

DIFM graduate researcher Paula Girón was named one of the International Plant Nutrition Institute’s (IPNI) 31 Scholar Award recipients. The IPNI awards graduate students in countries with an IPNI program in science programs relevant to plant nutrition science and the management of crop nutrients.

Paula Girón is working toward her M.Sc. in soil since at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. She is working on a thesis focusing on site-specific nitrogen management in maize in the northwestern Buenos Aires province. Girón was a visiting scholar with the DIFM project during fall semester of 2016.

First Look at New DIFM Publication

Professors David Bullock, Maria Boerngen, and Divina Gracia P. Rodriguez just received a first look at their accepted paper in the Agronomy Journal, titled “The Origins, Implications, and Consequences of Yield-Based Nitrogen Fertilizer Management.” Take a look!

Developing an Affordable, Retrofittable Yield Monitor for Cotton

During a trip to Colombia by Brendan Kuhns, it became clear that yield monitors for cotton are hard to come by, especially the kind that is retrofittable on older machines. Fortunately, DIFM researcher Dr. Tony Grift did his PhD on the development of a generic method for mass flow sensing of granular materials (fertilizers in particular), and he is eager to apply his method to cotton. We will build a new optical photo-interruption arrangement that measures the spacing durations between clumps of cotton passing a sensor. Then we will apply the theory of arrival processes to determine the number of cotton clumps that pass the sensor per unit of time, which is an indirect measure of the mass flow.

What is so fascinating about this method is that it works by only measuring the spacing times in between cotton clumps. So without knowing or measuring any material parameters, we still can measure the mass flow. It gets better: the measurement device does not need calibration, since nature is literally doing the work. If you would like to read details, here are links to paper 1 and paper 2 (the second won an award from the EurAgEng organization).

We hope that this small project will also connect our statisticians with the engineers (no easy feat!). For more information, feel free to read Dr. Grift’s essay titled “Embracing variability: How to hug a cactus”, which he claims to be “loosely based on the brother of our fearless leader David Bullock.”

Figure 1 Shown is the mass flow sensing scenario; we have clumps of material (cotton balls) and we measure the spacing durations among them. Believe it or not, using Poisson driven arrival theory, these data are sufficient to determine how many clumps are passing the sensor per unit of time, irrespective or the overlapping effect. Isn’t statistics great?

New Faces at DIFM

Joshua Babes is an undergraduate at UIUC studying Agricultural and Consumer Economics who is volunteering to work with the Data-Intensive Farm Management project. Joshua comes from the north side of Chicago and is working towards a career in consulting doing data analytics. He hopes to begin to learn more about the analytics while contributing to DIFM. 

DIFM at the Highland Community College Field Day

Robert Dunker attended the Highland Community College Field Day on August 29, 2018 in Freeport Illinois.  The DIFM Program had a booth to distribute information about farmer recruitment and participation.  Several students and farmers stopped by the booth to learn more about the program and how they could become involved.