I am asked many times throughout the year about precision ag products and services. The majority of the questions pertain to the best new equipment and services for a retailer to offer and a farmer
to use. This may seem like an easy question to answer, but every time I'm asked this my head begins to spin with all of the possible answers.
I think about the basics like grid sampling and yield monitors, then think about things like remote sensing and auto steer setups for equipment. Yes, the latter is 100% viable this year. A farmer
can read a book or nervously bite his fingernails while a GPS
equipped computer steers his tractor through the field. Actually
the farmers are watching the equipment closely, but they are able
to "relax" more. But I'll save the auto steer story for another day.
If I had to choose one piece of equipment to recommend to every farmer or retailer who is already utilizing the basics of precision ag
it would be GPS lightbars. Actually, a lot of people consider these
to be old technology but it's been my experience that they are not commonplace in every operation although I think they should be.
The reason is that they will save you time and money. This is accomplished by an increase in productivity and a reduction in
input costs. Here are a few of my favorite reasons to support
the last statement.
1. Minimizing application overlap and skip, meaning less application material is required and a reduction in the application time per field.
2. A reduction in recurring foam marker expenses such as purchasing foam and maintaining foam marker systems. Most applicators will reduce their foam use by at least 75% or more.
3. Applicators don't need to continually look to the side of the vehicle therefore they can drive faster and more precisely. This in turn reduces fuel consumption and decreases the overall time per field. Field trials comparing GPS lightbars and foam marker guidance show that in ideal foam marking conditions, operators using GPS drove 13% to 20% faster than when using foam.
4. Because GPS works in all weather and lighting conditions, operators can avoid costly work stoppages and continue swathing in low visibility conditions such as dust, fog and darkness.
There are many more supportive reasons one could list for a GPS lightbar system but I want to focus on the increase in productivity and the reduction of input costs. Here is a real life example for reducing the input costs. A farmer or custom applicator will apply NH3 to 1,500 acres this fall, at a rate of 200# of N, using a bar that measures 37.5 feet, and the NH3 will cost $325/ton. Test trials have shown that most applicators will overlap 1.5 feet without using a GPS lightbar system and the same applicators will only overlap 0.5 feet when using a quality GPS lightbar system.
In this example the non-lightbar applicator will overlap a total of 60 acres at an additional cost of $2,378.05 while the same applicator, with a GPS lightbar system, will only overlap 20 acres at an additional cost of $792.68. If the lightbar were used on the 1,500 acres the applicator would have saved $1,585.37 and 40 acres of his time.
This savings will pay for a lightbar in one season.
Lightbars can also be used for the application of dry products and chemicals, plus tillage, planting and anything else that requires you to drive through the field. Feel free to use the above example using your chemical prices instead of NH3. A retailer or farmer applicator will save time and money by reducing the amount of overlap while spraying as well, allowing him to move to the next field faster
and at a lower cost.
I have used and read about many different lightbars that are on the market today. If I had to choose one model to recommend it would be Trimble's AgGPS EZ-Guide Plus. (This is assuming I wasn't talking to a John Deere-only person, because Deere's system is a good unit and it integrates nicely into their other systems). I recommend this system because the EZ-Guide Plus system is easy to learn, easy to use, it is very affordable, plus Trimble has been the leader in GPS systems for many years.
Here is a quick highlight of the EZ-Guide Plus lightbar and why it stands alone.
1. Provides guidance on straight-line (point A to point B),
straight-line A+, and curves.
2. It guides on multiple headlands and straight-line guidance
inside the headlands.
3. Provides guidance on center-pivot fields.
4. It automatically guides to the next swath for any pattern.
5. It has a pause and resume feature that will guide back
to the paused area. This is important for fill-ups.
6. It will show acres for headland fields.
7. Indicates the approaching headland area that has
already been applied.
8. This system can be upgraded to a full auto steer system.
In summary, I feel that a GPS lightbar system will save you time
and money and is one piece of equipment that should be given
serious consideration. If you would like to learn more about this lightbar system or purchase a unit please call or email me at .
Have a safe and enjoyable summer.