What is in this article?:
• Technology can play a role in weed control, especially in the area of saving money or at least making more informed decisions,”
• Producers need to reduce input costs, but also need to maximize yields and profits at the end of the year. These are the types of inputs where precision ag technologies can have an impact.
• Technologies such as guidance and automatic section control can make you more efficient, save time, and have an impact on labor and inputs.
A technology that is relatively new and can be used to a grower’s advantage is a hand-held computer, says Fulton. With prices ranging from about $500 to $1,000, these come equipped with a GPS receiver and a camera, he says. “That might not play a role for you today, but it does provide the opportunity for people to generate maps that will make for some good consulting. It’ll be good if we can tie precision ag technologies in with scouting. We’ll never replace the guys who are spending time in the field. But it is more information that hopefully will help us make better decisions in managing issues such as weed resistance.”
Guidance systems have been available to growers since the 1990s, says Fulton, and they have progressed greatly over the years. Guidance systems today are much more user friendly, he says, whether it’s an auto-steer system with the machine driving itself or some type of light bar in which the operator is still in control.
“They are not as hard to use or as hard to implement as they once were, but the savings can be tremendous, 12 percent on average,” he says. “The big thing is that guidance systems really address the overlap issues, and they also address skips. That could be a big thing with resistance.”
Turning to automatic section control, Fulton says when you look at the statistics in the Midwest and the Dakotas, probably 70 percent of the self-propelled sprayers are using some type of auto section control.
“It pays, and the payback is very quick. Ultimately, when you combine these technologies, you enhance your application accuracy, and there are input savings of up to 30 percent. There are several options out there that very quickly can be integrated into the different sprayers and machines.”
Automatic section control, he explains, is simply an “on-off” control. “The nice thing about it is the automation of turning it on and off. I do not have to guess as an operator whether to turn it on or off. The machine automatically does it. All I need is a GPS receiver. I need a controller in the cab that has that type of software integrated into it. Typically speaking, we have to have an electronic control unit that sits between the controller and the boom values, and then the appropriate mechanisms. In terms of mechanisms, we’re talking primarily about the boom valves. For most of the newer sprayers, it’s not a big issue. Some older models might have to be upgraded.”
From the standpoint of cost, a grower could be in the business of automatic section control, if he doesn’t already have it, for as little as $2,000 or slightly less. The cost could rise to $10,000 if the grower has nothing at all to begin with.
Many growers who are using automatic section control on their sprayer eventually will implement it on their planter, says Fulton, and that also can result in tremendous savings.