Lowering The Boom
Financial experts don’t expect the current economic crisis to be over anytime soon, but there are certainly ways that you and your grower-customers can reduce input costs — including boom section controls.
Boom section control allows the user to precisely apply fertilizer or a crop protection product; it also reduces driver fatigue. “The result is chemical savings by not leaving a section or an entire boom on too long or reducing the re-sprays that occur by forgetting to turn boom sections back on when switched off manually,” explains Ken Lehmann of Case IH. “By relying on electronics to monitor boom position in relation to as-applied maps and control boom sections accordingly, the operator is free to focus their attention on other tasks.”
Boom section controls have been in the market around five years, and for those who haven’t tested the waters, the cost won’t be too hard to take. “They’re one of the easier products to justify due to the quick payback and relative low cost compared to other precision products,” says Raven Industries’ Tim Heins. The majority of sprayers with GPS installed are also utilizing Raven’s AccuBoom Section Control technology, he adds, and the company has enhanced its center rack functions and added to its list of ISO AutoBoom machine-specific kits.
Jeff Farrar of Hemisphere GPS — makers of Outback Automate, an automatic boom shutoff product that offers up to 10-section automatic control — says boom section control is a smart buy. “Given the increased cost of herbicide and fertilizer, the operator should realize a quick return on investment,” he says.
Certainly the technology has been popular, and the industry has seen a lot of growth in this area, says Ag Leader Technology’s Dave King. The AutoSwath boom control feature is part of the company’s DirectCommand application system sold by Ag Leader and under the Ag Leader brand by AGCO Corp., Hagie Manufacturing, and GVM.
John Deere’s Barry Nelson says performance is the key. The Swath Control Pro from John Deere is an automatic boom section control that utilizes precision GPS software via the company’s GreenStar 2 Rate Controller.
That popularity is not just with dealerships, but also large-acreage growers with high-end GPS systems, says TeeJet’s Rich Gould. “This technology is about reducing input costs through automation,” he states. “The primary benefits are precise application and less operator fatigue. The more irregular shape the field, the more benefit the applicator will realize.”
Another plus is the environmental profile, Jon Olson of Ag-Chem points out. Ag-Chem’s RoGator and TerraGator liquid systems offer section control through the optional AccuBoom system from Raven. “I know that we all look at the cost savings side of this equation, but I think that stressing the environmental side is equally as important.”
Topcon Precision Agriculture, part of Topcon Positioning Systems, unveiled its two newest products in mid-October, the ASC-10 and GX-45 display, according to the company’s Mike Gomes. The ASC-10 provides automatic section control, and is part of the company’s System 150.
Another new product is the BoomPilot Pro from TeeJet Industries. “This product is designed to bring the rapid benefits of automatic section control to operators with almost any type of sprayer, planter, or spreader,” says Gould. The stand-alone product installs quickly, has an intuitive user interface, and is “a snap to operate.”
Hemisphere GPS will offer machine- and rate controller-specific Outback Automate interface kits for a wide variety of vehicles and applications, says Farrar.
Some products match up manufacturers’ resources, like FarmPRO. This unit combines Raven’s Viper PRO with sub-inch real-time kinematic (RTK) AutoSteer from AutoFarm all on a single large-screen display. Marketed mutually and available through select dealers in the distribution channels of both AutoFarm and Raven, its features include auto boom section control, says AutoFarm’s Joe Robertson.
But no matter what the cost or the bells and whistles, it still comes down to performance. “Applicators want to improve application efficiences, and these capabilities deliver, ” says TeeJet’s Gould.