Into the Lab: Biosystems Engineering

John Fulton, associate professor of biosystems engineering, is developing intelligent planter technology through an in-depth understanding of how individual planter row units and soil characteristics affect crop emergence and development. His automated, on-the-go system combines the use of actuators with prototype sensors to regulate individual planter row units, and helps determine soil moisture. The actuators will place crop seed at a target depth regardless of soil conditions, as well as control the amount of down force applied to maintain good contact between the row unit and soil without disrupting other seedlings. The technology responds to the variability in soil conditions that growers face during planting, and will allow farmers to increase their crop production through improved planter performance based on in-field conditions.