Customer: Phil Call
Owner of MY-T Acres
Phil Call remembers 2002 when he installed the E-Z Guide Plus light bar in his spreader truck. Chasing the three green lights on the light bar, as the system guided the driver across My-T Acres fields was its first foray into what’s commonly known today as precision farming.
Call could hardly have anticipated the growth of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) in the agricultural market. Today, as he enters a new decade his fleet of equipment has grown and a dozen or more pieces have some form of GPS system installed.
“Our second successful step brought us into the era of automated steering,” recalls Call. It was a Trimble E-Z Guide 500 system and it guided his equipment via a signal transmitted from an RTK base station. Two planters would run in parallel, one striking out the line and then passing it off to the second tractor that was then able to run parallel, perhaps right next to each other, but often on the other side of the field.
Call, and others in this technologically driven industry, are acutely aware of the importance of straight lines when spraying for weeds, pests and disease. It’s a capability that remains critical as the growing season progresses from tilling to planting, spraying and harvesting.
Eleven of Call’s systems have GPS guided steering capabilities. The simplest is called EZ Steer. It’s attached to the steering wheel itself. More sophisticated, are the Auto Steer systems that are “plumbed into the equipment’s hydraulics.”
To Call, precision farming technology makes it possible for his crews to plant potatoes, four rows at a time, 15 feet wide, with remarkable precision. The GPS assures them that they can go back over the same fields, whether for spraying with a 90-foot sprayer or harvesting by digging up the beds, and not miss areas with the crucial sprays or get off track while harvesting and risk damaging the crop.
In December of 2008 a barn fire destroyed most of My-T Acres equipment. While the farm still utilizes the portable RTK base stations, after the fire it upgraded to the CORS Network, which uses NYS Department of Transportation signals to maintain the critical positions necessary for precision accuracy in the fields.
The FMX monitor, a Trimble display in the cab that the operator interfaces with, is utilized with a Zone Builder that creates seed beds into which a planter will plant the seed ¬– in Call’s case that’s typically corn. The CORS Network and is integral to Call’s planting of crops like carrots, beets and cabbage as well.
While the seedbed is prepared, the lines for the field are layed-out and captured in the GPS System. At the same time is able to inject Anhydrous ammonia fertilizer in the seedbed. Because the GPS will guide them with sub-inch accuracy, he then shares those lines with the guys operating the planter. They can re-enter the same field and accurately plant as close to the fertilizer as possible. “It reduces the seed bed we have to prepare,” says Call, because we can till 8” to 10” wide and then come back, thanks to the GPS, and plant right in the middle of the tilled and fertilized area.”
He often has the Zone Builder being used in a tractor with a tillage rig behind it. “We’ll strike our A-B line and put that track into the monitor for the planter to use later,” says Call. The Zone Builder is used to plant both corn and potatoes
My-T Acres has five units, each with one of Trimble’s systems installed, either the E-Z Guide 500, the E-Z Boom 2010, or the Auto Pilot.
Two systems use the RTK base station planting row crops. Five additional pieces use Intuicom systems – two plant corn, two plant potatoes and one is a sprayer. “As he sprays,” says Monroe Tractor GPS specialist Seth Conway, “the GPS builds a map of where he’s laid down the spray. On his monitor the map screen is green and it turns to yellow where he’s sprayed, making it easy to monitor subsequent passes and avoid over-spraying.”
“This year we’re trying the Tru-Guide System,” says Call. We’re adding it to the potato planter as well as a tractor. “Another antenna on the planter guides it behind the tractor.”
“We get more consistent application of chemicals and fertilizer,” he says. Call also has GPS installed in a grain combine, utilizing Auto-Steer. This means he can get a full swath every time, which results in better yield monitoring.
With his corn planter, it records seed coverage and automatically shuts off the planter to avoid overlap, saving on seed and eliminating costly waste. “Overlapping,” notes Call, “reduces yield.”
His biggest payback comes with the sprayer. The E-Z Boom systems shut off any section of the boom that may be overlapping an area already sprayed. With the GPS systems installed in the sprayer, part of the payback also comes from reduced operator fatigue. This means he can run later hours, when the operator cannot actually see, but with the GPS can maintain track.
“Part of the value also comes in fuel savings,” says Call, acutely aware of the cost of fuel in today’s market. “When we’re not overlapping and covering ground twice we save fuel,” he adds.