Will Automatic Steering Benefit No-Tillers?

It may be as much as a $50,000 question, but increased accuracy could definitely make it pay in some no-till operations.

While it depends on your own particular farming operation, automatic tractor steering systems that cost as much as $50,000 could pay off relatively quickly, says Randall Reeder, Extension agricultural engineer at Ohio State University.

In addition, there are some less expensive manual steering guidance systems with light bars worthy of consideration as well in no-till operations, he suggests.

If an automatic steering system providing 1-inch accuracy appeals to you, consider this: While a $50,000 investment may sound like a lot of up front money, it would cost only $5 per acre over a 5-year period on a 2,000-acre farm. Moreover, if compaction is creating a 5-percent yield loss, an automatic steering system that could keep tire tracks off 60 to 80 percent of your soil could translate into savings of up to $15 per acre per year, says Reeder.

Several Steering Options

On the $50,000 end, Reeder says several automatic steering systems can provide 1-inch accuracy in your no-till fields. These systems include Beeline Technology, made in Australia, and Trimble, made in the U.S.

On the less expensive side, there are several manual steering guidance systems, which provide accuracies within 20 inches. While they would not be precise enough to let you follow a fall strip-till system with a no-till planter, they would be plenty accurate for using an air seeder, a wide fertilizer unit or a spray rig, says Reeder. These systems utilize light bars and run anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

John Deere is currently offering its GreenStar…

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