It’s all about precision technology for Ryan Christopherson, who farms several thousand acres near Clarkfield, Minn. His row-crop mix is 75% corn and 25% soybeans, and he uses a wide variety of precision farming equipment across his fields.
Christopherson has been using precision farming techniques for nine years, starting with auto-steer on his tractors and is in the process of upgrading his AGCO TerraGator fertilizer spreader control system from a Dickey-John Falcon controller to a Raven Viper II system for full shape file variable rate fertilizer spreading.
But it wasn’t until 2012 that he achieved truly precise row spacing with his two John Deere DB 48-row, 20-inch planters that are pulled by his 865 Challengers.
In previous years, he used the John Deere GreenStar 2630 monitor to talk with the auto-steering control on his tractors. He switched to the John Deere StarFire 3000 position receiver to locate the planters’ position, but compatibility with his fleet of Challengers was a lingering problem.
“Getting the John Deere system to talk nicely with the Challenger tractors was a challenge,” Christopherson says. “It was not as responsive as I wanted. You could always tell where the point rows were in the field and if we tried to operate two planters in the same field, the A-B line signals would get crossed and wouldn’t let us operate them accurately.”
To solve the issue, he added a Reichhardt Ultra Guidance PSR auto-guidance display, which acts as a bridge between the StarFire 3000 and the tractor’s steering system. The Reichhardt auto-steer units work directly with the tractor’s hydraulic steering system.
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.
“Using the John Deere system in the Challenger was acceptable, but not professional,” Christopherson explains. “The Reichhardt unit has made a huge difference. It’s higher fidelity, more responsive and more accurate.”
Points of Pain
Christopherson says the best way to avoid compatibility conflicts like the one he encountered is to thoroughly understand what you want to do and then research equipment to make sure it is capable of meeting those needs.
This process included talking with his Challenger and John Deere dealers to determine how he could get his different brands of machinery to work together.
“I will work across several dealers to find the right precision farming equipment that suits our needs,” Christopherson says. “Make sure you do your research before you buy any precision farming equipment. Know what you want it to do and then make sure the product is capable of fulfilling those needs.”
As farmers demand for compatibility grows, dealers need to provide solutions to precision farming customers who want to connect any brand of tractor with any implement without losing functionality and performance, Christopherson explains.
He is a proponent of “plug-and-play” equipment, but warns that simply selecting the equipment and then trying to get it to work together is not the best way to go about it.
“It’s better to bounce your needs off the equipment and tractor dealer to find the appropriate solution,” Christopherson says. “Work with your dealer, think about what you need, and then go find the equipment that fills those needs.”