A trip through the shop at a Purdue University farm reveals some interesting equipment and trends. The tools looked especially different at the tool shed for the horticultural research farm – the Meigs farm – near Romney. But the type of tool wasn't the only thing that was different. The tractors and vehicles that pull the equipment are smaller too, but they're not short on technology.
Nate Linder, who works at the farm, asks us to check out a small John Deere utility tractor. You might expect to find it on a hobby farm, but it's just the right size to use in some field operations at the Meigs farm, he says.
Wait a minute. There's a GPS unit and antenna mounted on the tractor. No – it surely doesn't have auto-steering!?
"Yes, it does," Linder says. "We had a local mechanic plumb it up. It runs off the hydraulic system of the tractor. With GPS and auto-steering we can do very precise operations that used to be more difficult when we had to steer by hand and try to keep straight rows."
One such operation is pulling a bedding machine. It forms the bed and lays down plastic for certain vegetables, such as tomatoes. Then the setter comes next, and a hole is punched in the plastic where each plant goes.
By setting A-B lines the operator can then be sure he or she is laying down the plastic and forming the beds in straight lines, and the exact distance apart as required to make them perform properly.
The farm also has auto-guidance on an ATV. It's used in various functions, including marking spots where a plot should be planted.
The GPS uses RTK differential correction, which results in a very high level of accuracy, farm officials note.