Cotton And Precision: RTK Payoff

For the past three seasons, the Fiveash family farm has been taking its use of RTK to the max, using it on as many field operations as they could imagine. Based in Donalsonville, GA, the Fiveash farm grows peanuts, cotton and occasionally corn and soybeans. Wheat, oats and ryegrass are planted as cover crops.

Jared works with the local Case IH dealership, which installs Trimble automatic steering units. “We are one of the few running red equipment down here,” says Fiveash. The RTK network was started originally by Ag Technologies in conjunction with local farmers. The company later bought the towers back from the growers, who purchase annual subscriptions for RTK signal service from Ag Technologies.

Everything on the farm is strip-till, so highly-precise automatic steering is critical, from planting to application to harvesting. Here are some other benefits of the RTK system that Fiveash enjoys:

Setting Up The Season. The cover crop is used to keep the soil stable from the harvest time of one season to planting time of the next. During cotton harvest, a stalk puller is run to break up the trash. At the same time, an attached grain drill goes over the same ground, planting the cover crop. RTK automatic steering keeps the path straight.

In the spring, when planting begins, is when the steering system really shines. With the thick covering of grain. it can be extremely difficult to locate and stay on target when planting. But the RTK system keeps the spring seed on target and in line. “The cover crop keeps weed pressure down, and gives young cotton a barricade to prevent it from washing,” says Fiveash.

Less Labor. The steering system has been a serious labor savings, resulting in less fatigue for operators, less labor needed to operate the machinery, and one fewer tractor. “We traded in one of our three tractors, and had Trimble automatic steering capability installed on the other two,” says Fiveash.

Special Patterns. Part of the farm sits along the Chattahoochee River, where fields are susceptible to runoff. To help mitigate the problem, crops are planted in a half-circle up to the river bank. The tractor operator uses the track of a pivot-irrigated field to establish an A-B line, then sets the steering to follow the A-B line in a half-circle.

Seed Control. With cotton seed costs as high as $600 a bag, Fiveash has embraced automatic seed control on his planting rig. The variable-rate planting is tied in the RTK system which, combined with automatic steering, is assuring efficient and accurate seeding.

Section Control and Spray Records. Chemical application is performed using Raven‘s AutoBoom automatic boom section control system run on a VIPER on-board controller. Combined with the Trimble steering system, Fiveash is able to control the 90-foot boom with relative ease, while avoiding skips and overlaps in application.

In addition, the VIPER collects the spray information, which Fiveash then transfers to his Farm Works system back at the home office.

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