In the beginning, growers could flip their sprayer switch off or on, as the need may be, to spot spray or fertilize their fields, using their experience to dictate. It was, literally, a hit or miss proposition.
Then, growers could use Global Positioning System maps to determine where their fields needed fertilizer or pest treatments and their system would apply that material based on those maps - the variability was the length of the boom.
Now comes the next evolution of GPS machine control for field treatments: Swath Control Pro from John Deere. John Deere is introducing their new product today at the 2006 Commodity Classic.
The new system controls the boom sections and spray nozzles turn on and off automatically based on a GPS coverage map that is created as the sprayer goes through the field.
The system is available on John Deere's 4720 and 4920 Self-Propelled Sprayers. Systems for older models sprayers are being developed and likely will be available later this year.
Take it from someone who drove one of those machines equipped with AutoTrac and Swath Control Pro, the only word that comes out of your mouth the first pass is: Wow!
And, yes, the first-time driver does constantly check to see if the sprayer is doing what it's supposed to according to the colored monitor mounted a few inches from your right knee.
Integrated with the GreenStar 2 system, Swath Control Pro offers automatically turns off various sections of the boom when they're not needed. The boom on the 4720 I drove had six sections. The driver can input that Swath is supposed to minimize skips or minimize overlap.
With the minimize skips command, the sprayer turns off a boom section when the last nozzle in the section moved into the area that was previously sprayed.
With the minimize overlaps commend, the sprayer turns off a boom section when the first nozzle in the section gets into the area that was previously sprayed.
The result? Efficiency.
"Our research shows an overall reduction of at least 5% of the input costs when using Swath Control Pro and AutoTrac on John Deere sprayers," says Craig Weynand, division marketing manager, sprayers. "The 4720 and 4920 Sprayers with Swath Control Pro will take spraying operations to new levels of productivity."
When the grower finishes his spray operation, he can pull the compact flash card out of the GreenStar 2, use Apex Farm Management Software to download it onto his office computer and then can print out reports on what he sprayed and where he sprayed it.
In addition to increasing efficiency, reducing cost and improving record keeping, the Swath Control Pro also minimizes crop damage from overspray and improves environmental stewardship opportunities, says Kyle Collins, of John Deere's Ag Management Solutions division.
A 15-hour demonstration activation will be packaged with all GreenStar 2 displays sold starting this month. The Swath Control Pro is a $2,000 option to the system. Should a grower choose to buy Swath Control Pro, a John Deere service advisor comes out to the farm to upload the data system and input a permanent activation code.
For now, John Deere recommends growers mount the GS2 monitor next to their original GreenStar monitor to keep each screen more readable.
"We're working to create on monitor," Collins says. "It's kind of one of those things were you have to be careful what you ask for. You could end up with a lot of information cluttering up one little space."
For more information on Swath Control Pro, contact a John Deere dealer or visit www.JohnDeere.com/Ag.