RTK guidance cutting costs

When Charles Vining and his sons, Andy and Byron, decided to upgrade to a 12-row planter, they made the move without markers. “Getting wider and trying to find that row in some of the residues we had would have been a problem,” Vining recalls. “We needed precision guidance.”

This is the final installment of a four-part series taking a deeper look at how farmers are using RTK. While Farm Progress partnered with John Deere to tell the story, the concepts you’ll find here are consistent across a range of competitive products. Work with your dealer to set up the system that’s right for your operation.

Key Points

• A push to RTK guidance drives decreased dependency on row markers.

• Turning to higher-accuracy autoguidance boosts productivity.

• Implement matching becomes less of a concern with RTK.


First step for this 4,500-acre diversified crop operation near Sondheimer, La., was to use John Deere’s SF2 satellite correction subscription to improve precision. And that worked for the first couple of years, but they knew they needed more accuracy for their rice, cotton, soybean and corn crops.

Vining had a partner who was using RTK correction in his operation, and four years ago he made the move, too. “Best money I ever spent,” he says.

Investing in RTK

Regardless of the system you choose, the precision offered by RTK correction offers a couple of key benefits that the Vinings, and others, find valuable. First is the enhanced precision, with 1-inch accuracy that provides confidence whether in planting or cultivation.

Second, there’s repeatability. “We can plant a field, then pull in later to the same field and just go with the cultivator. We know there is no drift to worry about,” Vining says. While satellite-based correction can be shifted to compensate, growers using RTK find the ability to drive right into a field and get going is a big productivity booster.

More acres per day

For the Vinings, automatic guidance has been part of the mix with that first move to satellite-based correction. “You almost don’t need eyes to steer,” comments Vining. “When it gets dark, I sometimes don’t get the lights turned on right away.”

Covering more ground, and running longer hours, are key benefits for automatic guidance. But it’s hard to quantify that in dollars, Vining admits.

For sons Byron and Andy, the answer is pretty clear. “After a full day in the tractor, when I get out I feel pretty good,” says Andy. “Not like the old days.”

Andy adds that he can “spend as much time looking back as I do looking forward with AutoTrac. You can really keep track of an implement, and that’s important when you’re in the busy season.”

Another benefit the Vinings have found is less worry about implement matching. Vining points to a 400-acre cornfield he had to run a cultivator through. Trouble was, it was planted with a 12-row planter and they had two eight-row cultivators to do the job. “It wasn’t a problem; every row lined right up and the field looked great,” he says.

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TURNING TO PRECISION: Automated guidance is more than hands-free steering to Charles Vining (center) and sons Andy (left) and Byron. It’s added productivity to their diverse operation.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.