Disclaimer: all information contained in the following article is NOT technically and absolutely correct. It’s more of a From My Point of View type piece. Sons and husband will probably deny they know me and laugh a lot at some of my terms and descriptions. So be it. I can take it. I am, after all, a farmers’ wife and we are tough cookies!!
To continue the May moments…I spent some time with Son #2 yesterday in the tractor that we bought last fall which was pulling a brand spankin’ new planter. Oh. You didn’t know the two were separate things? Yep. Sure nuff. That tractor can pull many different implements such as discer, a sprayer, a hay mower…all kinds of stuff. And remember those old open cab tractors with the canvas shade? Well, I do and that’s what BB grew up using. He ate dirt all day long on a tractor that took 10 times longer to plant a corn field than we can today. And it was hot. Really hot. And itchy.
Of course, BB was farming with equipment that his grandfather couldn’t even imagine back in 1920! And if Gramps could see the newest tractor, he’d just shake his head in disbelief.
So while son #3 was planting a different field, I did a test drive/ride with Son #2. The inside of the cabs now resemble an airplane cockpit with an ensemble of screens that tell you everything from the depth that the seed is being planted into the ground, the rate per hour of acreage being planted, the spacing between each individual seed, the average MPH, the clutch something or other. All of this is based on a GPS base tower miles away that brings in satellite signals from 6 or 7 satellites that update themselves within 1 second of actual time accuracy!!! REALLY?!! AND…the cab has hydraulic suspension which means you don’t jar your eye teeth out in the darned thing like you used to in the old tractors. The cabs now have a co-pilot seat so I rode in relative comfort…I’m comparing the ride to sitting on a bucket in the floor of the cab and years later, sitting in a teensy fold out seat that barely contained my physical body…another couple of pounds and I wouldn’t have fit in it!!
The below photo shows only part of the insides of the cab..specifically, the right side. There are more bells and whistles all around the cab, most of which I am clueless as to their function. I did notice cup holders, chargers for phones, a radio and air conditioning…an environment that our sons will live in, literally, night and day for however long it takes to get the corn planted. That might translate into starting at daylight and ending in the dark when you run out of seed, fuel or consciousness!
Topping all of that off, the entire system is constantly readjusting to the satellite’s ever-changing position in space. Good grief!! And why do we need all of that? Because the tractor is self guided. The driver doesn’t have to steer the tractor at all during the planting process except to turn around and start a new swath of corn seed. Then the planter and tractor talk to each other and begin again with whatever data Son #3 has plotted. Another screen shows him exactly where he’s already planted and follows the tractor to the inth degree. And stops releasing seed as soon as it senses that corn is already planted on that particular piece of land or that a turn is being made…no seed is wasted and at $200 per bag, that’s BIG!
Then all of that data is stored for use the next year or 10 years down the road. Later the guys can compare how they planted a particular crop on a specific piece of land to the resulting crop harvest. Which is a whole other ballgame when it comes to tech stuff.
The upside of all of this is that more land can be planted faster, more accurately, with less waste and better harvests. The downside of it is the aggravation when the computers aren’t working. Then it gets serious fast. Just ask Son #3. At which point he really needs some yoga exercises or maybe some Prozac.