Friday, November 16, 2012

Future’s Now: The New Generation of No-Driver Tractors

Finally it’s there!
The prototype Spirit autonomous tractor, presented  at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, ND in September, breaks the convention and avoids of the necessity for a driver to operate the vehicle from the cab. Actually, with the driver aside and the machine’s rectangular shape, it looks like rubber-tracked yellow LEGO block, more than a modern tractor. “That’s the look of the future” says Terry Anderson, the president of the Autonomous Tractor Corporation and the Spirit designer at the same time. 
Anderson makes a point that not much has changed in tractor design for the last decade, except that the machines got bigger and more sophisticated. Being the entrepreneur, with some knowledge of communication technology, industrial machine design and manufacturing, Anderson decided that some changes are inevitable. The most conspicuous difference between the Spirit and the any traditional tractor, that you spot instantly is the lack of the tractor cab. The company’s design objective was to build a low – cost and durable tractor, featured with the safe, no-driver navigation system. The Spirit model is going to have long, 25.000 – hr. service life, a 500 – hr. service interval and a maximum 2-hr. repair time, with the selling price of $500 per horsepower. That includes a hybrid laser-radio navigation system, eliminating the chances to stray outside field boundaries.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Transgenic Trees May Boost a Green Revolution for Some Forest Crops

It seems that the same “green revolution” ideas that have given the incentive for the crop agriculture revolution and helped to fight the malnutrition in many countries all over the world may now prove equally useful in forestry. 
Scientists claim that “green” concepts once used, could work again to the benefit of wood biomass production or even greenhouse gas mitigation.
The researchers at Oregon State University have recently launched their latest findings concerning the reduced height growth in trees (as a result of genetic modification) and the positive influence it could exert on bioenergy or serve for more efficient water use.
That’s an important news for the agriculture: it turns out that the methods which made crops (i.e. wheat and rice) produce more food on smaller plants, could be applied in forestry. The research has made it obvious that genetic modification of height growth is within human’s reach and the genes that control plant growth are also responsible for the growth of trees. The semi –dwarf trees that were produced by conventional tree breeding techniques already remain the important part of the horticulture industry, enabling easier  fruit harvesting and higher yields.