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Equipment Hub: Teach your older tractor some new tricks

Chris Ehman for Progressive Dairyman Published on 23 February 2018

While there’s no hotter topic as it relates to new equipment than precision farming technology, the positive effect those upgrades can also have on older, existing equipment is often overlooked. Can you coax a little more productivity out of your aging machinery?

Can you put a little less wear and tear on that machine? Can you even start lowering inputs and increasing yield without having to buy new equipment?

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The answer to all of these questions is: yes. Precision farming technology – available from your trusted ag dealer as an aftermarket solution to existing equipment – can help farmers improve the efficiency and accuracy of field equipment, prolonging the productive life of the machine.

Advances in assisted steering and guidance reduce operator fatigue as well. This technology can also lower the cost of inputs such as fuel, seed and chemicals while providing accurate data for decision-making. Precision technology takes out the guesswork and allows a farmer to have more control over equipment operations and outputs.

Updating existing equipment

You may think, “This is as good as it’s going to get, and it’s getting harder every year to keep my equipment running at peak ‘like-new’ efficiency.” But with some fairly simple additions, through the help of a certified precision farming dealer, you could see improvements you never thought possible.

In the past, some retrofit solutions, such as assisted steering and guidance, were hard to install. But today, precision-farming upgrades can be done through the electrical system without requiring a massive disassembly and reassembly of critical components. It’s a whole lot simpler and less costly.

Getting started

Once you’re up and running, you’ll want to spend some time getting used to the new technology. Take time to calibrate yield monitors, set planters, and adjust steering and guidance systems. Learn how to access and use all the data for making intelligent decisions. In a short time, you’ll begin to appreciate the time savings, reduced input costs and maximized returns on every acre.

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Starting small

Your certified precision dealer can install specific precision equipment on your older equipment that best fit your current needs. For example, assisted steering and guidance systems are available for entry level and advanced users. You can choose many guidance and correction signals that best match your operation and accuracy needs. Over time you may consider adding rate and section controls for planters and sprayers, precision hay equipment or yield mapping technology.

Quality installation and support is critical

The transition to precision technology is easy if you use a qualified technician. The key is finding a certified dealer to install it and provide support after the sale. A certified equipment dealer not only provides the best technology solution, but also knows a farmer’s machines and the way they farm.

Protecting data

Data security is one of the biggest concerns with precision technology. Information about soil type, yields, input costs and a lot more is vital for precise operation. But maybe that’s data you don’t want to share. Before you select a system, make sure your service providers do not capture and share data without your permission.

Reducing fatigue

Precision technology can make long days in the cab seem a little shorter. Assisted steering and guidance systems take most of the hard work out of driving a tractor. Besides reducing operator fatigue, automated systems make it easier for less skilled operators to work the fields, freeing up your time for other jobs.

Precision operation saves money

Auto-guidance systems are available in a wide variety of choices that fit your budget and preferences. But they all make tractor operation more efficient, saving fuel, input costs and time in the seat. Rate and section control technology for sprayers and planters help reduce skips, overlaps and over- or under-application.

Individual nozzle controls on sprayers can vary rates according to field conditions and historical yield data, helping to avoid applying too much or not enough fertilizer or pesticide.

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Precision technology for planters allows variable seed placement depending on the soil type. You can also plant different varieties for specific areas of a field. You always get the right seed at the right depth in the right place, which means you can increase planter speed without reducing accuracy of seed placement.

Improved yields

Rate and section control not only reduces the cost of inputs, it also helps improve yields by reducing overlaps that damage crops and under-application that limits yield potential. Yield mapping technology compares results from different soil types, elevation and application variables. When you see variances in yield for designated sections of a field, you can find the cause and make adjustments for next year’s harvest.

Return on investment

With today’s commodity prices, some farmers may wonder about the return on investment. Is all that new technology worth it? The short answer is yes. Precision technology helps reduce fuel, fertilizer and pesticide cost. It reduces waste and the costs of misapplication.

For sprayers and planters, precision technology helps increase yields with more accurate application of fertilizer and pesticides and more precise seed placement. Greater efficiency can add years of utility to older equipment. Add up all the benefits and most farmers find precision technology pays for itself.

You may think your equipment is past its prime. But with precision upgrades, you may be able to get a lot more productive life from it. New technology can maximize the potential of your machine. In the process you can reduce the cost of inputs, improve yields and make equipment operation more efficient and stress-free.  end mark

Chris Ehman is a segment marketing manager – precision solutions and telematics with New Holland.

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