In the Shop
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.
Technological Facts Of Life
Apr 21, 2014
Here's the deal: when things are working correctly, modern farm machinery is a breeze to operate. Push the right buttons, engage the right systems, and tractors, combines and sprayers literally run themselves.
But complicated farm machinery doesn't come from the factory that way. Autosteer systems have to be calibrated and coordinated with the machines they operate. Sprayers have to be calibrated and spray monitors have to be programmed. Modern planters have to be "told" what kind of drive system they're using, how many rows there are, when they should start planting and when they should stop planting, and a half dozen other things necessary for the machine's systems to be smart enough to do their jobs.
That sort of high technology has expanded exponentially this planting season. There are monitoring systems that measure and maintain down pressure on planter units, change seed varieties, raise and lower row cleaners--heck, there's probably a sub-program to get your tractor seat to give you a back massage. The downside to all that convenience is that the more complicated something is, the more chances there are that something will break, get out of calibration, work incorrectly or go haywire.
My experience is that if something looks complicated, if it's hard to understand how it works, if it has lots of wires and sensors, then it IS complicated. Complicated things can make farming easier, but complicated things by nature are more prone to problems than simple things. Complicated things take longer to learn to operate, are harder to diagnose, and will probably cost more to fix when they go haywire.
It's really not complicated: those are the simple technological facts of life.