The jury seems to be weighing in: auto-steering has a place, and the adoption curve is faster than for the tractor from the horse by far. It may not match the adoption curve to Roundup Ready soybeans, but more and more farmers appreciate the accuracy, the reduction in fatigue and the time to observe other things and think about upcoming decisions while the tractor steers itself across the field.
Raven Industries unveiled a new mechanical steering solution last week called Smartrax MD. Engineers who helped design it say it's superior to the product they originally brought to the market. For one thing, this one is a collar and yoke device that slips onto the steering column and looks like it belongs there.
It operates like a big clip for a chain. One side opens so you can mount it around the steering column. Then it snaps shut.
It's not better than hydraulic systems, the engineer stressed, but yet it's a good alternative if you're wanting to convert a machine to auto-steer which doesn't have it now.
One thing you can do is move it between machines, the engineer says. You could use it on the planter tractor, the sprayer and the combine, all in the same season. It's also much more responsive and can handle faster operating speeds than the original Raven solution for this situation.
So far, the unit will retrofit to about 85% of the tractors on the market, the engineer says. The focus is on front-wheel drive tractors now, but he expects the product will eventually be able for four-wheel drive tractors too.
The secret is the spline inside the sleek cover that matches to your steering wheel. So far there are four different splines available to help convert to different tractors. That number will increase if demand grows.