What is in this article?:
• Like most kids growing up in the cyber era, Landrum Weathers grew up learning on a computer; he learned to drive a tractor and use a computer hard drive at virtually the same time.
• Coming back to the farm, Landrum Weathers found his family quick to put his knowledge of computers and their role in precision farming to use.
• Precision agriculture will be a big part of the ongoing transition to more row crops.
A LITTLE BLUE BOX replaced a bulky GPS base station on the Weathers farm in South Carolina. Landrum Weathers checks out the GPS unit.
Is a learning curve
He admits it’s not quite as easy as that, but contends it doesn’t take a computer guru to figure it out. And, it does cost money all along the way, including access to the RTK signals.
The South Carolina Geodetic Survey has played a key role in helping farmers implement some of their most sophisticated precision agriculture equipment.
One of the hold-ups in the implementation of Real Time Networks (RTNs) for machine control has been the vertical accuracies.
“You can go to some fields in which the signal strength isn’t good, but it’s very rare when the system won’t work because of geographic or weather conditions,” Weathers says.
“We bought virtually all our precision equipment for use with peanuts. Then, we had to figure out how to use it on other crops.
“It didn’t make any economic sense to let a $20,000-$25,000 piece of equipment just sit there in the tractor when it wasn’t being used for peanuts.”
Peanuts have been a big crop for the Weathers’ farming operation. Like most South Carolina growers, they started growing the crop after the Peanut Program was disbanded in the early 2000s.
It became clear early in their peanut growing days that finding an efficient way to dig the crop was the main obstacle to producing high yields.
Research indicates moving a peanut digger 3.5 to 7 inches away from the planted row will cost 15 percent to 35 percent of yield in a conventionally tilled peanut field and more in strip-till fields.
In the tests conducted across the Southeast peanut belt, researchers found a difference of up to 1,400 pounds per acre when using an RTK guidance system, which produced zero variation from planting to digging, versus conventional digging.