The expansion towards non-traditional peanut production environments, in addition to the increased number of new producers, has partly influenced producers’ decisions to adopt new technologies such as GPS-based auto-guidance systems to improve field operations, management practices and ultimately, profitability. 

“Experienced and new farmers face these two scenarios: a complete canopy cover at the time of digging, which makes it difficult for the tractor driver to properly find the target row, and rolling terrains in some fields that add even more complexity to the situation. We believe that if the deviation of the planter and the digger are more frequent under this scenario, then yield losses also could be higher. Also, the time required for digging might increase,” says Ortiz.

Before the introduction of GPS-based auto-guidance systems, peanut producers relied on skilled tractor operators to plant and then accurately harvest peanuts. However, inexperienced tractor operators — which is common today with the scarcity of labor — or producers farming rolling terrain can find it difficult to keep the peanut digger positioned over the rows.

The recent adoption of twin-row planters has increased the adoption of GPS-based auto-guidance systems throughout the Southeast.

 

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“Without an auto-guidance system, a tractor operator can find it difficult to center the equipment on the target rows because the canopy covers almost the entire ground, making the rows less visible at harvest.

“In addition, new peanut varieties with more disease tolerance are harder to dig even for experienced machine operators, because rank peanut vines remain green even at maturity. The green vines make it difficult for an operator to stay immediately over the row and invert peanuts properly.”

GPS-based auto-guidance on tractors might help producers when adopting these new management practices. It allows the operator to place the tractor to within one inch of the desired center line. When used for deep tillage, planting, spraying and digging, auto-guidance systems have the potential of eliminating producer concerns about properly centering the equipment in a completely closed canopy, especially when crops are planted using contour farming.