“Precision farming is less about growing more crops and more about saving inputs on areas that don’t need them or won’t increase your profitability,” says Canadian farmer Jim Wickett.
Wickett, who grows durum wheat, red and green lentils and canola on 3,300 acres near Rosetown, Saskatchewan, has used minimum-till methods since 1994 and precision farming equipment since 2005.
A John Deere GreenStar 2 GPS and auto-steer system is the foundation of his precision farming equipment system. It controls his John Deere 1820 air drill, which can vary seeding rate based on field parameters.
The system gets its location from Deere’s StarFire 1 system, Wickett explains, and since he doesn’t farm row crops, the 8-inch or better variance is acceptable.
He runs all Deere equipment, which has greatly simplified the installation and calibration of precision farming equipment. In 2012, Wickett replaced his old sprayer with a new John Deere 4830 sprayer with a 100-foot boom.
“It literally has seamless operation with the GS2 monitor,” he says. “We simply plug in the monitor and we are practically ready to go. Set up is easy.”
His John Deere 9770 combine uses the same system to track yield and moisture data on-the-go.
Points of Pain: “It Wasn’t Always So Easy”
Before the purchase of the new sprayer, Wickett adapted his 1995 Tyler Patriot sprayer with a 75-foot boom that he bought in 2000 to use an Accutrak auto-steer system in 2008.
What Farmers Want From You is a series of farmer profiles that examine the scope of precision farming tools individual farmers are using on their operation, along with the frustrations that can occur with adopting new technology and how dealers can alleviate those "points of pain" for farm customers. For the latest additions to the series, visit our What Farmers Want From You feed.
“This rig was not set up at all to accept any type of auto-steer system,” he says. “The Accutrak system was from one I had on a previous tractor and I thought we could adapt it, but the steering didn’t respond fast enough and would start over-adjusting to the point that it could have thrown you out of the cab.”
It was always trying to make too fine of an adjustment and couldn’t stay within its tolerance, he says. Also, the Patriot didn’t have on-the-go variable rate application that Wickett wanted.
So Wickett enlisted Greg Carlson, the GPS specialist at Western Sales, a Deere dealership in Rosetown, to get the auto-steer system working in the Patriot.
“He came up with using the Deere AutoTrac system mounted on the sprayer’s steering wheel,” Wickett explains. “It took some special brackets so it could be mounted upside down because of the cab and steering column configuration.”
To control boom sections, Carlson then found a Raven flow control and flow meter that that could talk with the John Deere GS2 system.
While Wickett no longer has the same compatibility headaches with the new sprayer, he acknowledges that his experience with the Patriot — and Carlson’s help configuring the technology components — refined his approach toward precision application.“We first had issues with the Raven units turning the sprayer’s old section valves off and on, but when we replaced the section valves with Raven valves, the units worked,” Wickett says. “We suspect it has something to do with the sprayer’s positive ground system.”
“We can now adjust rates to target areas with certain pest problems or even shut it off,” he says. “We don’t use a shotgun approach anymore. It’s much more of a rifle shot.”