YEAR OF THE TRAC­TOR

2018 IS THE YEAR OF THE TRAC­TOR AT SMITHSONIAN’S NA­TIONAL MU­SEUM OF AMER­I­CAN HIS­TORY.

Successful Farming - - MACHINERY - By Emma Wil­son

Where would you find a 1918 Water­loo Boy trac­tor, a grain sickle from the 1900s, and a first-gen­er­a­tion GPS re­ceiver all in one place? Only at the Smithsonian Na­tional Mu­seum of Amer­i­can His­tory in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The mu­seum is cel­e­brat­ing 2018 as the Year of the Trac­tor with two new dis­plays show­cas­ing the past, present, and fu­ture of agri­cul­ture within the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise ex­hi­bi­tion.

“His­tory is best when iconic ob­jects and an­niver­sary dates co­in­cide,” says Peter Lieb­hold, the mu­seum’s agri­cul­ture curator. “Mak­ing 2018 the year of the trac­tor gives the pub­lic an op­por­tu­nity to ap­pre­ci­ate the past, learn in­sight about the process of in­no­va­tion, and the un­in­tended con­se­quences of change.”

A green, yel­low, and red 1918 Water­loo Boy trac­tor is on dis­play, mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of Deere and Com­pany’s en­try into the trac­tor mar­ket with the ac­qui­si­tion of the Water­loo Gaso­line En­gine Co. in 1918. The ex­hibit high­lights the in­tro­duc­tion of light­weight, gaso­line-pow­ered trac­tors, a ma­jor revo­lu­tion in agri­cul­ture that moved farm­ing into the world of com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion.

A new dis­play ti­tled “Pre­ci­sion Farm­ing” tells a more mod­ern story of how far farm­ers have come in adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies that are also chang­ing agri­cul­tural prac­tices. In the late 1990s, lo­ca­tion-track­ing tech­nol­ogy, such as GPS, launched a dif­fer­ent agri­cul­tural in­no­va­tion. U.S. farm­ers be- gan us­ing the tech­nol­ogy to see big­ger vari­a­tions within their fields and live­stock.

“The link­age be­tween the Water­loo Boy and the in­no­va­tion of light­weight trac­tors in 1918 with the Pre­ci­sion Farm­ing dis­play is a nat­u­ral,” says Lieb­hold. “Both ex­hi­bi­tions pro­vide in­sight into agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tions.”

Fea­tured Farm­ers

The Pre­ci­sion Farm­ing dis­play fea­tures four farm­ers from Iowa, Wy­oming, Idaho, and Ne­braska who are ex­am­ples of early adopters of pre­ci­sion farm­ing equip­ment.

Roy Bar­dole is a third­gen­er­a­tion farmer grow­ing corn and soy­beans in Rippey, Iowa. Like many Mid­west­ern farm­ers, Bar­dole’s first pre­ci­sion farm­ing pur­chase was auto steer for his trac­tor and com­bine. “From GPS equip­ment, crop yield mon­i­tors, and other de­vices, Bar­dole turned his com­bine cab into an in­for­ma­tion con­trol cen­ter,” says Lieb­hold.

A dairy farmer in Car­pen­ter, Wy­oming, Kim Bur­nett is com­mit­ted to pre­ci­sion farm­ing. As an­i­mal health is crit­i­cal in the dairy in­dus­try, ev­ery cow at Bur­nett En­ter­prises wears a com­puter chip on its neck with a num­ber. Lieb­hold says the com­puter sys­tems al­low the Bur­netts to run re­ports on cows drop­ping in pro­duc­tion, iden­tify those need­ing checked, and find cows when they’re in the in­cor­rect pens.

Robert Blair of Ken­drick, Idaho, uses drones, GPS equip­ment, yield mon­i­tors, and other de­vices to cre­ate a new way of see­ing and man­ag­ing his wheat fields. “With the use of his drone, Blair can take high­res­o­lu­tion pho­tos of crops and fields,” says Lieb­hold. “These can help him de­ter­mine which ar­eas need more care or ni­tro­gen, al­low­ing Blair to save money and avoid over­fer­til­iz­ing.” Fifth-gen­er­a­tion farm­ers Zach and Anna Hunnicutt rely on cen­ter pivot ir­ri­gation sys­tems to grow pop­corn, soy­beans, and wheat in their fields near Gilt­ner, Ne­braska. “The vari­abler­ate ap­pli­ca­tion of seed, wa­ter, fer­til­izer, and pes­ti­cides helps the Hun­ni­cutts make their farm­ing op­er­a­tion ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally strong,” says Lieb­hold.

Us­ing soil mois­ture sen­sors and sprin­kler con­trols, the Hun­ni­cutts’ ir­ri­gation sys­tem con­serves the amount of wa­ter needed to turn dry soils into pro­duc­tive farm fields.

A 1918 Water­loo Boy trac­tor sits at the en­trance of the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise ex­hi­bi­tion at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Amer­i­can His­tory.

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