As auto-guidance technology advances and catches on, farmers who run older machines aren't being left in the dust.
The John Deere AutoTrac Universal Steering Kit is compatible with many John Deere machines, as well as other brands. To test drive the technology, we took a steering kit to the field in the Farm Journal Test Plots.
"Automated steering has an addictive quality," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "In general, the satisfaction level is extremely high."
Farmer–cooperator Phil Martin used the kit for one year for planting, spraying and fall tillage. The Sullivan, Ill., producer used a John Deere 8200 to plant, a John Deere 4450 to spray and a John Deere 8960 for fall tillage.
"Overall, this kit made everything simpler in the field," says Martin, who was using auto-guidance for the first time. "It performed best with spraying and tillage."
Martin used the kit configured to the accuracy level of a GreenStar 2 AutoTrac StarFire 2. This setup provides accuracy within +/- 4" or less 90% of the time. His components included a GreenStar 2 display, a StarFire iTC SF2 Receiver, a transferrable steering wheel and the related wiring harnesses and brackets.
To plant, Martin used the universal steering kit, as well as markers. As a first-time user of the technology, he wanted the added assurance of the markers.
For spraying and fall tillage, Martin was satisfied with the level of precision the kit supplied.
"For fall tillage we run a lot at night, so having automatic steering helped a lot," Martin explains.
He and son Blake cover more than 2,500 acres, and the kit helped make longer days a little less exhausting.
The steering kit can be used on a variety of machinery models and is mobile from vehicle to vehicle. The kit includes a steering wheel that mounts onto the vehicle's existing steering column. When transferring the kit from machine to machine, the local dealer came out to remove and reinstall the components.
- December 2009