Bringing landscapes to life

Written by TF Staff on .

Playing in the sand can be serious business.

Just ask MFA Incorporated’s Precision Agronomy Department Manager Thad Becker and MFA agronomists. They have created an “augmented reality” sandbox that’s more than child’s play.

This hands-on exhibit combines a tabletop sandbox, a Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, powerful simulation software and a data projector to create interactive topography models. Users mold the sand by hand, and the landscape comes to life. The peaks and valleys of the sand shapes are augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc.

The augmented reality sandbox was originally developed by the University of California, Davis, with funds from the National Science Foundation, and the software to power the system is a free open-source download from the university. Becker and staff agronomists built the sandbox and worked with MFA Information Technology personnel to put the technology together for the exhibit.

The interactive display debuted at MFA’s Winter Buyers Market in January, where it was a popular stop for visitors, and the precision agronomy team took the sandbox to the Western Farm Show Feb. 23-25 in Kansas City. They also plan to use it in future producer meetings and training events.

Year of the Tractor

Written by TF Staff on .

The oldest existing John Deere plow, a 1918 Waterloo Boy tractor and a first-generation GPS receiver are all part of a new exhibition to celebrate the “Year of the Tractor” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

To mark the 100th anniversary of John Deere’s entry into the tractor market, the museum opened two new temporary displays that celebrate the past, present and future of agriculture. As part of the commemoration, an iconic green, yellow and red 1918 Waterloo Boy tractor will be on view at the entrance to the museum’s “American Enterprise” exhibition. Deere and Company acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in March 1918, introducing farmers to lightweight, mass-produced tractors. This major revolution in agriculture moved farming firmly into the realm of commercial production.

The Waterloo Boy will be showcased with historic images and advertisements that marketed the then-new technology to help convince farmers to shift from animal power and labor-intensive production to gasoline-powered tractors.

The American Enterprise exhibition also includes a new precision farming display focused on technology that helped launch a different agriculture revolution. Objects and information in the display will tell the story of how farmers have adapted to precision technology—even the use of drones—that is changing agricultural practices in fundamental ways.

Key objects showcased in “Precision Farming” include a GPS receiver, a crop yield monitor from 1996 and a cow neck tag with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The display also features four stories of farmers engaged in precision farming.

Throughout the “Year of the Tractor,” the museum will also incorporate tractor history, agriculture and innovation programming into its offerings for the public. For more information on the exhibition, visit:

Missouri Farmer to lead Army Corps of Engineers

Written by TF Staff on .

A Missouri farmer and civil engineer, R.D. James, has been selected to serve as assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, a role in which he will oversee the U.S. Corps of Engineers among other responsibilities.

The post is important for the nation’s commerce, especially agriculture. In his new role, James will establish policy direction and provide supervision of programs for conservation and development of water and wetland resources, flood control, navigation and shore protection.

A native of Fulton County, Ky., James and his family have had farming, ginning and grain elevator operations in the Missouri Bootheel for decades. He served on the Mississippi River Commission for 37 years, first appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In that position, James helped lead the organization charged with improving the condition, fostering navigation, promoting commerce and preventing destructive floods in the nation’s most important waterway for shipment of goods.

He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Jan. 25 and sworn in Feb. 5 as assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. In announcing the confirmation, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “R.D. James understands the importance of our inland waterways system. He has an impressive background and is the right person to address our nation’s water infrastructure needs.

Stewardship is more than just a buzzword

Written by Matt Hill on .

Stewardship is a word we will hear more often as increasing world population puts a strain on our resources. We will all need to find ways to squeeze more out of what we have in a sustainable way. As individuals, we make stewardship decisions daily based on how it will affect our personal sustainability—whether that be related to our health, relationships, finances, environment and anything else that is important for us to continue “forever.”

Industries don’t have the luxury of focusing on individual sustainability. They must produce the goods and services that billions of people require for their personal sustainability, yet remain good stewards of the environment, their balance sheet, work force, etc. No doubt, agriculture is at the top of the list of industries that shoulder the biggest part of this responsibility. There isn’t anything more important to our personal sustainability than enough clean air to breathe, nutritious food to eat and safe water to drink. Farmers directly influence each of those.

Many industries don’t clearly understand their ties to the land and, as a result, only become good stewards of the environment and natural resources when forced by government regulation. In contrast, generations of farmers and ranchers have been good stewards because they recognize that maintaining a healthy environment and abundant natural resources is the only way to ensure their land is productive today and for future generations. Practices such as using crop rotations and contour farming are so common they often go unmentioned as good stewardship practices but are very important to remain sustainable.

MFA has been working alongside our customers for over a century to increase the production of your operation while being good stewards of our resources. These days, Crop-Trak consultants frequently scout enrolled acres, identifying issues early with the crop, which allows efficient use of pesticides only when and where they are needed. MFA’s Nutri-Track program develops location-specific fertilizer recommendations based on grid soil samples and yield data to ensure you don’t apply more fertilizer than can be used by the crop. This saves you money while keeping excess nutrients from washing into streams and rivers or leaching into groundwater.

MFA has recently reemphasized our commitment to stewardship, naming it as one of the company’s six core values. This helps to ensure that the responsible use of resources will weigh in on all decisions and recommendations made by MFA employees. We also created my position, the industry’s first dedicated natural resource conservation specialist. Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), I will be focused on helping you incorporate conservation practices in your operation to improve production while protecting the natural resources.

If you have questions about available conservation programs, stop by your local NRCS or MDC office. You will find there is funding available for conservation programs to address almost any concern or objectives you have for your operation. Some really great opportunities in Missouri are planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion and improve biological activity in the soil, or planting a portion of your pastures to deep-rooted native grasses to have a high-quality forage during the summer and take advantage of nutrients deep in the soil profile. I also believe that there are opportunities to identify acres that perform poorly each year and install a conservation practice that provides quality pollinator, monarch butterfly and small game habitat while producing an annual payment. In the end, these practices make those acres more profitable.

No matter what best fits your situation, you can be sure that MFA will be there to answer questions about how these programs might affect your operation or get you the supplies needed to implement the practices.

New crop of agricultural leaders

Written by TF Staff on .

In January, 18 couples completed the second of two comprehensive sessions in MFA Incorporated’s Leadership Corps program. Established in 1988, the program is designed for civic-minded couples interested in furthering their leadership expertise.

Participants attended weekend events in July 2017 and January 2018, in Columbia, Mo., where they heard firsthand from speakers with expertise in leadership and agricultural advocacy. The agenda covered cooperative education, communication, leadership development and technical workshops aimed to provide value to participants’ farming operations.

“We were happy to be selected to participate,” said Monty Willoughby of North Little Rock, Ark., who attended with his wife, Nancy. “Anytime that you can learn more about yourself and meet others in the agribusiness industry is great. We really enjoyed our time here.”

Leadership Corps activities also included tours of the MFA home office, the Christopher S. Bond Life Science Center at the University of Missouri, the Lyceum Theater in Historic Arrow Rock and Les Bourgeois winery and restaurant on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.

The Leadership Corps program is held every two years. If you are interested or know a promising couple who may want to participate in the next session, planned for July 2019 and January 2020, visit with your local MFA manager.


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