John Deere Advances Stewardship in Agriculture



A proven leader in the agricultural industry, John Deere is also taking the lead in agricultural sustainability by providing customers with technology and products that improve efficiency and productivity.

Photo courtesy of John Deere.




Solid. Stable. Focused on Sustainability.
John Deere advances stewardship in agriculture


By Christy Couch Lee

Over 170 years ago, John Deere began his one-man blacksmith shop in Grand DeTour, Ill. Today, Deere & Company employs nearly 56,000 people worldwide in agriculture, turf, construction, forestry and credit divisions, and generated sales of $23.1 billion in 2009.""

A proven leader in the agricultural industry, John Deere is also taking the lead in agricultural sustainability by providing customers with technology and products that improve efficiency and productivity. In addition, Deere has advanced its stewardship efforts by supporting the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) for nearly three decades.

Company stewardship

John Mann, John Deere customer segment manager, says stewardship is always on the minds of the company leadership.

“Certainly, our products are being produced in an environmentally responsible manner,” Mann says. “And, we are trying to produce products that are sustainable, as well.”

Deere’s construction and forestry division continually seeks ways to become more environmentally friendly, Mann says. Most recently, Deere has focused on producing sustainable biomass solutions. In this process, energy wood-harvesting systems collect woody biomass, which is formed into bundles for immediate use.

“This is an efficient, low-carbon fuel source,” Mann says. “Woody biomass holds great promise as an environmentally sustainable and beneficial energy source that can provide renewable energy for businesses, schools and homes.”

Deere also connects with other members of the agricultural sector through a collaborative effort called Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, which addresses how to meet the needs of a growing world population through sustainable agricultural practices.

This group’s Environmental Indicators Report, which evaluated national-scale metrics over the past 20 years, indicates production agriculture has made improvements in sustainable production.

And, the Fieldprint Calculator helps growers confidentially assess the efficiency of their operations and analyze the sustainability of their practices.

“We are trying to take the initiative to define sustainability from an industry perspective, in relation to sustainable agriculture,” Mann says.

Increasing efficiency and precision in the application of inputs is one way agricultural producers can approach sustainability. With the right tools and technology, producers are reducing fuel use and emissions, keeping nutrients and chemicals on the field and reducing runoff to nearby waterways, Mann says.

Precision and efficiency

Last year, Deere spent more than $2.5 million per day on research and development, Mann says. That investment in efficiency and technology is paying off for the company, for producers and for the environment.

For example, Mann says, Deere’s smallest U.S.-made combine is more productive than Deere’s largest machine of just 10 years ago.

“We're also seeing a single John Deere combine replacing as many as three outdated, less fuel-efficient machines in growing agricultural economies like Russia,” Mann adds.
Deere’s investment in efficiency and technology is paying off for the company, producers and environment. For example, Deere’s smallest U.S.-made combine is more productive than Deere’s largest machine of just 10 years ago.

Photo courtesy of John Deere.

Deere also continues to make strides in improving engines and power trains, he says.

For example, Deere's 8430 row-crop tractor, with Tier III technology, emits 50 percent less particulate matter and 30 percent less nitrogen oxide than its predecessor, the 8420, introduced in 2002, Mann says.

“At the same time, this tractor set an all-time record as the most fuel-efficient row-crop tractor ever tested at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab,” he adds. “The new 8320R tractor, introduced for model year 2009, continues to utilize this advanced, field-proven technology and has also set new fuel-efficiency records.”

Mann adds that Deere’s new engine and power train technology, to be introduced soon under Interim Tier IV technology, will further reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Deere’s guidance systems – notably, the StarFire® receiver and real-time kinematic (RTK) systems – enable true precision farming by eliminating overlap in the field, thus reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, he says. Ultimately, he says, this technology provides environmental benefits while reducing farmers’ costs.

In addition, Mann says, with Deere’s AutoTrac® technology, planter and sprayer components can be activated or deactivated, based on a farmer’s specific position in the field.

“With this technology, farmers are seeing another 3-percent reduction in seed, fertilizer and pesticide use per acre, as a result of swath control technology,” Mann says.

As well, Deere’s new nutrient management implements allow producers to more accurately manage the placement of fertilizer, potentially unlocking even higher yields with minimum waste, run-off and impact on the environment, he adds.

Sustainability through nutrient management

Pauley Bradley, John Deere nutrient application product manager, says Deere’s new nutrient application equipment is designed to provide more efficiency in corn production, all while adding to producers’ bottom lines.

“Following the International Plant Nutrition Institute’s (IPNI) 4R approach to sustainable nutrient management, Deere’s technology focuses on all four aspects of nutrient application: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Place and Right Time,” Bradley says.

He says Deere’s 2510H Nutrient Applicator employs high-speed, low-disturbance injection technology to place anhydrous ammonia beneath the soil surface. It uses 30 percent less fuel and disturbs the soil less than traditional shank and knife application.

“The 2510H gives producers a way to apply nitrogen closer to the time of crop need and uptake,” Bradley says. “This is a big piece of the sustainability picture. And, for no-till producers, this is great. Many no-till producers haven’t been able to use the lowest-cost form of nitrogen – anhydrous ammonia – because conventional methods of applying anhydrous can cause too much soil disturbance.”

“Coupled with Deere’s PitStop Pro™ tendering system, the 2510H makes planned side-dress applications more feasible and profitable than ever,” Bradley says. PitStop Pro™ is a hands-free system, allowing producers and applicators to connect their anhydrous tanks without leaving their tractor cabs.

“Manually, this process can take several minutes,” Bradley says. By using PitStop Pro™, applicators can save time over the course of a day and several hundred acres. With this technology, Bradley says, more operators may be inclined to apply anhydrous in the spring, which is optimal for the crop, as well as the environment.

“PitStop Pro™ and the LoadCommand™ tendering system for the 4930 sprayer enable producers to spend much less time tendering, and more time applying,” Bradley says. “This can lead to less nitrogen entering the groundwater and surface water, by more nitrogen being applied closer to the time of crop uptake, when more informed rate decisions can be made.”

Also, Bradley says, by using RTK technology, producers can align preplant anhydrous application with, and offset from, future corn rows. This provides equal distribution of nitrogen to all plants, leading to more uniform ear size and increased production.

“Proper management, such as this, is a significant piece in the puzzle to increasing yields and meeting future demand for food and energy,” he says.

Partners in conservation

Support of agricultural stewardship and conservation is nothing new to Deere. In fact, Deere & Company was one of the founding members of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) when the organization was formed in 1982.

He says Deere has chosen a close relationship with CTIC for the networking opportunities available.

“Deere enjoys being a member of CTIC, and in being involved on the executive board,” Foster says. “It really allows Deere to gain insight from other members of CTIC – whether from the public or private sector. Deere has found value in the interaction and interchange of ideas about agriculture.”
Chris Foster, John Deere market planning manager, has served on the CTIC Board of Directors for the past nine years, and he currently serves as past chair of the organization. Deere takes pride in its long-standing relationship with CTIC.

Photo courtesy of CTIC.
Foster says CTIC helps spread Deere’s message in subtle ways. For example, he says, sponsoring CTIC publications and events has helped Deere expand its message and visibility.

“These sponsorships have helped broader audiences understand how Deere really does focus on bringing technologies to farmers, and to helping them manage their resource issues,” Foster says.

He believes CTIC builds on a strong foundation of members and partners from the public and private sector to carry out its mission to advance conservation in agriculture.

“That 28 years of history has allowed CTIC to build a good reputation as a go-to source on conservation in agriculture information,” Foster says. “Our network of public and private groups, and the ability to work through those groups to get to other growers and grower groups makes CTIC a valuable resource.”

Foster encourages other businesses and organizations to become members of CTIC.

“I would encourage others to become strongly involved in CTIC,” he says. “I’ve never found a situation in which I didn’t believe Deere received benefit in return, based on how much we invested from a resource point of view.”

The benefits can be seen not only in financial return, but also in reaching an agricultural audience, Foster says.

“All agricultural corporations are potential members and could receive value from a membership with CTIC,” he says. “And, that value will only increase as we add more strongly involved members. It’s a great group of people who are enjoyable to work with, and who are passionate about agriculture.”

To learn more about John Deere’s stewardship efforts and its products, visit

About the Writer: Christy Couch Lee is the owner of Cee Lee Communications, an agricultural writing and photography business based in Wellington, Ill.