Monday, June 16, 2008

tt4t_042 Floods, Food, and Technology….

It’s Monday, June 16th, 2008 and welcome to episode 42 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I mentioned the flooding we recently experienced and I can now report that thankfully for this area of east-central Illinois the Embarras River (pronounced “Ambraw”) is now back within its banks. Many of the farmers fields however have not faired so well with water still standing in low places. Unfortunately many of the farmers from this area had already replanted corn fields a second time before this flood occurred due to the cool spring weather and poor germinating conditions. With this flooding many of the corn fields along the river have been completely destroyed.

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It is now too late in the season to replant corn fields so many farmers impatiently await the dryout so they can plant soybeans in these fields, that is if Mother Nature cooperates. If soybeans cannot be planted before the second week in July this year then this farming season will be a complete disaster for those farmers affected by the weather. Many of you know that food prices are rising and that commodity prices like corn and soybeans are at record levels. If farmers cannot plant and harvest the crops then short supplies will continue to push prices higher. What you do not often hear on the news is that input costs like land prices, seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticides, and fuel are also all at record prices. Much of this price inflation is due to the high costs of petroleum products that have been passed on to the farmers. Every input cost is higher than in previous years making farm profitability increasingly difficult even in times of record commodity prices. I have provided a link in the shownotes to an agricultural report that lists grain prices and conditions for this part of Illinois if you are interested in taking a closer look at the current market report to learn more.

USDA Grain Report – June 13, 2008 Springfield, IL>

In areas along the Mississippi River from Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois the flood waters are just now cresting this week so the damage to these fields not to mention personal property will be huge. People affected by this flooding will be dealing with the consequences of this flooding for weeks to come.

With corn prices approaching $7 per bushel and soybean prices at $15 per bushel I suspect the average American thinks that farmers will be making a lot of money this year. Keep in mind that many farmers I know are just hoping to break even this year with the high input costs we are experiencing. For those farmers that have received flood damage they most likely will lose money this year. To give you some sense of perspective of rising input prices here is shocking statistic, seed corn prices hit over $200 per bag this year.

For farmers that have escaped bad weather they may indeed have a good year if they get a good harvest and if prices remain at this level. As always with farming there is the big “IF”.
Many will be surprised to know that farmers today make up that less than 2 percent of the US population. Today farming is very much technologically driven. Farmers use this technology to increase production in hopes that producing more product will out pace input costs, sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not.

From the use of satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems that help determine what areas of fields need more or less fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide use farmers are using sophisticated mapping technologies to wisely use high-cost resources. Weather data reports, market trending and analysis, micro-nutrient analysis, and all kinds of field monitors also help with everything from planting to harvesting and are routinely used to increase production in hopes of producing increased profits.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the digital globe website available at You have probably viewed this imagery by news organizations like CNN to provide satellite imagery related to various news stories such as the current flooding in the midwest.

Digital Globe:

In September of 2007 a new satellite called WorldView-1 was launched and now provides one-half meter imagery. Here is a quote from the digital globe website explaining capabilities of the satellite that is used to capture this imagery.

“Operating at an altitude of 496 kilometers, WorldView-1 has an average revisit time of 1.7 days and is capable of collecting up to 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) per day of half-meter imagery. The satellite is also equipped with state-of-the-art geolocation accuracy capabilities and exhibits stunning agility with rapid targeting and efficient in-track stereo collection. “

The digital globe website is very easy to use and you can simply type in the name of the city and zipcode you are interested in to view high resolution satellite imagery. Keep in mind that not all of the imagery is in real time and many images may be several years old. The site also sells photographs for your selected view if you wish to purchase a hardcopy of the imagery.

The site also advertises commercial use aerial imagery up to 3 inch resolution. What that means is that you can identify an object down to about 3 inches in size from this imagery. All of this happens from the safety of space and few people realize this is happening or give very little thought to it. The Olympics are also coming up and the site provides detailed images of Beijing that is in the final stages of preparation for the Olympics in August.

All of this technology really shrinks the world. Whether you are interested in the Olympics, seeing your own town from Space, or a farmer checking crop production the digital globe offers some interesting possibilities.

A reminder that the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in now two weeks away and will be hosted by San Antonio, Texas at the end of this month. If you are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio.

That wraps it up for episode 42 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

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