When assessing why the first show in 1953 was successful beyond their wildest dreams, Prairie Farmer staff concluded that it was because they wanted to see the new tools available for sale in action. They wanted to see John Deere, International, Gleaner, Oliver and Massey Harris combines run in the field. And they wanted to see Massey Harris 44 tractors, Case 600 and 700 tractors, and John Deere models such as the 50, 60 and 70 performing in the field.
The size, price tag and working power of all this equipment has changed. But the concept hasn't. Today farmers want to see 16-row corn heads harvest corn, and watch modern tractors go through their paces pulling various tillage tools, most of which didn't exist in 1953. All this is what makes the Farm Progress Show different from other great indoor shows. Weather permitting, corn combines and all types of tillage tools will roll at this year's show.
Weather is the wild card. Show organizers have made it possible to hold a show by installing paved streets and drainage on permanent sites, but they still can't guarantee that the dates chosen for the show, Aug. 30, Aug. 31 and Sept, 1, in 2011, will produce good weather and crops and fields dry enough to run. However, show organizers, beginning with Matt Jungmann, national director of events, and Mark Lovig, in charge of field demonstrations and show operations, pledge to do everything humanly possible to make sure that as many field demonstrations a possible come off without a hitch.
Making things happen in the field will be Ed Harris, Van Horne Company, and Matt Muirhead with the Macon County Farm Bureau, Lovig notes. Both have been integral parts of making field demonstrations run smoothly since the first Decatur, Ill., show in 2005.
Corn got off to a somewhat late start, but Jungmann is confident it will be ready by show time. The idea is to see combines running side-by-side, and to then be able to walk behind each combine after it passes through to see how good of a job it's doing.
Corn combining is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT (local time) each day. Check the map to see where demonstrations are planned each day. Each company will get one chance to talk about their machine before it makes its first pass across the field, Jungmann notes. Lovig and his crew will make sure the combine operators know when and where to run. After the first pass, combines will be allowed to continue to run until the acres of corn allotted for that day are harvested.
Corn is of earlier maturity than you would likely plant if you farmed in the area. That will come in handy this year since planting was delayed. Fortunately, corn planted late tends to catch up in maturity, cutting 200 heat units off the time it takes to reach maturity. That's based on work done by Purdue University Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen and Ohio State University corn specialist Peter Tomlinson.
Many tillage tools
The real fun begins when the tillage tools take to the field from 2 p.m to 3 p.m. CDT, Lovig says. There will be traditional disks, rippers, both v-rippers and those designed to leave more residue on the surface. Once divided into classes, show organizers no longer attempt to push tools into categories. Every company who is qualified to run will get a chance to run in the field. Because there are so many more tillage tools than combines, no one will speak about each tool. Of course, company reps will be on hand to answer questions.
Tillage crowds have grown in the past few years. Crowds as large have 4,000 per afternoon have lined up to see the tillage demonstrations. At one time moldboard plows dominated the tillage demonstrations, then disappeared. A moldboard plow returned to an exhibit lot at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa in 2010. However, the stars of the tillage show will be disks, chisels, disc-rippers and a host of other tools, including vertical tillage tools. Vertical tillage is defined as any tool that tends to move soil up and down instead of using an implement that mixes soil and residue horizontally.
Because there are more tillage tools than combines, there won't be loudspeaker presentations before the first pass. If you're interested in a particular tool, either ask the rep working with that company's tool during the demo, or find the company's booth on the Exhibit Field and ask reps there about the parts you're not sure about.
Vertical tillage tools
The biggest change since the show was in Decatur in 2009 is that there will be a class for tools that want to run faster to show what they can do. Most of the new tillage tools, with nearly a dozen on the market, are recommended to run at 7 to 9 miles per hour. When run at slower speeds you don't always get a true picture of what the implement can do.
"We'll run tools that require traditional speeds first, then run vertical tillage tools at faster speeds," Lovig says. "We had a few hiccups last year the first time we did it, but we've got them worked out. It really lets farmers get a better idea of what the machines can do."
Show organizers want everyone to get a good look at the tools in action and how they perform, but they also want them to stay safe, Jungmann emphasizes. Lovig and his crew in the field will be easily identifiable with orange vests. Look to them for instructions. Typically, spectators stand behind a rope extending the length of the field for tillage demonstrations. As tools make passes, the rope moves in so people can inspect the performance of any machines they're interested in.
Some of the fields are very close to the exhibit field. It's a plus of the Decatur show site. However, trams will run continuously when necessary to get people to and from the field. Remember, however, that it is a walking show. Don't make all your plans around being able to catch a shuttle to the field. Depending upon crowd size, you could have to wait to board a shuttle.
When they're needed, you'll find the shuttles boarding at the north end of Central Vvenue, Jungmann says.
Intended plans are posted on the maps. However, if crop or weather conditions force changes, here's how you can find out what's going on in the field during the day.
First, there will be two electronic message boards carrying information about field demonstrations planned for the day. One will be near the main entrance on the south side of the exhibit field. The other will be on the north end of Central Avenue, near where shuttles load.
In addition, every attempt will be made to keep folks in the information booths up to date with what's happening that day. If you're not sure if there may have been adjustments, check at any information booth.
The precision demonstration area will be expanded for 2011, Lovig says. These demonstrations are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., although each demonstration may not run constantly during that time. Here's where you'll find demonstrations on auto-guidance, strip tillage and other precision farming innovations.
In addition, some of the grain handling companies will be doing demonstrations in this area this year. Look for the location on the map. Individual companies may offer ride and drive areas. Check with the individual company you're interested in for in formation about where and how those one-on-one demonstrations will operate.