NCR180, Indiana Report 2000

Purdue University


General Contact - Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, NCR180 Indiana Representative, Purdue University,

Dept. of Ag. Economics, West Lafayette, IN 47907; Phone: (317) 494-4230; Fax: (317) 494-9176;



Overview – There is continuing, active participation in site-specific management research and outreach in four school of agriculture departments:  Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), Agricultural Economics (AGEC), Agronomy (AGRY), and Botany and Plant Pathology (BTNY), as well as from Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Statistics.


Center Establishment – Site-specific management outreach and research activities at Purdue University are coordinated through the recently established Site-Specific Management Center (SSMC).  The SSMC mission is to develop and disseminate information about site-specific management methods that are profitable and practical for agricultural producers, input suppliers, and processors of agricultural products.  Personnel:  Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, director; Keith Morris, information systems manager; and Pam Beneker, secretary.  Additional information is available at 


Book – The first major product of the SSMC is the book entitled, Precision Farming Profitability, Lowenberg-DeBoer, J. and K. Erickson eds., forthcoming from Purdue University Agricultural Research Programs, Jan., 2001.  The book was produced with support from CNH Global.


Active Projects:


Site-Specific Weed Management Techniques – Case Medlin, BTNY, e-mail:  The long-term goal of the site-specific weed management program is to integrate:  (1) remote sensing technology for detecting site-specific weed infestations; (2) knowledge-based systems for recommending herbicide treatments for each weed infestation; and (3) site-specific herbicide applicators for treating those weed infestations with the most appropriate herbicide.  The current focus is the development of baseline data on individual weed species’ spectral reflectance.  Through collaborative efforts with researchers in ABE and Computer and Electrical Engineering and current technology such as the Purdue University Multi-purpose Imaging System (PUMIS), this baseline data will be quickly generated. 


Agribusiness Adoption – Jay Akridge, AGEC, e-mail: - A major survey on the provision and pricing of precision (site-specific) agricultural services by agronomic retailers was conducted.  More than 500 dealerships across the U.S. responded to the questionnaire.  Key findings suggest that expansion of site-specific service offerings slowed in 1999.  And, dealerships continue to focus more heavily on site-specific services that do not require large capital outlays such as field mapping.  Offerings of services that are more capital intensive such as controller-driven variable rate application lag lower investment services, but modest growth does continue.  Pricing programs for these services are highly variable.  Provision of these services is higher in the Midwest relative to other states, and more prevalent in cooperatives and larger national organizations relative to independent operations.  Seed continues to expand as a product line for retail agronomic product retailers.  Publications include: 

Akridge, J.T. and L.D. Whipker. “Precision Agricultural Services and Enhanced Seed Dealership Survey Results.” Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics, Staff Paper No. 00-04. 2000. (available at

Whipker, L.D. and J.T. Akridge. “Dealers and Precision: Taking a Breather.” Farm Chemicals. June 2000, pp. 20-25.


Nitrogen Management in Corn Using Site-specific Crop Response Estimates from a Spatial Regression Model - Rodolfo Bongiovanni and J. Lowenberg-DeBoer, AGEC - The goal of this study is to determine if spatial regression analysis of yield monitor data can be used to estimate the site-specific crop nitrogen (N) response needed to fine tune variable rate fertilizer strategies. The methodology uses yield monitor data from on-farm trials in the Argentine Pampas to estimate site-specific crop response functions. The design involves a strip trial with a uniform N rate along the strip and a randomized complete block design, with regression estimation of N response curves by landscape position. Spatial autocorrelation and spatial heterogeneity are taken into account using a spatial error model and a groupwise heteroskedasticity model. A partial budget is used to calculate uniform rate and VRT returns. This study was partially supported by the government of Argentina, through the Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA).  Publications include:

Bongiovanni, Rodolfo, and J. Lowenberg-DeBoer, "Nitrogen   Management in Corn Using Site Specific Crop Response Estimates from a Spatial Regression Model," forthcoming in the proceedings of the 5th International Precision Agriculture Conference,  Minneapolis, MN, July 16-19, 2000.


Precision Agriculture Profitability Review - Dayton Lambert and J. Lowenberg-DeBoer, AGEC - The objective of this report is to summarize and organize the publicly available studies of the profitability of precision agriculture. Sources were refereed articles from scientific journals or proceedings (86%), and non-technical or non-refereed magazines and monographs specializing in agribusiness services (14%). Of the 108 studies that reported economic figures, 63% indicated positive net returns for a given PA technology, while 11% indicated negative returns.  There were 27 articles indicating mixed results (26%). Soil Teq, a subsidiary of Ag Chem Corporation, supported this review.  Related publications:      

Lambert, Dayton, and J. Lowenberg-DeBoer, “Precision Agriculture Profitability Review,”, Sept., 2000.

Lowenberg-DeBoer, “Comment on “Site-Specific Crop Management: Adoption Patterns and Incentives,” Review of Agricultural Economics 22:1 (2000), p. 245-247.

Lowenberg-DeBoer, J., “Economic Analysis of Precision Farming,” in Agricultura de Precisao, Aluizio Borém, et al. eds, Federal University of Vicosa, Vicosa, MG, Brazil, 2000.


Estimating the Value of Soil Sensor Information - J. Lowenberg-DeBoer and Alan Hallman, AGEC, and Mark Morgan, ABE, e-mail: - The economic trade off between grid soil sampling and laboratory tests, or soil sensor data is the choice between relatively accurate information at a few points, or less accurate information at many points. The analysis focuses on an automated soil sampling and sensing system for pH. Compared to 2.5-acre grids, the estimated cost savings from this system are slightly more than one dollar per acre. Estimates indicate that the value of yield lost due to sensor measurement error is small. In the example field, most of the benefit of the pH sensor was linked to the greater spatial density of pH information. This study was partially supported by the United Soybean Board.  Publications include:

Lowenberg-DeBoer, J, and Alan Hallman, "Value of pH Soil Sensor Information," forthcoming in the proceedings of the 5th Int’l Precision Agriculture Conference, Minneapolis, MN, July 16-19, 2000


Remote Sensing - Chris Johannsen or Paul Carter, AGRY, e-mail: or - The primary agricultural objective of this research is develop methods for identifying and monitoring soil and cropland variables important to the management of site specific farming. Elements of crop stress due to drought, weeds, disease and nutrient deficiencies are being documented with ground reference data collected at regular intervals from the Purdue Davis Research Center (DPAC) and the Purdue Agronomy Research Center (ARC) as well as from producer farm fields. In related areas, Johannsen’s group is using remotely sensed data for “directed” crop scouting (corn, soybeans and wheat), earlier prediction of corn yields, and early evaluation of nitrogen levels in corn crops.


Site-Specific Weather – Monte O’Neal, Jane Frankenberger, and Dan Ess, ABE, e-mail: - The purpose of the research was to determine spatial and temporal precipitation variability, and the effect of this variability on spatial and temporal yield variability and profitability. This was done through (1) modeling of corn yield based on precipitation data, using both neural networks and a simulation model, for an east central Indiana farm, and (2) statistical analyses of precipitation and yield variability within the farm and at the range of nearby National Weather Service stations.  Results suggested that on-farm precipitation data could be useful, but only one gauge on a farm, not multiple gauges, would be necessary to make management decisions and model corn yield at the farm scale. They also illustrated that spatial precipitation variability is an important factor of spatial yield variability. Publications include:

O’Neal, M. R., J. R. Frankenberger, D. R. Ess, and R. H. Grant. In press. Precipitation variability by phenological phase at the farm scale. Transactions of the ASAE.

O’Neal, M. R., J. R. Frankenberger, and D. R. Ess. 2000. Spatial precipitation variability in the choice of nitrogen fertilization rates. forthcoming in the proceedings of the 5th Int’l Precision Agriculture Conference,  Minneapolis, MN, July 16-19, 2000.


Others include:  Sylvie Brouder, AGRY, e-mail: - site-specific nutrient management; Sam Parsons, ABE, e-mail: - yield monitor calibration and yield mapping software; Mack Strickland, ABE, E-mail:  - voice input for site-specific data collection and software; Gaines E. Miles, ABE, e-mail: - crop canopy sensors and site-specific, documented pesticide application; Bob Nielsen, AGRY, e-mail: - yield maps as diagnostic tools.



Respectfully submitted by Daniel R. Ess, ABE, Purdue University