Inflation is what people have been talking about in 2022 and farmers are among the first to take the brunt of it. The rise in input costs has caused farmers to adopt animal waste or switch to crops that depend less on fertilizers. As one of the last resorts, the tractor guidance system is brought under the spotlight as people count it on to ease the pressure. But is it worth the investment?
The tractor guidance system is a high-precision agriculture solution that uses GNSS and RTK technologies to navigate tractors along straight lines, curves, or concentric circles. It can achieve centimeter-level accuracy, which means that the difference between the invisible guidance lines and the routes actually delivered is well contained within centimeters.
Let's take a look at some of the benefits of autosteer.
Flexible Working Hours
Weather is everything when it comes to farming. When to plant, spray, and harvest can have huge impacts on crop yields. To keep seeds safe and sound underground, one needs to maintain favorable temperatures and soil conditions. Therefore, big-farm growers often face heavy workloads as they have to finish their tasks before all the sweet spots are gone. Planting with low visibility or at night had been unthinkable before tractor GPS was invented because that would have caused crooked rows and crop damage. However, things have changed for the better since farmers started to use autosteer to overcome the limitation of natural light. Oktay Bas, a Turkish farmer who has been growing beets, beans, corn, and sunflowers over the past 30 years, commented, "Our partners in the market would call us. We made plans based on their feedback and finished everything in a day thanks to the technology. You can plant well into the night if you're not tired. The planting can be done within 24 hours."
(Oktay in his John Deere with FJD autosteering kit)
Denser Rows — Fewer Skips and Overlaps
Another problem that bugs farmers, even seasoned ones, is the inconsistent spacing between rows. Skips and overlaps happen due to human errors, especially when farmers are fatigued after working for a whole day. Inches of skips and overlaps may not sound a lot to a big farm, but they will add up to tens of rows by the time the task ends.
"With FJD, the rows get smoother and denser. Row density was lower than what it is now and the spacing in between was inaccurate. Now I can plant more rows with FJD. It helped me accomplish at least 5-10 rows more. The yield would be higher from the same area and that is great," Oktay explained.
One of the major concerns of farmers is the ROI, which refers to higher yields from the same patch of land with reduced input costs. How do you get more yields? The first thing to do is to elevate the land utilization rate. We should make the most of every part of the land. Autosteered tractors can follow the paths that are closer to each other and repeat the routes year after year. In other words, farmers are able to compact only part of the land while leaving the remaining parts undisturbed, which contributes to the overall soil health.
"When we plant manually, we burn 68 liters of diesel, but when we do it with autosteer, we burn 45 liters. We don't maneuver back and forth," tells Abdullah, a Turkish farmer of beets in Konya who's been farming for 25-30 years.
(Abdullah in his autosteered CASE IH)
With denser rows come reduced costs. The AB lines, be it straight or curved, memorized by the tractor autosteer, ensure that the agricultural machine plants, sprays, and harvests along the same rows every year. A few extra seeds here and a few over-sprayed rows there will add up to a waste of input and time.
Tractors empowered by precision agriculture technologies such as autosteer enable farmers to deliver results with accuracy. Farmers can now seed exactly where seeds are supposed to be and apply the exact amount of chemicals or fertilizers that crops need.
Farming in the 21st century is more than producing food. It is also about improving the ROI and efficiency. Precision agriculture technologies save farmers’ time by enabling them to work at night. They also improve their ROI by producing more rows and yields with fewer input costs. Finally, the technologies contribute to the overall soil health by compacting only repeatable paths.