Machine technology helps ensure precision plantings
Lynwood Broaddus eases into his RBR Enterprise Vector 300 Self-Propelled Fertilizer spreader, taps the display screen and goes to work on his 1,400-acre grain and cattle farm — or, perhaps more accurately, the machine does.
The Vector 300 at the Caroline County Farm Bureau president’s instruction tracks a straight course and corrects positions as needed for precisely planting row crops and drilling small grains and forage seedings into the ground.
Broaddus can band fertilizers if he chooses. If he tilled, which he doesn’t in order to prevent soils from eroding, his Vector 300 would handle that, too.
Investing in contemporary farm machines and their technologies does more than relieve operator of tasks.
Its precision technologies helps growers to save money on inputs, increase profits through yields and more precisely apply nutrients.
Some of the most popular farm machine features include owner tracking for straighter driving and section control, which involves being able to turn off nozzles when planting, drilling, spraying and applying fertilizer, Atlantic Tractor Agricultural Sales Manager Mike Asche said. Data management, or collecting information for jobs ranging from spraying and seeding to harvesting, is also important, he said.
If Broaddus wanted to, he could invest in technology that allows him to share his farming information and invite farm machinery manufacturers to review plantings and harvests remotely.
Doing so can help to ensure that he gets the most out of the machine, Asche said.
“We’ve seen a great uptick in technology for our producers,” Case IH Advanced Farming and Harvesting Marketing Leader Leo Bose said. “Quite frankly, they’re the ones who are making the decisions on technology.
“The technology piece is critical to farmers making good decisions and being able to do a job in professional farming,” he said.
Many Mid-Atlantic farmers have implemented some form of technology, Asche said. Some have implemented a lot of it.
“And when I give them a price, they want to shoot me,” he said. “They’re very expensive.”
Costs often depend upon whether the technology is pre-installed in a new machine and if it is not, if it is proprietary and if other technologies are required to work with it.
John Deere’s AutoTrac has many of the features that Asche said area farmers find appealing, and it works with more than 600 machines, including those of alternate brands.
The technology allows for tracking a straight path when planting and spraying and controlling spray nozzles so as not to duplicate efforts or spray unecessary areas.
John Deere claims that AutoTrac allows operators to map passes, make on-the-go adjustments to depth and down pressure and to plant faster, at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour, with no loss in accuracy.
AutoTrac documents speed, gathers information about fields, yields, moisture content and more.
AutoTrac doesn’t accomplish all of this with one technology package, however. When all is said and done, John Deere’s AutoTrac technology, costs around $20,000, Gladhill Tractor Mart owner Maurice Gladhill in Frederick, Md., said.
Gladhill’s estimate includes an ATU 300 steering kit that replaces the existing steering on the farm machine with one that contains an integrated motor for the drive tracking component.
The number also includes a 2630 touch screen display, the software to accompany it and a GPS signal that Gladhill said keeps the precision elements within one inch of accuracy.
AutoTrac also requires a display screen, and customers who opt for the 2630 receive all of the software that they need included in the purchase.
John Deere in August 2018 introduced a 4240 Universal Display that the company says can enhance precision applications, but buyers must purchase additional software for using the spray controls, viewing and working with job information that gets stored in the machine, monitoring field work, remotely managing machines and collaborating with others on jobs.
Case IH the same month that John Deere introduced its 4240 display introduced an Advanced Farming Systems Connect subscription-based cloud system that allows farmers to organize field, application and agronomic data, track equipment and invite the farm machine dealer to join in remote viewings and view relevant tracking, according to Case IH.
Farmers in Southwest Virginia’s Appalachian region who farm 100 to 1,000 disconnected acre farms remain in the Compact Utility Equipment range of tractors with 130-hp and less, said Mason Hudgins, a sales representative of AGCO Southwestern Equipment.
Rural Retreat-based AGCO Southwestern specializes in the smaller, simpler machines, Hudgins said.
“We get new equipment, but most of our customers would rather have the simplest, best quality machine possible,” he said, citing concerns about price, dealership maintenance costs and having to learn new equipment and maintenance.
Broaddus, to some extent, agreed.
“If you have 200 acres, you can’t justify a $50,000 sprayer,” he said. “In many cases, they’re contracting it out, getting someone to do it for them.”
The technologies can “pay for themselves” through the returns they provide, Broaddus said.
He added up the bushels of crops that farm machine manufacturers say that new technologies render and tacked on the water quality aspect.
“It’s helping with water quality,” Broaddus added. “The excess is not going into the bay.
“Can it help the Chesapeake Bay Program and the local Farm Service Agency offices monitor what non-cost share farmers are doing to help preserve the bay?
“Someone is inputting information on those with buffer strips where land is being taken out of production as part of that.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program could not be reached for comment last week.
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