Controllers Pack More Power

While rate controllers have been around for almost 30 years, some major gains in the technology have come in the past few years. Today, many controllers can be connected into systems that run GPS, lightbar guidance, field mapping, automatic steering, printable reports, and the like. The controllers can now help fertilize and seed at varying rates, use multiple hoppers to put down granulars, and apply multiple products via direct injection.

The question is which controller will give the most value, whether buyers are starting from scratch or adding to components already on equipment. “Operators want more and more out of the electronics they buy,” says Michael Helling, manager-flow control at Trimble.

Some Keep It Simple

“There are two levels of operators today,” says Craig Fens­termaker, product manager at New Leader. “Those looking for simple operation, and those looking for maximum documentation.” He says on the no-frills end, New Leader’s SP.6 controller provides direct, simple set-up and two functions operators really want: simple input of rate and density and conveyor speed control/closed loop spinner speed control.

Rob Hoehn, sales manager at Micro-Trak Systems, says manufacturers are taking standard control systems and making variations that provide a more “custom fit” for buyers. The company has introduced its new MT-3405D dual channel automatic rate controller, which can handle two products. Able to do variable rates (VR), it controls and records channels 1 and 2 independently — and can apply any combination of liquid, granular, or anhydrous ammonia (NH3).

Rawson’s Accu-Rate variable-rate controller mounts to any planter, drill, air seeder, granular and air spreader, and liquid applicator with constant volume pumps.

More Features

The Falcon II covers both ends of the technology spectrum. It can act as a stand-alone, “basic,” single-rate controller or a single-rate controller using a background image to “view” application, explains Wade Stewart, AGCO Global Technologies. But it can also control multiple products (up to 10) and variable rates (up to 200). The unit combines accuracy and automatic recording of as-applied data, with incredibly simple operation, he says.

Controllers are helping variable-rate application gain momentum. In fact, variable-rate control is the new catch phrase in 2006-07, believes Dan Iseminger, business development manager for KEE Technologies North America, a Div. of Topcon Positioning Systems. Grower-customers want to lower input costs and increase yields, “and to appease the environmentalists that are concerned about run-off, leaching, and increased nitrate levels in lakes and streams,” he says.

Also on the high end, the New Lead­er 7 offers a buffet of capabilities, including liquid and dry operation, auto swath control, multiple product application, auto steering capability, GPS guidance, job summary report, touch screen control, colored screen, and two features unique to the NL7 — feedgate and fan frame automation, a patented feature. On spinner spreaders, Fenstermaker says, this technology adjusts the fanframe and feedgate to the operator’s predetermined settings for each product. “No more moving from the cab to the spinner over and over during application runs,” he points out.

Precise Booms

A number of companies released their new or improved versions of automatic boom section control in 2006, some with the ability to control several sections. “Customers tell us it really saves time and money,” says Trimble’s Helling. His company’s EZ-Boom — which also does variable rates — offers the technology at a price that’s accessible to many users. “Up until now these capabilities have only been available in higher end products. We’ve put it at a competitive price point,” he says.

In fact, Helling’s team at Trimble believes automatic boom section control is transitioning from a luxury item to a requirement.

“We’re seeing an increased awareness and demand for Automatic Sec­tion Control (ASC),” agrees Iseminger. “This is being driven by National Re­source Conservation Service and EPA offices — as well as farmers themselves looking to reduce chemical costs and increase application performance.”

Iseminger reports that with KEE’s ASC ability on a standard five-boom section sprayer, operators have seen between 8% and 10% savings on their chemical bills and application rates due to better “pin-point” accuracy of application. Those that have installed KEE’s highest-end 30-section ASC system have experienced savings as high as 20% on chemicals and 30% on time in the field.

Dave King, marketing and international business manager at Ag Leader, says the Insight Direct Command system gives auto boom section control with its Auto­Swath feature. The system does direct control for liquids and granulars and can handle variable rates for multiple products.

The Swath Control Pro from John Deere Ag Man­agement Solutions uses GPS to turn boom sections on and off automatically, according to a coverage map. The map shows where the operator and machine have previously applied product or created external or internal boundaries that shouldn’t be sprayed.
Raven’s Envizio Plus now has a feature called AccuBoom for automatic boom section control, reports Matt Willard, business development manager, Flow Control Division. Envizio Plus also gives users worry-free operation of hydraulically leveled booms, he says. It can now do data logging so drivers can get actual rate information from a Raven console and data-log up to five products.

Mid-Tech’s high end Legacy 6000 is a Controller Area Network (CAN) bus system, which allows a vast amount of information to be shared across the system, says Midwest Technologies’ Rich Gould, marketing manager. The unit uses icon-guided, push-button controls to apply anhydrous and liquid and granular fertilizer, as well as to activate automatic boom section control and automatic steering. “These features are appealing because they reduce operator workload and improve application accuracy,” he adds.

Also taking advantage of CAN-based technology is the Intelliag from DICKEY-john Corp. The system can interface with seed sensors, shaft monitors, and hydraulic valves to monitor and control seeding rates and fertilizer application on planters, grain drills, or air carts. “Operators can then add monitors as needed for planting, spraying, spreading, or autosteering,” points out Pat Fuchs, product manager.

“The main trend we see in controllers is agronomic rather than electronic, especially for grower-applied materials such as seed,” says Eric Lund, president of Veris Technologies. They’re using the variable-rate capabilities of their controllers now more than in previous years. The reasons? He points to high nitrogen prices and escalating seed costs. “And reports of increased profits from VR soybean populations as well as corn and cotton are becoming more frequent,” he says.

In addition, guidance/autosteer products have allowed growers to become more familiar and comfortable with GPS — and operators are looking to extend the capabilities of those investments with variable rates. Many of the new planters have VR capabilities as standard equipment, so many recognize that VR is within their reach. Veris’ new Precision Rate Controller is a hydraulic planter and applicator drive with PosiRate technology, an advance which gives the widest range of pulse-free rates — from 20-300 rpm — eliminating the need to change drive sprockets.

What’s Ahead?

“The next move in the controller industry looks to be virtual terminal systems, along with wireless communication,” says Fenstermaker.

KEE’s Iseminger adds: “Wireless communication between the cab controller and a manager is an attractive feature for today’s large operations. To be able to monitor all the equipment you have running on a daily basis from one central location improves operational efficiencies enormously.”

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Precision AgUAS: The S Stands For Smart, Service And Sensors
May 1, 2014
The only thing occuring more rapidly than the technologies’ evolution is the clamoring to implement UAS into agriculture as soon as possible. Read More
Precision AgAg Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014
April 1, 2014
It's been a busy first quarter of technology developments in 2014. Here are some of the highlights, and things to watch in the months ahead. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Farmer on tablet
CropLife 100Southern States Co-op: An Inside Look At Our Aerial Imagery Program
February 8, 2015
Now is as good a time as any to explore the basics of what a retail aerial imagery program looks like today. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Inks Satellite Imagery Agreement
February 3, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Company has reached an agreement with Planet Labs to bring satellite imagery to the AgVerdict software platform. Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Management2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad …
February 27, 2015
Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Research Task Force, lays out planned activities to mark the chemistry’s 70th anniversary. Read More
HerbicidesUniversity Of Arkansas Flag The Technology Program Adds…
February 27, 2015
Started in 2010, the Flag the Technology program provides a visual reference for applicators to distinguish between fields planted with different herbicide-tolerant trait technologies. Read More
Luckey Farmers, Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center
Industry NewsLuckey Farmers’ Berkey Branch Certified In 4R Nut…
February 26, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Luckey Farmers Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center in northwest Ohio has been added to its growing list of nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry F…
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
FertilizerNew Formulation Of NutriSphere-N Protects High Volume U…
February 24, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences is launching NutriSphere-N HVTM, a new polymer formulation of the proven NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager that protects high-volume applications of UAN. Read More
EquipmentIowa Ag Secretary Northey Names Hagie Water Quality Lea…
February 24, 2015
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has named Hagie Mfg. as a recipient of the Secretary’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Leader Award. Read More
FungicidesEvito Fungicide Gives Canadian Wheat Growers New Diseas…
February 24, 2015
EVITO fungicide from Arysta LifeScience North America gives Canadian wheat and barley growers a new option for disease control. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Commodity Classic Turns 20
February 23, 2015
Two decades in, this annual gathering of all things agriculture has become a must-see event. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: On The Road Edition
February 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent trips to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville and the Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Acquires FLM+ Assets
February 19, 2015
FLM+ will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, Inc., and the company will retain its employee base after closing of the deal, which is scheduled for the second quarter of the year. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnited Suppliers, Stine Seed Form Marketing Alliance
February 19, 2015
The new alliance will greatly expand sales opportunities for Stine Seed with the United Supplier Seed Link Owners. Read More
Crop InputsVilsack To Deliver Commodity Classic Keynote Address
February 19, 2015
The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event's General Session, to be held Friday, February 27, in Phoenix, AZ. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Storage Tips
February 19, 2015
On-farm storage of soybeans requires some special considerations compared to corn. Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance Delivers Promising Field Trial Results
February 19, 2015
In its first full year of field trials, the BioAg Alliance reported that the top 10 microbial strains tested in corn and soybeans showed very promising results. Read More
National Farm Machinery Show overview
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Attendance Up By 16K
February 18, 2015
The 2015 event saw the second highest attendance total of all time as 310,589 attendees that included exhibitors and agribusiness professionals traveled to the Kentucky Exposition Center to participate in the nation’s largest indoor ag trade show. Read More