The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture are exciting, but AI has some bizarre interpretations of what no-till farming actually looks like in practice.
Here at No-Till Farmer, we’ve been writing about AI in agriculture since 2016. At the time, engineers were working on the earliest smart sprayers that could identify and spot-spray weeds, and irrigation systems that use less water.
More recently, I asked ChatGPT, the popular chatbot that creates conversational dialogue, to describe no-till like a 1920s gangster. While vague (and funny), the answer is right at its core. ChatGPT distilled no-till down to a method to protect soil organisms and structure for healthier soil.
When I learned Adobe Stock Images (which we occasionally use for some of the graphics you see in No-Till Farmer magazine) offers AI-generated images, of course I had to see what no-till looks like to AI. The odd set of images below is what resulted from searches for keywords related to a no-tiller’s typical operations. My personal favorite is the AI farmer in the field, planting seeds one by one with a hand drill.
In the 7 or so years since No-Till Farmer first wrote about AI in agriculture, we’re seeing the evolution of smart sprayers, predictive weather modeling and insights about seed genetics, all thanks to AI. But it’s clear we’re still at the point of AI as a tool to assist, not replace, the farmer (or the journalist).
My first search was "no-till farming." A bunch of images with tillage showed up. It appears "no" means "invisible" tillage implement.
At least there are some green plants in this one, but it's still a concerning amount of tillage. We also get our first look at the strange implement configurations that are to come.
Here we meet our AI no-tiller, who decided to take a piece of a row unit (?) into the field with him while he checked seed placement.
I search "no-till drill" and laugh out loud when I see this photo. The AI interpreted drill as a handheld screwdriver (not to mention no-till as tillage).
After planting, AI gets out this unusual pull-type sprayer and doesn't care about crop loss as the tractor drives over the rows.
The crop loss and the strange equipment configurations continue with version 2 of an AI sprayer. There has to be a creative use for that random boom...
A waste of crops and chemical as the sprayer drives diagonal across the field and showers itself with the sprayer.
We've reached the end of the season, and it's time to harvest the crop that hasn't been crushed by the sprayers or outcompeted by weeds. The average American, removed from the day-to-day of farming, would probably see nothing wrong with this photo.
A revolutionary development to draper headers allows this AI combine to thresh the beans in the header... but then dumps the grain in front of the combine.
Since all of our harvested beans are on the field, the combine becomes a vacuum. If AI survives this combine apocalypse, I hope it has better luck next season.