No matter how much farming changes, certain facts about working the soil always remain the same. And if you don't get those basics right, all the technology in the world won't keep you in farming.

“The return on high-tech still seems to be a question mark for many folks in agriculture,” says Kent Senf, product marketing manager for tillage tools at Case IH. “You have to have the agronomic basics first. If you don't understand those principals, technology can become a hindrance.”

Those basics, according to Senf, include soil tilth, crop residue management, seedbed conditions and plant food availability. “Those are the agronomic drivers of crop production,” he says. ”They've been around for years.”

You've probably read more articles and heard more talks on compaction than you care to remember. But Senf wanted to display those agronomic principals at machinery shows in a simple way that would make the subjects interesting.

The result is four kiosk displays that the company first used at this year's National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY. Each kiosk contains a visual explanation of the agronomic principal.

“Soil tilth is partly about compaction. And everybody has photos and test plot data to explain the effects,” Senf says. “But it's still a concept that most farmers are convinced doesn't apply to them.

“We tried to explain the effect of compaction with a brick, a sponge and a pitcher of water. It's obvious how water reacts differently with each one. It's a simple way to see, if some of your soils are like a brick, you've got a problem you need to solve.”

To illustrate variance in seedbed conditions, the Case IH crew put different-sized balls in a kiosk to represent different soil particle sizes. “We included BBs, two styles of marbles, plastic golf balls, tennis balls and softballs,” Senf says. “That gives a size representation that farmers can remember.

“If you throw a Hula-Hoop on the field, you don't want more than two or three tennis ball-size clods within the circle if you're planting corn or soybeans. And you don't want any softball-size clods. Different crops require different soil conditions.”

The crop residue kiosk simply contains two paper shredders — one that cuts paper into long strips and one that also chops the strips into small pieces. Tillage equipment has the same effects on residue, depending on which unit you buy.

One of farmers' best friends, WD-40, serves as a prop in the kiosk about fertilizer placement.

“We want to promote the concept of placing fertilizer in bands rather than broadcasting it,” says Senf.

“We use WD-40 to explain that broadcasting fertilizer is just like spraying a rusty hinge with WD-40 without the red tube attached. You use a lot of product, but not much of it ends up where you want it. Attach the red tube, however, and you can concentrate the product and apply it accurately. Banded fertilizer is the same way.”

While the displays may seem simple, they're important, says Terry West, research agronomist at Purdue University. “Most farmers are aware of the agronomic factors. But it doesn't hurt for them to be reminded before they stick seed in the ground,” he says.