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 AgUAVs To Take Flight At 2015 Farm Science Review
August 14, 2015
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have taken the agriculture industry by storm and will soon be Read More
Crop InputsFSR Agronomy College Aims To Keep Agronomic Professionals Sharp
August 11, 2015
From watching for insects and diseases, to carefully applying chemicals and curtailing runoff, to keeping up with ever advancing technology, Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsBayer CropScience: A Decade Of Innovation
September 3, 2015
BLAMS! It’s not a sound effect from the pages of a Superhero comic book. Instead this nifty acronym is used Read More
ManagementReviewing MAGIE 2015
September 2, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks what he saw at the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show. Read More
Melissa Olds Dow AgroSciences
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Highlighting The Past, Present & …
September 2, 2015
In general, media events held by large agricultural suppliers tend to focus primarily on what plans the company has in Read More
Mobile tablet
OpinionTaking Data Head On
September 2, 2015
As you read this column, I’m hoping that if you picked up the phone and gave me a call, you’d Read More
Young soybean field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces New Business Unit Head For…
September 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America announces the addition of Rico Christensen, Business Unit Head, North America. Christensen will have responsibility for Read More
Wilbur Ellis Pink Soybean Seed Treatment
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Goes Pink With Soybean Seed Treatments For…
September 1, 2015
This past year, proceeds of pink-dyed soybeans treated and sold to Wilbur-Ellis seed customers in Chester, SD, went to two Read More
SprayersNORAC Active Wing Roll Slated For More Sprayers
September 1, 2015
NORAC Systems, a member of the Topcon Positioning Group, announces the release of Active Wing Roll for RoGator, Apache, New Read More
Syngenta Sign
FungicidesSyngenta’s Newest Fungicide Receives EPA Approval
September 1, 2015
Syngenta announced today that its newest succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide – Solatenol – has received registration from EPA and Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
Crop InputsDelaying The Fertilizer Decision
September 1, 2015
Comments gathered from several retailers recently evidenced a classic good-news-bad-news scenario. Good news is prices and supplies of nitrogen, phosphate, Read More
StewardshipBee Buffer Strip Initiative Seeks 100 Ohio Farmers
August 31, 2015
The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, an initiative of the Pollinator Partnership (P2), Burt’s Bees and The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Read More
2015 ShowStopper Award, MAGIE
EquipmentA ShowStopper From Case IH: The Patriot 2250
August 31, 2015
For nine years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with not only Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, FMC Expand Roundup Ready PLUS Platform
August 31, 2015
FMC Corp. and Monsanto Co. announced today an expanded agreement to continue their participation in the Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Read More
Deere Nutrient Applicator
Eric SfiligojThe Good & Bad News From MAGIE
August 31, 2015
As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the annual Midwest AG Industries (MAGIE) trade show in Bloomington, IL. Read More
CPS Morenci receiving its 4R certification
StewardshipCPS Morenci Becomes First Michigan Facility Certified I…
August 31, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that Crop Production Services, Inc.’s facility located in Morenci, MI, has been Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsWhat’s Next For Monsanto, Syngenta?
August 28, 2015
After dropping its $47 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, Monsanto may be turning its focus to Read More
Golden Harvest Corn stalks
Crop InputsMonsanto: Syngenta Not The Only Horse In Crop Protectio…
August 28, 2015
Monsanto Co, having ditched an audacious $46 billion (£30 billion) offer for Syngenta AG, may downshift to a humbler strategy Read More