For farmers wanting to get the most out of their equipment, these systems pay for themselves very quickly, he notes — sometimes in as little as a year, but more typically over two years.

As is typical of most electronics these days, the systems have steadily been offering greater functionality at lower price.

“For a new tractor or combine, a system that three years ago would have been $22,000 is now $8,000 to $9,000,” Rose says, “and of course we can retrofit older equipment with these systems.

“Everything we order from the manufacturer now is guidance system-ready, with wiring/hydraulics in place. The customer can then choose the systems and displays to fit his particular needs.”

“Our Lexion combines, sold by Class in North America, are German-built and assembled in Omaha, Nebr. Our Challenger tractors are from AgCo. Most of the combines are tracked, which is an advantage for heavy Delta soils, and really paid off in last year’s abnormally wet harvest season.”

With the big swing to corn, more farmers are using 40-foot headers on their combines, Rose says. “Chip Davis was one of the first of our customers to put one on his combine.”

RTK systems have been widely adopted by farmers, he says, because of the superb accuracy they offer in all field operations, prescription chemical/fertilizer application, yield mapping, etc.

“Just about every combine we sell now has Ag Leader mapping equipment.”

Another trend with these systems, Rose says, is on-the-ground involvement of the farm owner-operator, particularly for harvesting.

“A farmer may have multiple business enterprises, but when harvest comes, he’s out there on the combine. They not only want to leave as little crop in the field as possible, they also want to be sure they get vital yield mapping data. If you don’t get that right, you’ve just lost a year’s data that you can never get back.”

While the farmer’s on the combine, Rose says, he usually has a laptop computer so he can monitor markets, keep up with e-mails, have access to needed information. “Thanks to the time freed up by the guidance system, and with all communications capabilities available nowadays, he can run his business from the combine cab.”

There are three levels of guidance, all based on the Earth-orbiting geosynchronous satellite network. The basic government system provides GPS signals with no correction and offers 6-inch to 8-inch accuracy.

At the second level is a paid subscription service that corrects the government signals to 2-inch to 4-inch accuracy.

The third level is RTK (real-time kinetics) which corrects the signal to sub-inch accuracy. This signal is usually fed through an on-farm base station, or through farmer or dealer networks of stations.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com