Revisiting An Early Guidance System

Early Guidance System

A visit to my Uncle Gerald offered me another example of agriculture’s continuous innovation. As we together marveled at guidance systems (he had earlier seen a neighbor’s GPS system) he reminisced of an earlier method of precision planting that my grandfather had initiated.

“Check-row planting” was the name of a system they used in the earlier 1900s that allowed better mechanical weed control through more accurate seed placement. Wire was strung from one end of the field to the other and the planter run along the wire. Every 40 inches or so a “button” on the wire would trip two valves, dropping the seeds into the ground and readying the next ones. My uncle remembers pulling the planter through the field with horses.

If you were accurate, once the seeds germinated you would see a field of corn (at that time 40-acres was a big field) set out in even spacing — each “hill” equally distant from the others in the row and in the next, too. When it was time to control the weeds, you would be able to cultivate both ways, thereby reducing the amount you would hoe by hand. With the advent of chemical weed control and larger fields after World War II, the check-row system gradually disappeared. The picture of the rig is shown here, but if you are interested in reading more you can visit the Farm Collector site.

From check-row planting to GPS. From GPS to automatic steering and now, boom and section control — this is just a small part of agriculture’s amazing story of innovation. And the speed of change hastens.

Do you have a plan to keep pace?

K. Elliott Nowels is director of the PrecisionAg Institute and vice president of Meister Media Worldwide.

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One comment on “Revisiting An Early Guidance System

  1. Good look back and look forward, Elliott.

    Simulated check-row planting would be possible with today’s GPS-guided air planter systems. Cross cultivation would allow for planting organic crops. Are there any innovators reading precision ag posts that have tried this?

    Best wishes,

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