If you're strip-tilling or want to improve traffic control in your no-till fields, you should consider auto steering, says Randall Reeder, an agricultural engineer with Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. While the cost is hefty and a decision should be made carefully, the returns can be well worth the investment, he says.
“Controlled traffic can give you higher yields if compaction from random traffic is a problem,” Reeder says. “Your compaction losses may be hidden because the entire farm might be compacted. And controlled traffic will also help with more timely planting and harvesting, and with improved sprayer operation.”
Auto steering can eliminate or minimize overlaps and thus decrease costs for fuel, seed, fertilizer and pesticides, he notes, while also reducing operator stress and fatigue.
Money Talks. “Auto steering might cost you about $50,000,” Reeder says. “If you have 2,000 acres and the system lasts 5 years, the cost will be $5 per acre per year.”
While the annual savings from decreased inputs may be less than $5 per acre, Reeder says, compaction may be costing you a 5 percent yield loss. His trials on silty clay loam soil show a long-term yield loss of about 10 percent due to severe compaction.
“In that situation, a large operator adopting controlled traffic will pay off auto steering pretty quickly,” he says. “The benefit for no-till corn and soybeans could easily be $10 to $20 per acre per year.”
The potential for reducing compaction might be one of the…