Spending quite a bit of time on the road the last few years, I only recently thought about how reliant I’ve become on electronic navigation to plot my course.

When coordinating visits with dealers or farmers, it’s generally assumed I have a GPS system and an address is all that’s needed to calculate the quickest route to my destination.

As convenient and common as GPS navigation has become to get from point A to point B, it’s not a tool everyone is familiar with, especially in agriculture. I was reminded of this fact while sitting in on a recent roundtable discussion at the National No-Tillage Conference on getting guidance on guidance systems.

Of the 25 or so farmers in the room, about one-quarter of them had little or no experience with GPS, while a handful of others simply had bad experiences. I was a little surprised by this, but as the discussion advanced, a few farmers cited nonexistent or poor dealer support as a reason for their lack of guidance.

One noted that he was “oversold” a GPS system that didn’t fit his operation, while another farmer hoped his dealer would have more clearly defined the return on investment of an RTK system for his strip-till operation.

“I know some of the payback is a little hard to put a number to, but for how much I paid for the system, nobody could tell me if my expectations were realistic or not,” the strip-tiller said.

Capable precision dealers are in tune with their customers’ questions, even at the most basic level. GPS might seem like a standard technology on tractors today, but with a host of guidance systems on the market to correlate with a range of GPS correction signals, there’s still plenty of room for confusion.

GPS shouldn’t be an enigma for farmers and dealers can help eliminate the ambiguity by making sure customers start with a system that suits their immediate needs — but leaves room to grow.

There was little debate among the more experienced guidance users in the roundtable that the technology was worth the investment. Whether it was the ability to work longer hours, “reminding myself to take my hands off the steering wheel” or an understanding that “if I can send a text, I can get reliable cellular RTK,” farmers measure GPS payback in different ways.

It’s important for dealers to direct them toward those paybacks, because as one farmer put it, “I don’t know anybody who gets GPS and then decides to go back to steering on his own, unless they don’t understand it.”