Winter Storm Yogi (really?), which is set to dump another round of April snow and rain on much of the Midwest this week, is draining the already depleted patience of farmers ready to kick off the 2013 planting season.
Fortunately, the inclement weather is relieving some drought-stressed areas and creating the opportunity to go over your planter and tractor tune-up checklist one last time. If there’s still time left over after every row cleaner, gauge wheel and sprocket is in place, you may want to consider giving something else a tune-up – your precision ag equipment.
"Whether you’re spreading, planting or spraying, pre-season updates and calibration of your application equipment will help to minimize errors," writes Joe Luck, Extension precision agricultural engineer with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in the latest edition of the university's CropWatch newsletter. "Technology has come a long way over the past few years, [but] it won’t solve all of our application problems. Proper maintenance and management is still a must for minimizing your field errors."
Here are a few things Luck says are worth checking:
• Make sure your GPS receiver’s firmware is up-to-date. This is often as simple as downloading the required file to a USB drive and uploading it to your receiver.
• Calibrate your ground speed radar. Check your manufacturer’s specifications, and make sure the radar is mounted securely to the vehicle frame.
• Double-check offsets from the GPS antennae to equipment. For example, measure from the GPS antenna to the boom centerline for sprayers that have automatic section control. These types of measurements can help you properly calibrate equipment to minimize skips and overlaps at the end of passes.
• Select calibration settings that will emulate "real field" conditions. You can also perform more checks at higher or lower settings (ground speed, for example) so you can evaluate the potential for error when you deviate from typical ranges.
Luck has more timely, helpful advice here.