GPS helps farmers harvest data, too

News editor

For several years, global positioning systems have helped farmers keep track of yields in their fields and even control spraying and planting. Now companies are producing ways to make even more use of that information.

John Deere has recently released GPS computer systems for tractors and combines that include wireless data transfer, said Mitch Guetterman, store manager at PrairieLand Partners in Marion.

That allows farmers to upload yield, moisture, soil type and chemistry, field condition, mapping, and other data to the Internet directly from their implements. They can then decide who can see that information — maybe their local co-op or an agronomist.

An agronomist then can analyze the data and recommend changes to planting, fertilizer, or other chemicals to maximize output. That “prescription” can then be downloaded to the GPS unit, providing the exact treatments necessary to improve yields, Guetterman said.

The technology allows farmers to provide different treatment to different portions of the same field. Currently the minimum size difference is the width of the implement, Guetterman said — they can’t provide different treatment to adjacent rows in the same pass.

Guetterman expects manufacturers to continue to improve the amount of detail these systems can control. He said they will probably be able to treat adjacent rows differently in the future, although it’s difficult to project how soon that may be.

Technology in farming, especially for GPS and computing, is changing rapidly, he said.

“The displays that were high tech five years ago are nearly obsolete now,” Guetterman said.

He estimated there are 15 to 17 percent of farmers who are adapting very quickly to the changes in technology, embracing new technology.

“Very few are keeping up with every single thing, it’s changing so fast,” he said.

Most other farmers aren’t in a rush to upgrade to the latest technology, but they aren’t resistant to making changes, either. Most are willing to upgrade when it is time to replace equipment, Guetterman said.

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