It’s becoming the norm to have GPS as a tool on farming machines, so farmers can be as efficient as possible.
Tradition and Tech
Just outside of Washington, D.C., a farmer named Brad Eustace uses GPS guidance to make incredibly straight lines through his weedy fields. He rarely has to steer at all, with a such a computer at the helm.
“You can do a straight line a whole lot easier,” he said.
This computer gets its location from satellites, and directs hoses hooked to the tractor to put the perfect amount of fertilizer into the tilled grooves, readying the field for the GPS-outfitted corn planter that may follow days or weeks later.
“The seed goes right on top of this row. This tilled row,” Messick said. “The corn planter will come back, and it will be putting the seeds exactly on top of these tilled strips that the machine previously has put the fertilizer in.
Put fertilizer and seeds only where they should go saves a lot on how much fertilizer you end up using.
“You’re able to use less,” Messick said. “Of course, you’re saving money. And you get the same performance out of the crop.”
In Messick situation, he saves thousands and thousands of dollars on his 600-hectare farm by cutting his fertilizer need by 50 percent. But the savings doesn’t end there. He’s saving the environment since the fertilizer nutrients are the top water polluter.
“If we get better at applying only what’s needed, where they’re needed, then that’s less nutrients that can move off and get into water systems and watersheds,” Virginia Tech expert, Tim Mize said.
That also goes for weedkiller. On Messick’s farm, he said that he might have often missed spots or overlapped.
“You weren’t sure what had been done, and what hadn’t been done,” he said. “With this system, you come back next week, next month, and you know what you sprayed and what you didn’t spray.”
Farm equipment nationwide is beginning to be guided by GPS technology. Harvesters are even capable of calculating the amount of crop in sections of field.
“You get an idea of where the productive areas of the field are,” Mize said, “where the less productive areas are, and you fertilize accordingly.”
Since fuel and fertilizer are becoming more and more costly, and population growth is requiring more and more food, the key to modern farming is more crop for fewer resources.
“Anytime you can reduce inputs and increase your bottom line, that’s technology that everybody wants,” Mize said.
GPS equipment saves time, and it saves money, and it’s saving the environment.