Technological advances have taken the production agriculture world by storm, much as they have with other aspects of our lives. Alan Meijer, Extension Associate working with tillage and soils management with the soil science department based at the Vernon James Research Center discusses what he sees as the most beneficial and cost effective:
“In recent years, one of the biggest improvements, for precision ag, is the technology that we call ‘auto steer’, a very precise GPS system called RTK-GPS. We are getting below sub centimeter accuracy with these systems. What the technology allows us to do, is the computer and the vehicle, utilize the GPS signal and can track in a very precise direction, so when it move down the field and then turns around and comes back, the placement is precise, within a centimeter. The width is repeated very precisely.”
Meijer outlines some of the benefits of RTK-GPS auto steer:
“It allows us to completely eliminate overlap in spray or missing gaps. It allows a grower to plant directly over a sub soiling slit that he created in a previous path. It allows for repeatability from year to year. It reduces driver fatigue as well.”
And when it comes to accuracy, Meijer says just one look at field planted with auto-steer technology and it’s obvious….
“I have worked with a number of farmers over the last few years and know that growers are able to drive a straight row. But the difference is that you can see across a mile long field and see that the rows are precise and done with this technology.”
Large flat parcels in the Coastal Plain are one thing, but many areas of the Carolinas fields are not flat, regular shaped or large. Meijer says this type of GPS technology is particularly beneficial in getting the most from those types of fields:
“Growers in the Piedmont area are dealing with very irregular terrain. This type of system can be beneficial because the amount of skill required to follow the contour and slopes is greater than on flat ground. With this guidance it makes the playing field more level so it doesn’t matter the skill level of the driver.”