Arkansas Farmers Find Apps, Wireless Essential to Agricultural Sector

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

The Power of GPS

Matthews, the farmer from Weiner, has been farming since 1990. He said that about 10 years ago, he was one of the first farmers in the area to buy a tractor with GPS.

“Back then, people would scratch their heads,” he said. “Now everyone has it.”

The GPS in the tractor has “been a tremendous benefit,” because it steers the tractor in a straight line for planting and harvesting, which saves fuel and seeds, Matthews said.

And Matthews doesn’t have to hire a driver to operate the machine because it’s controlled by the GPS technology. He said that nearly anyone could slide into the driver’s seat of the tractor “in those crucial crunch times when you need that extra driver and you may not be able to find one.”

Using GPS technology, the tractor can even be operated at night. “We’re able to plant just as good at midnight as we were at 12 noon,” Matthews said.

Water Testing

One of the emerging technologies is soil moisture testing equipment, said Zach Hunnicutt of Giltner, Neb., the chairman of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.

He uses a system from Monsanto of St. Louis. Monsanto’s Aqua View system uses probes installed 3 feet into the soil that test the water levels through the day. The data collected tell the farmer if the crops need to be watered.

The system “shows us how to time our irrigations better,” Hunnicutt said.

Hunnicutt said the monitors cost him about $1,500 apiece, but the money saved in water use more than makes up for the cost.

Monsanto’s website says that Aqua View customers reported an average saving of 3 acre-inches of water in 2010, equal to 8.4 billion gallons. That was enough water to fill nearly 13,000 Olympic swimming pools, the company says.



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