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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

In The Shop: GPS: The Cure For Spring Fever

Mar 20, 2011

 Some of you are already in the field. A friend in northern South Dakota reported he still had 3-foot snowdrifts in his yard as of last week. A lot of us are starting to see enough dry dirt on the hilltops to make us start thinking about spring tillage.

If you're desperate for some time in a tractor seat and use GPS-guidance systems to auto-steer or do prescription fertilization or seeding, now is prime time to check and prepare those systems for spring fieldwork. It may be as simple as turning on a display, programming an A-B line while driving down the gravel road in front of your farmstead, and confirming that everything works as good as it did last fall.

Or it may require transferring consoles, satellite receivers, wiring harnesses and control units between combines and tractor, or sprayers and tractors, then reprogramming those units for different widths, different receiver mounting heights, and different types of drawbar configurations. With luck you wrote all that information down last year. If not, plan on spending some time with the owner's manual.

Check with the dealer who sold you your GPS-based systems to see if there are software updates that can make your system more accurate and/or reliable. There are arguments--pro and con--about whether or not it is good to do incremental software updates. Some of you are running the original software that came with your system and get along fine with the, "if it ain't broke, don't mess with it" strategy. I'm a fan of updating software frequently to take advantage of improvements and refinements. If you're like me and prefer to update regularly, be sure to do it well ahead of fieldwork to give you time to become familiar with changes incorporated in new software.

Bottom line: check, test and update high-tech systems NOW, and not when you're sitting on the endrow with a dry, mellow field in front of you and a planter/seeder full of seed behind you. I know I'm sort of a nag about that sort of thing, but you'd be surprised how often I get called to help frustrated, impatient customers figure out their guidance systems in a tractor sitting on the endrows of a dry, mellow field with a planter/seeder full of seed behind it.

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