How many times have you been fertilizing and wondered if you were too wide or too close with the pattern the fertilizer rig was throwing? The Noble Research Institute recently purchased a new piece of equipment to alleviate the stress of wondering "Where am I?"
The piece of equipment I am referring to is called "light bar navigation." Everyone has heard of GPS (global positioning system). This system uses GPS technology with a visual light bar to tell you where you are while driving through the field. If you are broadcasting a 35-foot swath, it will maintain the distance every time you turn to make another pass. To make a long story short, if used properly, it minimizes overlap and skips.
There are several systems available on the market. The very basic navigational unit starts at $3,000. A more complicated system can cost more than $10,000. We are using a basic unit called Raven INVICTA 115. Next question might be "What is this new gadget going to do for me?" Below are some comments made by the farm crew using the device:
- We never lose our path when applying product.
- We don't have to worry about the foam maker quitting.
- We can run after dark or in poor visibility and not lose our place, finish disking, no-till planting, spraying, fertilizing, etc.
- It has a pause feature that lets you start back at the exact spot where you ran out of product.
- We can run faster because we do not have to constantly look for our place; the light bar keeps us in line.
- Eliminates a lot of fatigue by not straining to find the last pass; especially in no-till applications in bermudagrass.
- Fifteen minutes and the unit is on the tractor and ready to go.
- This unit has the ability to figure remaining acres in a field when you are getting close to finishing; therefore, an accurate amount of product can be ordered to finish the job.
- Overall, a big time saver.
Here's an example of the accuracy of the unit: we fertilized 350 acres of winter pasture on the Pasture Demonstration Farm, and when we were done, there were 50 pounds of fertilizer left in the hopper. We are very impressed with the capabilities and simplicity of this equipment.
The photo shows the light bar mounted on the tractor. It is a series of horizontal lights directing you to the center of the path intended to be treated. When the center light illuminates then the tractor is on track. If the lights illuminate to the left or right, the tractor needs to be corrected in that direction.