Saturday, August 17, 2019

Using GPS/Autosteer: Ag Leader 1200

I bought a fairly expensive bit of hardware and software to help me with planting and cultivating.  The monitor takes in a gps signal, received via a modem in the tractor, and sends out signals to a small ring gear that's bolted around the steering column.  This technology lets me "automatically" drive along a line I choose and is accurate to within 1/2". The monitor will also be hooked up to my 6 row planter; each row has a light sensor and I'll be able to tell if the seeds are actually going in the ground, as well as making adjustments to the planter in real time.

Here are a couple of short videos I shot about a month ago while using the autosteer system for the first time, mowing down a nurse crop of oats so that the red clover that was underseeded with the oats can get more sun.  The clover will return again next year, growing all year, putting carbon and nitrogen in the soil.

There are so few chances - due to the weather - to get cultivating (pulling an implement behind a tractor that leaves the cash crop intact while removing weeds) done in early summer, I'd often want to cultivate at night. This is very hard, if not impossible, to do without any type of gps/guidance system. Planting for that matter as well.

Autosteer is a bit of a misnomner, as the operator actually has to steer around the headlands/endrows as well as turn the tractor/implement around and get it parallel to the previous line/row.  The program says that it can track on headlands but I've been told not to expect very good results on curves. That said, it makes my job a lot easier, as I can watch all the other gauges and performance of the planter/implement without having to stay on my line. Reducing fatigue is important, but for me the main reason I bought it is that the system will let me save the pattern I use when planting and recall it when I cultivate. This means I can run the cultivator shovels right next to the cash crop plant, "automatically". Again, reducing fatigue/stress, which will add up as I cover more acres.

Converting land to Certified USDA Organic is a 36 month transition process, which I'm using to reduce my weed seed bank (by mowing) and boosting my soil biology/fertility with the oats/clover. No cash crop/income for two years. Just expenses - seed, manure, diesel, equipment, etc. In 2021 this ground will be planted to corn and harvested as USDA Organic that fall.

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