A WatchUsGrow.org reader recently asked us to define "modern farm equipment," so we put the challenge to our bloggers to share what's new on their farms. This is the fourth part of that series.
This is our John Deere 2630 Display. It’s a touch screen computer that holds maps and information about every field we farm. The screen is moved and used in all of our equipment – the tractor that pulls our tillage equipment, the sprayer, the fertilizer buggy, and the tractors that pull the planters and the combine. In each instance, the computer pulls up a homepage that shows a map of the fields, its boundaries and the location of any waterways and fence rows.
On this day, Andy was making the first pass over the fields in the sprayer. The large box at the top shows the field map. The acres already covered are blue. The white line is the tracking line. We use auto-steer technology in all of our equipment, which means that with the push of a button the tractor, sprayer or combine – with GPS – will drive itself through the field. Notice the little green box right at the top that reads “2 in.” This indicates that the sprayer is just two inches off its target track.
To the right of the field map is basic field data. Below that are more numbers and symbols. Andy watches the green bar labeled 3D RTK. The bar shows the strength of the RTK signal. RTK stands for real-time kinetic. It uses satellites and a base station, which acts like a cell phone tower, to guide the equipment through fields with “sub-inch accuracy repeatability”. Fancy terminology that means when Andy comes back to this field to cultivate, plant, fertilize and harvest, the equipment will follow the same paths within centimeters. The same path can be repeated next year and the year after and the year after.
The large bottom box tells Andy about the sprayer’s performance. The blue box surrounded in yellow shows how much product is left in the tank. Below that are the boom indicators. The boom is 100 feet wide and is divided into nine sections. The blue arrows show that each section of the boom is on.
As the sprayer moves through the field, the computer is reading the map. If the sprayer crossed into an area already covered, the computer would shut off those sections of the boom. When the sprayer encounters a waterway or fence row, the computer will turn boom sections on or off according to their location in the field and proximity to the area.
This technology is all about efficiency and better management of inputs. We are reducing the amount of pesticides and fertilizers we add because we can be so precise with their application.
Katie Pratt, Dixon