When people talk about farmers, a lot of people think about old McDonald in his blue coveralls with his old tractor and a pitchfork. You don’t see many pictures of old McDonald tweeting from his smart phone about the weather while using his GPS to automatically steer his tractor. Nowadays farmers use all kinds of technology to do a better job taking care of their land.
We decided to take Flat Aggie on a trip to Western Nebraska with us to show her some of the technology that farmers use. Flat Aggie hopped into the pickup with us, and we drove 330 miles west to Imperial, Nebraska.
Once we arrived, Flat Aggie had to meet up with her new friend, Flat Husker! They enjoyed some lovely springtime weather and watched the annual spring football game.
Out in the field, the first thing Flat Aggie noticed was that the soil is very dry and coarse like sand. Also, the ground is not very flat, and there are a lot of hills and dips through the fields where farmers plant and care for their crops and cowboys care for their cattle. She also noticed there are NO trees like back home in Southeast Kansas.
Tools and technology:
The yellow “hats” are called GPS receivers and talk to each other and record our exact location while driving all through the field. They work a lot like the GPS (Garmin) your parents may have in the car that tells them where to turn when driving.
Flat Aggie helped us take soil samples with our EM Sled. An EM Sled is a high tech device that uses electricity and magnetics to measure the soil particle size (the individual parts that make up the soil) in farmers’ fields as we drive through the field. When we get done mapping the field, we will we get a picture like the one below. The map shows how the soil texture varies throughout the field. For more technical info on the EM sled go to this link. Here is a link that Aaron provided on Precision Mapping if you want some more information on that, too.
If you look at the legend on the map, you can see the smaller numbers are brown and the higher numbers are blue. The higher the number, the smaller the particle is that makes up the soil. The smaller the number, the larger the particle is that makes up the soil. Here is a picture to show the differences in soils.
So, what do you think farmers can do with a map showing the different soils?
Some farmers use these maps to help them take soil samples. Some farmers will plant more kernels of corn in the blue area and less in the brown areas because the blue area is better for growing crops. Some farmers have pivots to water their field, and they can control how much water the pivot puts on the field to save water. Water is very valuable especially this year when it was very dry even where you live in Kansas.
This information is very important to farmers in western Nebraska because it doesn’t rain as much there as it does in Neodesha or near where you live. All plants need just the right amount of water to grow in order to provide us with the food we eat. So, when it doesn’t rain enough, farmers can go to their field and turn on what’s called a pivot. (It’s kind of like the sprinkler your family may have to water the grass or garden, or maybe just so the kids can run through it and have fun.) The main job of the pivot is to water the crop when the rain doesn’t come.
This pivot has “drops.” That’s where the water comes out of. Can you find Flat Aggie? She’s pretty small compared to this pivot.
Starting our garden inside with Flat Aggie
When we finished up our soil testing on the west side of Nebraska, it was time to come home. After all, spring is here, and our fields will have some tractor-traffic soon with planting corn seeds and soybean seeds and fertilizing. The fields are still too wet to begin planting just yet, but we can begin our family’s garden. Flat Aggie helped us get started by planting a few tomato and pepper plants in plastic containers. This way we can keep the seeds at just the right temperature and with just the right amount of water until they are strong enough to be outside in the big garden.
Did you know, you don’t have to own a tractor or cattle or have a lot of land to be a farmer? You can be a farmer by growing some of your favorite fruits and vegetables, just like what Flat Aggie is doing in these pictures. Being a farmer is all about taking care of the land that you have and growing something, anything, on it.
We’d love to have Flat Aggie stay with us longer, but we know she has many more adventures coming up in the next couple weeks. I think you will all enjoy seeing what she discovers next. We hear she is headed to New Hampshire!
-A Kansas Farm Mom
Each week when I get these reports, I wonder what my friends will talk about and how they will make their report different than the last and each week they amaze me! I am so thankful for my friends helping with this project.
Be sure to check out Flat Aggie's other adventures in American Agriculture:
- Northern Missouri
- Northeast Kansas Dairy
- High Tech in Nebraska
- New Hampshire Farms