Hands Off the Wheel!

There is a lot to be gained by no-tillers willing to invest in a high-precision auto steering system and use it correctly.

If you’ve ever wondered if precision farming would fit in your operation, listen to Clay Mitchell. This farmer from Buckingham, Iowa, has been using automatic guidance systems in his no-till operation since 2000, and he has some thoughts on the subject.

Before you get bogged down with the idea that precision farming is only variable rate technology (VRT), think again. “There are different parts to it,” he says. “It’s not just variable rate or navigation. Some think of the mechanical sides. But I’m going to address the navigation side, which is a distinctive realm of precision agriculture.”

Navigation, Mitchell says, can be defined by a few distinctive features. They include RTK repeatability versus DGPS systems. By Mitchell’s definition, repeatability is achieved when you can go over the same path within a 1-inch variance regardless of the time between passes. Other components of navigation include automatic vs. manual steering (manual steering meaning light bars) and single-brand systems vs. platform independent systems.

Mix Colors.

To begin, Mitchell advises no-tillers to not lock themselves into one color for their entire system.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have platform independence,” he says. “If you’re locked into a system that can’t work with different brands, you’re limiting yourself and will have real problems when your operation grows. No matter what color runs in your veins, locking yourself into one color is a really bad idea.”

Mitchell uses a Case MX 270 tractor, an N7 Gleaner combine and a John Deere 4700…

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