When visiting with strip-tillers, I’m finding it more common to see a rainbow of equipment colors roaming the field, as farmers leverage the flexibility of precision technology in diverse fleets of machinery.
But achieving frustration-free compatibility is still very much a work in progress. Our associate editor, Ian Gronau, recently returned from the Agricultural Electronics Foundation’s annual U.S. Plugfest event in Lincoln, Neb., where manufacturers are diligently working on improving plug-and-play functionality of electronic components.
Though progress is being made, current equipment incompatibility can be a barrier to advancing a strip-till system. This is problem Kentland, Ind., farmer Jesse Stoller and his family faced when adding a Case IH RowTrac tractor to his fleet of John Deere equipment this year, with the primary goal of minimizing compaction using tracks, rather than tires.
The Stollers transitioned to strip-till about 3 years ago on their 4,700-acre corn-and-soybean operation, and run a SoilWarrior strip-till rig from Environmental Tillage Systems to build fall strips. They also make a strip-refreshing pass in the spring, and apply a straight rate of 28% nitrogen (N) in the strip.
They’ve had little trouble using their five StarFire 3000 RTK receivers in their Deere tractors for fall strip-till. However, when they brought the Case IH tractor into the fold, they had to abandon using the guidance systems to freshen strips for corn planting this spring because of tracking issues.
One of the diagnosed problems was getting the Deere rate controller and GPS receiver to communicate with the Raven auto-steering system in the tractor.
“We and our Deere dealer tried everything to get them to communicate correctly,” Jesse says. “We finally had to park the tractor and prepare the fields with a pass using a Salford vertical-tillage tool.”
The Stollers’ frustration nearly reached the point of moving back to a single brand of tractor. But like many farmers, they are trying to remain optimistic that a more seamless solution to equipment compatibility is on the way sooner, rather than later.
What precision farming challenges are you encountering in your strip-till system? Share your story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.