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GPS technology helps farmers save time and money

Fri, Apr 23rd, 2010
Posted in Agriculture

Chris Hahn of Preston is getting ready to plant corn with the help of his GPS system installed in his tractor. Photo provided by Jade Wangen

Farmers, like everyone else, have seen great advances in technology that help to make their work easier, and to save time and money. Recently, the farming community has been able to utilize satellite technology in ways they never imagined.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have been used in vehicles for a while now, and have made maps almost obsolete. Finding your way in this world has never been easier. But farmers have found there is more to the GPS than finding your way, and they can be extremely useful in the field.

The system has been around for about ten years to be used in tractors, and they are being used more and more. A person used to have to buy the system as well as the harness to have it installed. According to Scott Trouten from Preston Equipment, tractors and combines are now coming from the factory ready to accept the system.

Trouten said they are selling more and more of them all the time for the John Deere tractors that he sells. John Deere is not the only one. Tony Heiden of 660 Agronomic Analysis is a Pioneer Seed dealer, and he is also the only Ag Leader dealer in Fillmore County. His company also sells several of the GPS systems every year.

"It's amazing what they can do," said Heiden. "They're very multi-operational."

Trouten also mentioned the fact that there are many uses for the GPS out in the fields. He said it can be used when planting corn, for field documentation, and for combining.

Chris Hahn owns a farm outside of Preston, and he just recently installed the GPS system in his John Deere tractor. He has found that it has made a big difference in his work.

"It keeps track of where you are in the field," explained Hahn. "Also where each corn hybrid is."

Hahn said the system can save on seed by shutting each row off individually. This can save up to seven percent on seed corn, as it keeps the farmer from over-planting. It can give the user a yield map to keep track from year to year how each field is doing.

The system can also be used when spraying a field. Hahn explained it can control the sprayer so he doesn't double spray or spray into water ways. The ravines in the corn field can be mapped out on the GPS so the planter or sprayer skips over them, and there is no waste.

"It's very helpful," said Hahn, who farms 1,100 acres with his dad, Randy Hahn. "It makes the days a lot easier."

Trouten said it's not for everybody. The system can be expensive, anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 or more, depending on how fancy you want to get. "You do have to have a lot of acres for it to be feasible."

The GPS is a great management tool that can save the farmer a lot of time and money. They can keep track of all of their information, including moisture content and how many bushels they have harvested. It can be used on a combine as well as a tractor.

The only problem that Trouten and Heiden have both seen is the fact that the GPS is a computer, and there are sometimes problems with computers. Trouten said if a person doesn't like to mess with a personal computer, they probably won't like to mess with the GPS.

"It's an interesting part of farming," stated Trouten. "It's really fascinating."

Trouten also mentioned the Auto Steer option for farming. The auto steer is also done using the GPS. It can pinpoint your exact position on earth. When the driver of the tractor reaches the end of a row, it will turn the tractor or combine on its own. It will also go around curves in the field.

"They can pay a lot more attention to the field and everything else going on without worrying about steering," said Trouten.

As time goes on, more people will no doubt be purchasing this management tool to help with their farming business. Anything that can help a person save time and money, as well as help keep things organized, will surely be a positive thing.

"It's high-priced, but used properly, they are definitely a tool that can save money," said Trouten.

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