Fix the Precision Technology or Plant?

Reliance on precision farming leaves some almost unable to plant without it.

Published on: Jun 20, 2013

You're ready to go to the field to plant. Yet your son is trying to get the last piece of technology that will let you see how the planter is working up and going. He has to download a program to make it work. It should just take minutes. Minutes turn into nearly an hour when the wireless Internet acts up. How long do you wait before you go ahead and plant?

If you experienced this situation this spring you may understand the feeling. Once you become reliant on knowing exactly what's happening all the time due to technology, it's hard to run without it—the old-fashioned way. But if the tractor has a steering wheel, you can still drive it, whether auto-guidance works or not.

Sit or go? Keeping the planter going is essential, whether every gadget works or not. However, many of the gadgets make life simpler.
Sit or go? Keeping the planter going is essential, whether every gadget works or not. However, many of the gadgets make life simpler.

Most farmers say they would go ahead and plant. But we know of situations where they've waited at least an hour to fix something that didn't even exist five years ago. The payoff is that when it works, it typically increases efficiency, catches errors or machinery hiccups you wouldn't catch otherwise, and lets you do things you couldn't do any other way.

"We planted at night this year and we couldn't have done that without GPS," says John Cruise, Wesley, Iowa. "You may think you can follow a marker after dark, but pretty soon it all looks the same. As long as you've got GPS and it's working, you can keep going. It made the difference between getting corn in the ground and having a lot more to go when it started raining again for us this year. We had a very small planting window."

Part of it may depend on what has to be repaired and how essential the technology is. Some will plant, then fix it or call their serviceman the first time it rains.

One thing seems certain. People may plant without it for a day, but they want it back as soon as possible.