February 22, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Kentucky's farmers are on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to precision agriculture. Recently, they formed the Kentucky Precision Agriculture Network to organize and communicate their ideas and experiences.

Mike Ellis, a producer who has been involved with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's precision ag research, is chairman of the newly-formed KPAN. Ellis said the primary form of interaction this group will use is e-mail and Internet discussion groups.

"We can profit through neighbors who use computers," he said. "We can be neighbors through the Internet and e-mail. And we hope this (networking) will allow us to feed info back to software developers about what we, as farmers, need in software programs."

Ted Macy, president of MapShots spoke to a group of potential KPAN members at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville February 16. His company put their first yield map online in 1992 and has been working to help farmers make better use of GPS technology for many years.

"We are starting to see more and more cooperation between public and private sectors," Macy said. "Groups like KPAN will help foster that. The public sector must produce models and components that enhance the value of growers' chosen management systems and the private sector must provide the infrastructure and access to information which will support the public sector's tools."

Tim Stombaugh and Scott Shearer, both agricultural engineers at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said they are looking forward to working with KPAN members and farmers who are using precision agriculture and are more than willing to help with advice from time to time.

KPAN will benefit producers by giving them a forum to communicate ideas, increase efficiency, improved record keeping, share ideas with universities, help those universities work together, foster distance learning, and the list goes on.

"This (KPAN) is an excellent opportunity for farmers to interact with us at the University," Stombaugh said. "We want them to come talk to us and communicate to us what they need."

UK's College of Agriculture has ongoing research in many precision ag areas, such as GPS receiver testing, yield monitor testing, GIS analysis of yield data, CRP enrollment, soil conductivity measuring, variable rate fertilizer application, on-farm investigations, high-volume soil sampler development, to name a few.

"We've been fortunate to have grants in the last few years," Shearer said. "We have resources to pursue research in precision agriculture. We are hoping for interaction between KPAN and UK, as well as other regional institutions."

For more information on KPAN visit the web site at: http://www.bae.uky.edu/~precag/KPAN.html or contact KPAN chairman Mike Ellis at wdemike@iglou.com or Worth and Dee Ellis Farms, 565 Ellis Road, Eminence, KY 40019-7506.


Scott Shearer 859-257-300, ext 218