Taking Precison Ag to New Level

Farm Weekly June 5, 2014 - Volume 105, No. 4689

By Ken Wilson, Machinery Writer, Farm Weekly

A hydraulically-controlled guidance hitch, mounted on seeding bars arguably has taken precision seeding to a new level, especially on non-wetting soils. Called the ProTrakker, it is a GPS-ready hitch which eliminates the problem of bar drift. It is being marketed and sold in Australia by Katanning-based Burando Hill.

Using RTK guidance, the ProTrakker maintains a bar's line of direction within an accuracy of plus or minus one to two centimeters (0.4-0.8in). This contrasts with bar movements of plus or minus 20cm (8in) normally associated with seeding rigs.

According to Burando Hill director Simon Hill, the ProTrakker is being used on several WA farms this season, including his family farm at Mindarabin. "The ProTrakker has several advantages for us because, we can sow our canola in semi-wet conditions drilling it into last year's furrows without disturbing the stubble," he said. "And, we also can sow wheat on the inter-row in high stubble residue paddocks, again without disturbing the stubble cover. Without the ProTrakker, we couldn't reliably sow between rows, let alone seed alongside the stubble in last year's rows. You can see what happens to the bar's status when you turn the ProTrakker off in operation, and even using RTK guidance, you don't get the line accuracy you achieve with the ProTrakker."

This year, Hill started his program with the intention of sowing between the rows to handle high stubble residues. But, after a 12mm rain event in April, he adjusted the ProTrakker to sow canola along the wall of stubble.

"The rain event wasn't enough to wet up whole paddocks, but we were able to chase the moisture by drilling the seed alongside and under the stubble," Hill said. "The ProTrakker was so accurate we didn't knock over any stubble. When we adjusted the ProTrakker to sow on the row, it made a complete mess of the stubble."

Hill believes the ability to obtain such accuracy will be a boon to farmers plagued with wet-dry scenarios at seeding, especially on non-wetting soils. "Using RTK guidance, we can establish a crop on extremely minimum rainfall without changing the soil profile of the entire paddock," he said.

The ProTrakker can be fitted to the tractor hitch or the air seeder hitch of a tow-between model, with a GPS receiver fitted on the tractor and on the seeding bar. Accuracy is achieved by both units precisely following the same preset run line.

According to Hill, the hydraulically-controlled ProTrakker guidance hitch, which is manufactured in Iowa, is compatible with popular RTK guidance systems like John Deere iSteer and Trimble True Tracker and has different models available to suit most modern tractors.