Jul. 11, 2012 - Jim Harkness Equipment Ltd. has introduced a new Steiner 440 tractor, which features more power and increased versatility.
- The New 440 4-wheel Drive Tractor is bolder, better and more powerful... and yet it retains the compact, highly maneuverable and easily versatile attributes of its predecessor, the 430. Most attachments for Steiner 430 and 235 Front Wheel Drive tractors are interchangeable with the new 440.
- The 440 has more engine horsepower, more hydraulic power available for work, more rear attachment, capability with an optional category 1 hitch (vs category 0), axles that are twice as strong, and yet is more comfortable with controls that are more accessible and easier to use.
- The 440 has a much higher power to weight ratio than its nearest competitor and offers more 'Get it Done' Power in a smaller, more versatile machine.
For more information, please contact Harkness Equipment at 519-338-3946.
Many farmers now have autosteer, and rely heavily on it. Others, not so much. For those who are interested in adding GPS autosteer to a tractor they already have, or interested in buying a tractor already equipped, here’s the background you’ll need.
Doug Mackay, who has 15 years in precision farming as a researcher, manufacturer and precision farming consultant in south-central Alberta, provided much of this background information.
GPS lightbars were the first effective guidance device to come along, in the early 1990s. With a specialized radio antenna and receiver, they could convert line-of-sight signals from U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) mid-level satellites into location co-ordinates on the ground.
By 1994, the earth had 19 GPS satellites stationed in orbits. Approximately 32 are available now in six orbital levels.
Similar systems are being developed. The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), originally military, was opened for civilian use in 2007. The European Union is developing the Galileo positioning system; China, India and Japan have plans for navigation systems.
Collectively, they are known as the Global Navigation Satellite System or GNSS. Some receivers built since 2007 can work with GLONASS as well as GPS.
Continuous, relatively weak, time and location signals are broadcast by these satellites in a dedicated section of channels (or frequencies) on the broadcast band. Receivers require signals from four satellites to determine location. Internal calculations triangulate field position from the overlapping signals.
“Way back you had 12 or 24 channels. Now it’s way beyond that. More satellites at one time means more coverage, not more accuracy, especially in areas blocked by hills or trees,” Mackay says.
GPS or GNSS alone is inadequate for positioning a tractor in a field. Systems were developed with a ground-based component to correct/fine-tune/augment the basic GPS calculations.
Accuracy in GPS terms has two components. Repeatable accuracy is the ability to return to the same point at any time in the future. Relative accuracy is the ability of the receiver to rove and return to the same absolute location within about 15 minutes. Both are important, but repeatability is key to avoiding overlap and misses on return passes
Accuracy was improved with the development of Satellite-based Augmentation Systems (SBAS). They produce correction signals that improve repeatability with the aid of ground base stations that are precisely surveyed and able to collect signals from GNSS satellites. Another term for this is Wide Area Differential (WADGPS).
The Federal Aviation Agency operates the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which is a form of SBAS. WAAS has a network of ground-based stations that measure small variations in the GPS signals and high-altitude, geo-stationary satellites. It generates a correction signal that is sent every five seconds.
The U.S. Coast Guard operates an alternative, the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), for the United States. This system relies on a large network of ground-based stations that generate and broadcast corrections signals without using geo-stationary satellites.
Every receiver for farming today in Canada is enabled for WAAS or DGPS. There is no charge for using the WAAS signal, which can produce a location accuracy of about eight to 12 inches.
Private subscription-based commercial systems have been developed to improve the accuracy of correction for farming. Together, OmniSTAR and StarFire are known as wide-area differential (WAD) GPS service providers.
Many GPS receivers work with OmniSTAR, which became available in 1994. The company today has four levels of signal correction service.
The lowest accuracy correction signal, OmniSTAR VBS, uses a single frequency L1 receiver. L1 refers to a radio frequency band, between 1559 and 1610 MHz. The VBS horizontal position error is described as “significantly less than 1 metre” for 95 percent of the time.
The second and third levels of accuracy use dual band L1/L2 receivers. OmniSTAR XP, provides long-term repeatability of better than 10 centimetres (four inches), 95 percent of the time. OmniSTAR HP usually has a horizontal error of about six centimetres (2.5 inches) 95 percent of the time, along with a vertical error of less than 10 centimetres. The L2 frequency band correction signal became available in 2005.
OmniSTAR G2 service, the latest advance, provides short-term accuracy of one to two inches and long-term repeatability of better than 10 centimetres, 95 percent of the time. It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellites.
A similar correction service, CenterPoint-RTX, was announced in January 2012 by Trimble.
StarFire was developed by John Deere and first offered in 1998. When a newer system was released in 2004, they became known as SF1 and SF2. The SF1 correction now is a free service for any John Deere receiver. The SF1 specifies repeatable accuracy at +/- 10 inches pass to pass. The SF2 is accurate to +/- four inches pass to pass.
Absolute location accuracy measured in increments of one or two centimetres and relative, repeatable accuracy measured in millimetres, is available through Real Time Kinematic (RTK) components for guidance. Relative and repeatable accuracy are generally the same for RTK.
In effect, RTK resembles a survey instrument for farming. For instance, tripods equipped with a second GPS receiver can be placed at the corner of a field, or elevated to a tower or other high point, to send line-of-sight correction signals to equipment moving in the fields. Machinery dealers have developed RTK networks for customers in some regions.
“RTK is the big thing now,” Mackay says. “Guys want to get into inter-row seeding and controlled traffic farming.”
A grain farm equipped with RTK and 10-inch drill spacing, or tighter, can drill the new crop midway between the stubble rows of an earlier crop. That concept became achievable with RTK autosteer, as did tramline-type farming, in the past five years.
Since about 2010, RTK services through cellphones or the Internet have become available. A cellular modem installed in the receiver, or even the driver’s cellphone, may be used to bring a high-accuracy correction signal to the steering control.
Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) and Virtual Reference Stations (VRS) are two of several names for the ground-based networks now providing RTK for farming. Some U.S. states provide the service without charge through the Department of Transport.
Implement steering is becoming significant in relation to GPS autosteer accuracy discussions. Implements are being equipped with GPS receivers and a communications link to the controller in the cab. Thus, autosteer is applied to the implement for centimetre accuracy regardless of the tractor’s position on a slope.
Manual steering within field boundaries is being replaced with one of two methods. One is permanently installed into the steering hydraulics and wiring. Integral autosteer is generally regarded as the most accurate way to control the machine. Some manufacturers already install it at the factory, and will fully service or warrantee the system.
The second method uses a transferable device that attaches externally to the steering wheel. It probably can be moved in less than 30 minutes to another machine. It has been sold as a lower-priced and only slightly less accurate option.
Aftermarket autosteer-makers are making equipment for both methods of autosteer as well as installation kits for tractors, sprayers and harvesters that were built before the age of autosteer.
Since about 2006, autosteer system components have become able to talk to each other through manufacturer compliance with a new international protocol for agriculture known as ISO 11783. It is seen in new electrical connectors, for instance, that link a tractor’s cab electronics with the electronics in whatever cart or implement it is towing. Regardless of make, if the units are ISOBUS compliant they should be able to work together.
Mackay says, “It’s becoming a trend to use ISOBUS plug and play. Via ISOBUS, one manufacturer’s autosteer controller can be plugged into another manufacturer’s existing tractor hydraulics.”
About 11 makers of controllers for GPS autosteer farming are available. The controller is a form of computer, operating with various software programs and storing field information in internal memory. It can be fed with certain types of data, such as previous field maps and “prescription” maps for applications of seed, fertilizer or chemical.
Controllers operate the monitors or displays in the cab, plus the autosteer units and rate controls for applications.
They also create files that store logs or data of whatever is going on in the system. Mapping, or a system of geo-reference files, are being created continuously.
Some lightbars still are being manufactured. They still require manual steering, but have some of the memory and display associated with GPS autosteer.
Autosteer software enables a controller to keep a machine on course from pass to pass in a field. The accuracy will be as good, or weak, as the signals that are being processed. In practice, more than 95 percent of the time, each pass will be perfectly parallel to the previous pass. The first pass can be done manually, or it already can be done using specifications stored in the memory from a previous operation in that field. Once the field has been mapped, the controller needs only to establish its exact location before starting a new operation in the field.
One difference in controllers is pattern recognition. Most can do a few patterns, like straight A-B, curved A-B, or pivot.
Other examples include headland, boxed rounds, circle, spiral, ditch, levee tracks, swap, adaptive curve, contour and next row.
Controllers also generate different displays of a field, depending on their software and hardware. Most will give two or three views of the field map and the machine’s location in the field. Video cameras mounted on the machinery also can be plugged into some displays, so a driver can monitor what he can’t see from inside the cab.
Pricing for autosteer components has come down dramatically as industry has tooled up and the market has grown.
An informal dealer survey in January indicated hydraulic-mounted RTK autosteer can be purchased in a pricing range of about $15,000 to $30,000 for all the components. Without RTK, expect to pay $10,000 to $15,000. A new steering wheel-mounted autosteer system will retail for perhaps $16,000 at the high end and for less than $6,000 with only WAAS access.
The big choice for most farms that want autosteer will be in where to buy it, according to Mackay.
“Shop around?” he asks. “That depends on whether you want an aftermarket system or a factory-installed and serviced system. Dealer support is important. Fine-tuning the autosteer can sometimes take a while, so you want to make sure the manufacturer will provide that support.”
Many western Canadian farmers are already using precision farming tools, such as global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), auto-steering, and yield monitors. Such tools open the door to exciting opportunities to enhance farming operations. One such opportunity is to use these tools in conducting on-farm research. To capture that opportunity, applied research associations are working with co-operating producers across Alberta in a three-year project.
“We have traditionally done small plot research; in this project, we’re breaking new ground. We want to get a better understanding of how to conduct field-scale studies, so we can help producers to undertake on-farm research and be confident in the results,” says Dr. Ty Faechner. He is leading the project, which is called “Precision Tools for On-Farm Research.”
Faechner is the executive director of the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA). This not-for-profit organization works with producers to improve their operations through field research and technology. ARECA currently has 15 member associations; each association conducts applied research and extension relevant to the producers in its region.
When the project started back in 2009, ARECA knew that farmers were interested in conducting on-farm research to test how new practices and technologies would work on their own farms. ARECA was also aware of the rapidly growing interest in precision agriculture tools.
Faechner explains: “In a recent five-year program, the federal government had provided [cost-sharing] assistance for farmers to purchase GPS guidance, yield monitors and mapping software. Under the program, Alberta farmers spent around $29 million to buy that kind of equipment. So we knew there was lots of commitment financially by Alberta farmers to become engaged with precision farming equipment. They were using it for things like auto-steering, but there is also a great opportunity to take it further – to use it for collecting information, optimizing inputs, and things like that – and that wasn’t necessarily being done. We wanted to determine how farmers interested in conducting field-scale research might go about doing it with the help of precision agriculture tools.”
The project involved more than 14 producers from Lethbridge to Fort Vermilion working with agronomic staff from the applied research association in their own area. Together they conducted field-scale experiments on nitrogen response in canola and phosphorus response in peas. For canola, they compared 50, 100 and 150 percent of the recommended nitrogen rate for the field. For peas, the treatments were: no inoculant or phosphorus; inoculant; inoculant plus phosphorus; TagTeam; and TagTeam plus phosphorus.
The participating farmers received training in precision agriculture concepts, and they used on-combine yield monitors to measure crop yield for each of the treatments. The yield monitor data was validated with weigh wagon data, the traditional way to measure yields from field-scale plots.
Findings so far
ARECA will be wrapping up the project this winter and sharing the results and conclusions with the co-operators, the farming public, and the project partners/funders, which include the Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Novozymes (which produces TagTeam) and the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund.
“This project is giving us a much better understanding of some of the benefits and challenges of on-farm research. It’s also giving us a better understanding of how to implement on-farm experimentation and testing, of better ways to work with producers and conduct field research in a cost-effective way,” says Faechner.
Perhaps the most important finding so far is that effective on-farm research involves a team approach. He notes, “On-farm research takes three types of expertise: knowledge specific to the farm; agronomic knowledge; and research design and data analysis skills. Although some producers are able to do all this on their own, in most circumstances it’s a team effort. Typically the producer works with two or perhaps three people, to ensure the study is designed and managed properly and the data analyzed effectively, so the results will be reliable.”
Opening other doors to the potential of precision
Over the last few years, ARECA has been busy with several other initiatives also aimed at helping Alberta farmers to take full advantage of the potential of precision agriculture, particularly in the area of variable rate technologies (VRTs).
For instance, ARECA and its member associations offered a series of VRT workshops for farmers during the winter of 2009/10 and 2010/11. ARECA also produced a basic manual and an advanced manual on precision farming and VRT as information resources for those workshops. Both manuals are available for free on the ARECA website (www.areca.ab.ca).
Another recent ARECA initiative was a VRT economics study. Dennis Dey, an economist, compared the use of variable and constant fertilizer rates in a variety of fields in central Alberta in 2009 and 2010. Faechner says, “The results showed that in some fields you could gain significant economic advantages with variable rates, but in other fields there wasn’t a clear advantage. One of the key factors affecting that is the amount of variability in your field. VRT will have a greater advantage in a field with lots of variation than in a more uniform field.
“What we also learned was the importance of looking at VRT from a whole-farm perspective. People are always wondering whether they should invest in this kind of thing. When you consider it on a whole-farm basis, I think you can strongly make the case that your investment in the technology and the effort you put into it would be repaid, although it may take three to five years.”
Next up on its precision agriculture roster, ARECA will be hosting the Precision Ag 2.0: The Next Generation conference and trade show in Calgary on February 22 and 23, 2012. With over 30 speakers, the diverse agenda includes topics ranging from soil variability and soil mapping, to precision software and optical sensors, to conducting on-farm research. More information is available on the conference’s website (www.precision-ag.ca).
All these initiatives are helping Alberta farmers to capture the full potential of precision farming for their own operation. Faechner says, “I think our timing is really good, with more and more producers adopting precision farming tools and wanting to expand their knowledge and skills in this area.”
Great Plains Manufacturing, Salina, Kansas, recently unveiled its new 15,000 square foot state-of-the-art conference center when it played host to over 300 Great Plains Division dealer sales and service representatives. The company’s Land Pride Division is set to host regional dealer meetings in early March.
The two-story conference center includes four large break-out rooms equipped with the latest in audio-video equipment, in addition to a main arena where the company’s full line of equipment can be displayed while as many as 100 attendees sit in a theatre-style arrangement viewing videos on three large screens. Each seat in the arena is equipped to accommodate laptops and other digital devices.
On the ground level of the arena, meeting attendees can get “hands on” with Great Plains’ innovative equipment, view upcoming meeting schedules on two large kiosks, or attend a meal with 100 other attendees in the company’s multi-purpose room.
“This facility is an example of our company’s commitment to training our dealers’ service and sales staffs. We truly value our many excellent Great Plains Dealers across the country,” Great Plains President Roy Applequist said.
About Great Plains Manufacturing
Founded in 1976 by President and Owner Roy Applequist, Great Plains Manufacturing employs 1,300 people in eight Central Kansas communities and Sleaford, England. In addition to its domestic ag equipment division, which manufactures seedbed preparation, nutrient placement, and seeding equipment, Great Plains Manufacturing also includes Great Plains International, Great Plains Trucking, Great Plains Acceptance Corporation, and its Land Pride Division that manufactures grounds maintenance tools such as mowers, tillers, rotary cutters, and snow removal equipment. The company is one of the largest and fastest growing family-owned “short line” implement companies in the United States.
Feb. 1, 2012, Racine, WI - As part of its Field of Deals sales event, Case IH is sponsoring a sweepstakes where one lucky grand prize winner will receive a 2012 Ram truck, plus free fuel for one year. Case IH customers and prospects are encouraged to visit their local Case IH dealer and enter for a chance to win.
“Our Field of Deals sales event provides great offers on our full line of Farmall, Pumaand Maxxum tractors, as well as balers and windrowers,” says Kyle Russell, Senior Director of Marketing, Case IH North America. “While checking out the latest equipment at your local Case IH dealer, you also can enter to win a new Ram truck and other prizes.”
Through April 30, U.S. and Canadian Case IH customers can take advantage of many Field of Deals offers and sign up for the sweepstakes.
“Case IH has rolled out a lot of new tractors in the past 12 months,” Russell adds. “Now is a great time to visit your local Case IH dealer and see first-hand our tractors and hay tools designed with the power, efficiency and versatility to provide operators with more comfort and productivity.”
For more information on the Case IH Field of Deals sales event and sweepstakes, including official rules, visit your local Case IH dealer or www.caseihdeals.com.
About Case IH
Case IH is a global leader in agricultural equipment, committed to collaborating with its customers to develop the most powerful, productive, reliable equipment – designed to meet today’s agricultural challenges. Challenges like feeding an expanding global population on less land, meeting ever-changing government regulations and managing input costs. With headquarters in the United States, Case IH has a network of dealers and distributors that operates in over 160 countries. Case IH provides agricultural equipment systems, flexible financial service offerings and parts and service support for professional farmers and commercial operators through a dedicated network of professional dealers and distributors. Productivity enhancing products include tractors; combines and harvesters; hay and forage equipment; tillage tools; planting and seeding systems; sprayers and applicators; site-specific farming tools and utility vehicles. Case IH is a brand of CNH (NYSE: CNH), a majority-owned subsidiary of Fiat Industrial S.p.A. (FI.MI).
Dec. 13, 2011 -According to a survey by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), sales of machinery in the US, Canada and around the world are expected to grow by the end of 2011, but then slow down for 2012 through to 2014, with exports expected to show the greatest strength. READ MORE
Dec. 12, 2011 - It may not be new to most farmers, but the US Department of Energy is actively promoting the concept of "Feedstock Logistics," a campaign to introduce biomass feedstocks as well as create added value opportunities from crop residues. In this case, a single-pass harvester is being showcased, which can gather corn stover and bale the feedstock for shipping to a processor. READ MORE
Nov. 23, 2011 -According to a recent article in Resource magazine, work on designing electric tractors is underway and unveiling significant operating efficiencies. Among the findings by Marlin Onnen of the John Deere Product Engineering Centre, in taking over the functions of traditional mechanical and hydraulic linkages, electrified platforms provide for more control, as well as fuel savings of up to 13 percent. READ MORE
Nov. 23, 2011 -Amidst news that Deere Co. has completed a record-breaking year with a fourth-quarter earnings of $670 million is some intersting insight into the company's plans. For 2011, net sales in the US and Canada rose 14 percent for the fourth quarter and 17 percent overall for the year. But it is the company's announced plans to build six new factories in China, India and Brazil that speaks to the manufacturer's vision for the future. READ MORE
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