Be Happy with Automatic Tractors write by Curt Arens

When automatic tractors become the norm, farmers can multitask like never before. I love all the new technology and precision ag tools on the market today. Most farmers who are utilizing these tools tell us that the tools earn their way and add immensely to the efficiencies on their farms. They save input costs, help prevent fatigue and conserve valuable seed and nutrients, placing seed, fertilizer and other inputs where they will produce the most profit. Simply put, precision tools pay for themselves over time. Dave Condon from Creighton, who is the subject of our cover story in the February issue of Nebraska Farmer, told me that he is sold on precision ag. He said that these tools save him time and money. Even auto-steer, which is a very cool system, works well for him. According to the precision ag folks, the next step in this progression will be tractors that operate automatically from the machine shed to the field and back to the machine shed again. This concept has been tested already, so it may not be that long before we see unmanned tractors or a fleet of them doing their thing. This concept really put my mind to work. If we had tractors that were working autonomously, could I go along in the cab, just for the ride? I would think this kind of technology could really help farmers in their multitasking. My wife says that I can’t do two things at once, and most of the time she’s right. But with automatic tractors there are all kinds of things I could do if I didn’t have to worry about steering the machine down the row, or even turning around on the ends. If I had a TV, I could catch up on my soap operas. I could text my wife and brag about how much work I’ve been doing. I could take up hobbies in the tractor, like reading back issues of Nebraska Farmer or stamp collecting, perhaps. I guess I could actually do some farm work like check markets, or order fuel, without worrying about hitting the fence or driving into the creek. Those days when I would cut the fence a little close while trying to turn around on the end would be over. I wouldn’t have to worry about catching a fence wire or wooden post and dragging it on the planter all the way across the field, as I slowly pulled apart my entire field border fence line. That would never happen again, as it has in the past. Those times when I was a little tired in the tractor seat and wavered a bit from the marker line would be over. I would no longer be able to claim to my neighbors that I get more seeds in a crooked row, because my rows would be remarkably straight. When you think about it, completely automatic tractors would take the guess work out of field operations and free me from responsibility if something went wrong. If I had this system on my tractor, I could just blame the tractor or the gadgets for any problems. Yes, this technology stuff is really starting to grow on me. 

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