Tractors with trackers

CNJ Staff Photo: Gabriel Monte Matt Zachary, 25, of Farwell, programs Kendall Devault’s sprayer with a global positioning system console. Devault uses a GPS system to help lower costs and increase production on his farm.

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom Newspapers

To fertilize and till his farm, Farwell’s Kendall Devault takes his directions from above — beamed down from satellites orbiting the earth.
The space-age technology enables Devault and other High Plains farmers to guide tractors, sprayers and cotton strippers through their fields with pinpoint precision.

Devault said the global positioning system, which he started using four years ago, is accurate to about an inch.

Before installing the system, Devault said he used markers on his land and manually drove his machines, which usually resulted in overspraying some parts and missing others.

“It’s not as accurate driving because you’re overlapping and sometimes you miss,” he said. “It’s so much harder on the operator.
New Mexico State University agronomist Mark Masalis said GPS devices such as the one Devault uses have become as important a farming tool as the tractor.

“It allows them to be more accurate in their different management practices, whether it be plowing or spraying chemicals, harvesting,” he said. “They can apply their herbicides and insecticides more efficiently, with less waste, less overlap.”

Installed in the hydraulic system, Devault said an automated steering system directed by the GPS coordinates guides the tractor around his field.

The system also helps increase production.

Devault uses a fertilizing and seeding technique called a strip till that, combined with GPS, takes one pass to fertilize and seed instead of four.

“So it saves moisture, saves fertilizer and saves fuel and it keeps it (seeds) from blowing, said Devault, who farms cotton, corn and wheat.

The system cost Devault about $23,000, however, he said it pays for itself because it prevents wasting chemicals and saves time. He said he’s saved about 20 percent on fertilizer and 15 to 20 percent on water.

“On chemical savings, fertilizer savings and operator stress it’s worth a lot too,” Devault said. “At the end of the day, you’re not so stressed out trying to keep your tractor straight all day, you’re more efficient, and you get more done.”

Farwell farmer Mark Howard said he incorporated GPS technology into his farming operation three years ago.

He uses it for fertilizing, harvesting and spraying.

“Once you have it, you want to use it on every operation you have,” said Howard, who has been farming for 25 years.

Howard said his cotton yields have increased at least five to 15 percent. The technology also saves him on fuel, chemicals and time.
“It noticeably speeds up whatever process you’re doing,” he said.