The GPS we have equipped is a case model. Each model provided by the different equipment dealerships can operate off of a variety of satellites, some requiring an annual paid subscription, or others being free with the hardware purchase. However, as with any technology these days, it’s usually you get what you pay for, and the paid subscriptions tend to be more accurate and less temperamental.
This fall I used the GPS in order to provide fertilizer amendments to our fields in order to replenish their levels of macronutrients. The fields we applied synthetic fertilizers to regularly receive fertilizer, but still remain deficient in some nutrients. You may ask, do you really need a GPS to spread fertilizer? Well, when spreading manure, it is fairly obvious to see your spread pattern which makes it possible to minimize any overlapping and under-lapping of your spread. This you can do fairly easily by just “eyeballing” it. With synthetic fertilizer, however, you are spreading tiny pelleted spheres of nutrients that are the size of sprinkles on a cupcake. This makes it very difficult to see your spread pattern over your ground.
Above is the fertilizer buggy that we rented from the local elevator to spread the fertilizer. It’s a pretty slick unit. Since the unit is ground driven, once you set it, you can adjust your speed based on field conditions, without compromising your spread or application rate of fertilizer.
In our model, the three green dots indicate that the tractor is directly in line with where it should be for the implement you have it set for. As you deviate to the right, more and more led lights across the top light up red. On the screen it also indicates how many feet off center you are from the projected course. The lights make it easy to quickly reference how you are doing, but the digital readout provides you with the exact amount in case you need to take a closer look.
The same technology can be utilized with tillage. From keeping track of what method, depth, and time each activity was practiced over an entire field; to pairing with proper equipment to “minimize/reduce/strip” till. This technology enables a farmer to a happy medium between fully working their field with traditional methods , and “no-till”. Depending on the soil, cropping practices and annual weather, different fields encounter different difficulties, some of which can be improved or hindered by choosing to til or no-till the field. For example, problems such as compaction can cause emergence issues with crops. This can be combated with a variety of tillage, but tillage could potentially decrease certain benefits that no til can provide (ie erosion control). This is where, in some situations, a practice like strip tilling could benefit a farmer. They could accurately deliver fertilizer in a narrow band of soil where they strategically till (to reduce compaction, promote ability for seeds to emerge). Where the soil has been tilled, and the fertilizer has been delivered, the GPS technology can then enable a farmer to plant row crops accurately and directly into that narrow band. Without touching the soil in between the tilled strips, the no-till zones between can continue to operate as such and combat any potential shortfallings of tillage. I won’t comment too much more on it in this article, because I believe tillage is an essential tool to cropping success in some operations, but thought this was worth mentioning. Below is a very interesting picture of a strip till unit that I checked out at a farm show last week.
In the past, we’ve also used the GPS in order to control our “auto steer” function which I’ll outline in a an article another time. Due to the complexity and the vast number of differences that each farming operation holds, GPS technology is being applied to many different implements which each farm has, and the possibilities are endless.