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Auto Guide Your Ride

January 20, 2011
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor

The days of physically steering a tractor are so old school. It’s easy to get with the times. Today’s auto-steer systems fit nearly every farm size and pocketbook.

Tractor PlanterThere are also lots of options. At least 14 manufacturers offer U.S. farmers some type of auto-steer system or component, many of which are second or third generation products. 

Auto-steer systems also are increasingly more sophisticated than those first on the market. Deane Malott, product marketing director for AutoFarm, says some of the higher end systems offer scalable accuracies from sub-meter to true RTK precision in one product package.

The price tags for these tools tend to correspond to the level of precision they offer. Low-end systems start at around $5,000, while a high-end RTK system can exceed $25,000.  A middle-of-the-road price range of $8,000 to $15,000 is the norm.

"Look for the trend to adopt this technology to continue, particularly with the higher end steering capabilities like RTK," notes Molitor. “When automated steering first started catching on, the idea was that farmers would try it at the lowest accuracy option and a few would upgrade over time,” adds Erik Ehn, Trimble product manager.  “But as it turned out, accuracy is even more addictive than we thought it would be.”

A variety of features are available with auto-steer products. High-end RTK systems typically track pitch, roll and yaw; they offer a complete set of automatic steering patterns, accuracy options and necessary software. Several offer state-of-the-art color touch screens for ease of use and functionality. Some offer free service packages and, in a couple of cases, remote diagnostic capabilities.
Check out today’s auto-steering systems through these links:

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