Production Journal: Transparent Tractor Drivers

August 26, 2011 08:49 PM

In the near future, your crew might need one less tractor operator. In late July, Kinze Manufacturing Inc., unveiled the Kinze Autonomy Project, which has yielded a tractor and planter system as well as a tractor and grain cart system that do not need an operator in the tractor seat.

"This project was set out to bring autonomy to the row crop grower for planting, application and harvest," says Brian McKown, Kinze’s chief operating officer and project manager for the Autonomy Project.

After a two-year partnership with Jaybridge Robotics, Kinze had its first display of the Autonomy Project at its annual Dealer Day, and Farm Journal was there.

Video Demonstration

Watch a video demonstration of the Kinze Automation project at

How it works. The demonstration showed how the system syncs the tractor and grain cart with the combine in the field. Using the Kinze Integra monitor in the combine, the tractor can be called to find the combine in the field, pull adjacent to the combine for unloading, follow the combine’s path of travel until the cart is full and then return to the field’s pre-set "staging area." The grain truck driver can find the tractor and grain cart in the staging area, jump in the cab and unload the grain cart.

Although the first demonstration of this Kinze system was integrated for harvesting, the first field trial for the company was done at planting. The planter and tractor were set with GPS boundaries around the field and then the system calculated the planting map to follow. At the starting point on the map, the tractor begins to move forward and the planter engages and continues on its prescribed path—all without a person in the driver’s seat.

The system can be programmed with known field obstacles (waterways, trees, fences, etc.) and the optical sensors will detect any immediate obstacles (vehicles parked since the map was derived, stray livestock, etc.)

"The technologies that make this system possible are already in place: RTK GPS; machine automation, such as row clutch shutoff; and sensing technology," McKown says.

The specific components of what makes this system work are yet to be released as Kinze works to make the system commercially available. The harvest and planting demonstrations used a John Deere 8030 tractor. The company plans to extend the platforms compatible with the system to include many brands and models of tractors, sprayers and other machinery.

Tax Breaks for Tilling Fields

For farmers planning to install tile in 2011, Congress has provided a unique opportunity for this year only, according to Paul Neiffer, CPA for LarsonAllen LLP.

Producers who put in new tile by Dec. 31, 2011, will be allowed to deduct the entire tile cost using a 100% bonus depreciation. This deduction is not contingent on income levels or phaseouts for purchasing amounts.

However, the rules are different for farms with tile in place. Neiffer says a 100% bonus depreciation is not allowed because the tile is not new, but the farmer may be able to take advantage of the Section 179 increased limits for this year and still deduct 100%. As long as the total qualifying property is less than $2 million for 2011, you can deduct up to $500,000 of these costs. The deduction is subject to an overall net income limitation, so the purchase would not be able to produce or increase a loss.

"Farmers can elect out of the 100% bonus depreciation and instead take Section 179 if it would put them in a better tax situation," Neiffer explains.

He provides this example: Assume a farmer puts in $250,000 of new tile in 2011. When preparing his income tax return, he finds that a $100,000 deduction would optimize his situation. In that scenario, the farmer can elect out of the 100% bonus depreciation and take a $100,000 Section 179 deduction instead. The remaining $150,000 would be subject to "normal" depreciation over 16 years.

Be sure to check with your tax expert before filing.

Your Chance to Experience Agritechnica

Held every other November in Hanover, Germany, Agritechnica is an international event filled with machinery from all over the world. If you want to be part of the 2011 event, held Nov. 15 to 19, we have just the opportunity for you.

Farm Journal is teaming up with the DLG (German Agricultural Society), which hosts the show, to offer a free trip for two to the incredible event. Included is coach airfare for two, four nights in a hotel, breakfast daily, show tickets and the chance to attend the VIP official opening ceremony.

In 2009, Gary and Brenda Gronewold of Pickrell, Neb., were the lucky trip winners.

"The sheer size of Agritechnica was way beyond anything we’d seen before," Gary says. "The
variety of the products and machines was amazing."

For more information on the show, see

How to Win a Trip to Agritechnica

You could win a free trip to Germany for two! To enter, just send an e-mail to with the following info:

  •  Name(s)
  • Mailing address
  • Birth date(s)
  • E-mail address
  • Valid passport number(s)
  • Phone number
  •  150 words on why you want to attend and what you’d hope to learn

Enter by Oct. 1. Hope to see you in Germany!

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