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John Deere AutoTrac Controller 300 Courtesy of John Deere
AUTOSTEERING CHOICE: John Deere is launching a new version of its universal aftermarket autosteering system, AutoTrac Controller 300. It works with a wider range of Deere and competitive machines.

Deere moves to meet wide-ranging market

New tools for legacy machines and a big new air cart fill product niches.

There’s an interesting trend happening in the farm equipment industry these days. Companies are looking at legacy tractors in the field and targeting new products to meet those needs. There are a lot of legacy machines in the field for many companies, and as farmers upgrade their precision management, they see a need to bring those older machines up to a higher spec.

Recently, John Deere highlighted the fact that even a 4430 can be updated with a StarFire receiver and a Gen 4 display, and even add AutoTrac with the AutoTrac Universal steering wheel replacement. But now there’s a new option for adding John Deere AutoTrac to a legacy green machine — or even a competitive brand.

The new AutoTrac Controller 300 is an extension of what the company called AutoTrac Universal. “It actually plugs into the hydraulic steering of the machine, and you maintain the operator station just as it is,” says John Mishler, precision ag marketing manager, John Deere. “We’re bringing an integrated AutoTrac experience to those machines.”

Plumbing an add-on autosteering system into an older, non-autosteering-ready tractor can be a challenge. For John Deere, previous kits would include specific hoses and fittings for different models. “What we’ve had is that there’s a kit for this tractor or kit for that tractor, and it becomes a challenge [for the dealer] from a stocking standpoint. So the dealer may not actually have the right kit in stock that you need,” he says.

With the new controller, the dealer has the controller, and adds, from his own inventory, the hoses, fittings and electronic connections he needs to make it work on a specific tractor. “And this gives the dealer an opportunity to actually stock kits and then use their own hydraulic fittings to get it installed in a fashion that make sense,” Mishler says.

Autosteering is not only a time-saver, but it also enhances productivity by reducing overlap and farmer fatigue during operation. And this new AutoTrac Controller 300 can be installed on a wider range of machines than in the past. “Some of the lower 5 Series and 6 Series tractors that don’t come AutoTrac-ready” can be upgraded with this system, he adds.

The initial launch of the new controller is aimed at tractors for spring, but Mishler says that through the rest of the year, “we’re going to expand into other planters. So, think sprayers and combines,” he says.

Farmers installing the system can add a 2630 display or a Gen 4 version. And a StarFire receiver will also be required.

C650 Air Cart from John Deere
HITTING A SWEET SPOT: The new C650 Air Cart from John Deere brings in a machine at new capacity, with tow-behind and tow-between capability not available before. (Willie Vogt)


Filling an air cart market gap

John Deere has long produced air seeders, yet the company’s had a gap in the line. “Currently in the line, we jump from a 550-bushel cart all the way up to our C850,” says Brian Thull, product marketing manager, air seeding, John Deere.

But that gap is being filled with the new C650 Air Cart for the 2021 season. “We’re filling a product gap capacity-wise, but the other thing about the 550-bushel and the 850-bushel carts that we have is that they’re only available in a tow-behind configuration.”

The new C650 Air Cart can be set up in either a tow-between or tow-behind configuration. Thull notes that many growers like the idea of a tow-between setup. He explains that for some farmers, having the air cart being the last piece of equipment in the “train” is a compaction concern.

C650 Air Cart  side display allows for simple machine calibration
CONTROL CENTER: The new C650 Air Cart has the same product and machine management system found on the C550 and C850 in the line. This side display allows for simple machine calibration, too. (Willie Vogt)

Deere does have another tow-between model, but it’s the smaller C450. This new machine broadens the air cart market for Deere.

“We’ve brought the same proven technology from the C850 to this cart,” Thull says. “You have your individual tank scales, you’ve got section-control capabilities, and you have this side-cart display here where you can do your calibrations — and you don’t have to run back and forth to your tractor.”

He explains that calibration is simple. Bags are available; you simply open the bottom gate under any of the meters — there are four — and spin the meter. Once you get a good amount of revolutions — say, 15 or 20 — you weigh the bag and then input all your data on the side display.

The system is divided into four units, which allows the user a lot of flexibility in what is applied from each section, from seed to fertilizer to micronutrients.

To learn more about the new AutoTrac Controller 300 or the new C650 Air Cart, visit

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