John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help growers gain a better understanding of agronomics, it launched the John Deere Field Connect system several years ago. Field Connect allowed growers to monitor soil and weather conditions and better manage things such as irrigation amount and timing.
John Deere has since decided to end production of its Field Connect gateway. However, recognizing the value in these types of systems and data, John Deere recently announced an allied agreement with Pessl Instruments. Pessl Instruments developed a system that is compatible with John Deere soil moisture probes, in addition to many other moisture probes.
With the agreement, Pessl will soon integrate into John Deere’s Operations Center platform, joining a host of other companies that have integrated with John Deere’s farm management system to provide decision-making tools and solutions. The current gateway will be upgradeable to Pessl LTE telemetry, extending the life of the existing hardware investment.
A Peek at Pessl
Since 1988, Pessl Instruments has manufactured agriculture weather stations and other sensor technologies and today grown into an internationally-recognized organization. The quality of its sensors, reputation, and global footprint make it a great match for John Deere’s business model.
Pessl’s flagship weather station, the iMetos 3.3, is a highly capable unit. It can be fitted with an impressive 400 sensors that can include multiple soil moisture probes, thermometers, wind speed gauges, rain buckets, and many others. This makes it a truly professional station for providing insight on growing conditions.
For those who don’t want as large of a system or need as many weather sensors, it also produces the iMetos Eco D3. The Eco D3 is a smaller unit ideal for connecting to soil moisture probes but is still capable of supporting an astounding 400 sensors, if desired, which is more than enough for most applications in agriculture.
More Tools From Pessl
In addition to manufacturing weather stations, Pessl has developed several other exciting sensor technologies for use in agriculture. Some of the most intriguing include the iMetos Scout and iMetos FieldScan. The iMetos Scout is a bug trap that is cell-enabled and equipped with a camera and GPS. The Scout can be placed in a field to detect insect pressure and be monitored remotely. Not only can the pictures from the Scout be viewed remotely, but Pessl has developed artificial intelligence (AI) that can count the number of insects in the trap and identify common species.
The iMetos Scout is a great tool for growers or agronomists who are managing a large amount of acres and need additional insight on the types of pest pressure fields are experiencing. This could be particularly valuable in areas of the country dealing with invasive pests. Examples of there where this could potentially be used is monitoring for the recently discovered invasive Spotted Lanterfly that’s making its way across the country, or the decimation of the citrus industry by the Asian citrus psyllid, or even Pierce’s disease in grapes spread by the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter. A system that could be monitored remotely and potentially help identify insects of concern earlier could help protect crops throughout the country.
The iMetos Scout is complemented by Pessl’s proprietary crop-specific disease models. These models use data obtained from the weather station system to predict the types of diseases or pests that growers or agronomists should be scouting for at certain times of the season based on local conditions. Currently, 85 models have been developed for more than 40 crops. These include diseases such as fire blight in apples, cercospora leaf spot in carrots, and even pythium blight in turfgrass.
Another system that shows a great deal of promise is the iMetos FieldScan. This sensor looks somewhat like a large flatbed document scanner, but mounted to the front of the tractor. It uses electromagnetic conductivity to provide non-invasive measurements of soil parameters. This includes obtaining data on electrical conductivity (EC), soil moisture, soil texture, and even soil compaction.
Because this system ties into the tractor’s GPS, these parameters can then be mapped and used to better understand soil conditions and create variable rate prescriptions. There is hope that this system could integrate into variable rate tillage tools, such as John Deere’s TruSet tillage system, to provide real-time adjustments to the implement. These adjustments could include detecting compaction at varying levels and depths, and relaying this to the implement to adjust depth or gang angles.
For those who have been regular users of the John Deere Field Connect system, the announcement that production was ending may have initially been met with disappointment. However, Pessl Instruments shows a great deal of promise with its selection of innovative sensors and weather station systems.
While not a household name yet, many John Deere dealerships will likely align with Pessl to provide these products to growers or agronomists interested in gaining better insight of field conditions.
About the Author
Nate Dorsey is an Agronomist for RDO Equipment Co. in Yuma, AZ. Connect with him on Twitter @RDONateDorsey.