Kentucky Farm Bureau News
While there are some methods
of farming that have
changed little over the
years, such as in tobacco production,
there is no doubt advanced technology
is changing the way producers grow
their crops even in those Kentucky
Whether it’s through the use of modern
equipment or plant genetics, farmers
are more productive than ever and
are gathering a toolbox full of new technology
tools to help them in their efforts
to be as successful as possible.
Kevin Jeffries, along with his brother-in-law
Mike McCall and nephew David
McCall, operate Grand Meadow Farms,
a grain and cattle operation in Oldham
County. He has found a great use for
unmanned aerial devices better known
“We became interested in this type of
technology about two years ago and
now use them extensively,” Jeffries said.
“For instance, in the spring, when we
are planting, we use one to fly over the
fields to look for problems.”
He noted that the drones can detect
an issue that might not have otherwise
been noticed, something that can help
prevent yield loss later in the year.
“In agriculture, the infrared spectrum
available on certain cameras is very
important because you can see the different
color reflections off the crop and that
will tell things like if there is a nitrogen
problem or if phosphorus and potassium
levels are not right,” said Jeffries.
Spotting those color shifts within the
crop is just one example of what some of
the drone technology brings to producers;
something not visible with the
Jeffries pointed out that many problems
visible through aerial detection
may have gone un-noticed even by
walking the field.
Another use of the drones, for Jeffries,
has been to check for crop damage
caused by wildlife.
“We discovered some areas that needed
replanting this season because we
found deer damage in some of our soybeans,”
While some of the drones available on
the market can be costly, Jeffries said
their use can make an operation more
cost effective in finding issues before
they cost the producer money.
Drones, while getting much of the
marketing attention, aren’t the only
forms of high-tech devices being used
by farmers. According to information
provided by the American Farm Bureau
Federation (AFBF), “precision agriculture
technologies” are used by about 60
percent of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“GPS and auto-steer guidance systems
are two types of precision agriculture
used to increase crop yields, lower costs
and reduce chemical use, which benefits
the environment,” noted AFBF. “The
two types of technology work together,
helping farmers identify precisely where
to plant seeds (and how many) and if
needed, apply variable rates of pesticides
And it appears the surface is just
being scratched as new technology
Drone use, for example, is growing
and new models can do more and more.
Last year, federal approval from the FAA
came for a particular drone model capable
of carrying payloads such as fertilizer.
Crop spraying by way of aerial
systems has been used in other countries
such as Japan but this action
marked the first for the U.S. Proponents
have long contended that this type of
fertilizer or pesticide application is more
cost effective and precise from a logistics
Jeffries, who currently serves as vice-president
of Oldham County Farm
Bureau, said aerial applications of fertilizers or pesticides from drones would
greatly benefit farms which are located
near more urban areas. He has spoken
to many groups about the use of this
technology including participation in a
panel discussion at the 2014 Farm
Bureau Annual Meeting.
Jeffries acknowledged that while multiple
producers have invested in this
type of technology, many have been
waiting to see what further action or
regulations would be taken by the
Federal Aviation Administration (FFA)
regarding drone use.
The FAA has set forth its first
announcement of regulations that pertain
to drones. The agency announced,
“a streamlined and user-friendly web-based
aircraft registration process for
owners of small unmanned aircraft
weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250
grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx.
25 kilograms) including payloads such
as on-board cameras.”
“You have to be safe with these and
avoid other aircraft and areas that prohibit
their use but for use on the farm,
this and other types of advanced technology
could prove to be a milestone in
agriculture production,” Jeffries said.
“We are always trying to become more
efficient and this technology will allow
us to be just that.”
Story was provided by Kentucky Farm Bureau.