November 2009
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DeKalb Co. Farmers Practice Precision Farming

Fyffe farmer Clinton Dobson, left, explains to James Huber, technician with the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation district, how he is using his GPS to steer his tractors automatically and to control his spray coverage when applying commercial fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides on his 1,200-1,400 acres of Sand Mountain crops.

 
   

GPS Devices Revolutionize Their Work

Two DeKalb County farmers have added a new wrinkle to their farming operations. It’s called GPS, Global Positioning System, and according to Glen McGee and Clinton Dobson, both of Fyffe, GPS devices are revolutionizing some of their work.

McGee’s primary use of GPS is to guide his application of chicken litter produced on his farm and spread on pastures and hay land.

He attaches the GPS unit to his tractor or spreader truck. The device takes a picture of the area on which the litter is to be spread. As his spreader truck, for example, dispenses the litter, a screen on the GPS unit shows McGee the exact area of the field where the litter is being applied. Thus, by noting the shaded part of the screen, McGee is guided as he drives over the field he is fertilizing. If he happens to get off course, a different color appears on the GPS screen to show him the area missed. He can then make an easy correction.

 

Glen McGee, of Fyffe, enjoys using his GPS for applying chicken litter and spraying chemicals to control weeds in his pastures. The system attaches to his tractor or spreader truck and takes the guesswork out of applications. According to McGee, the system “works like a charm.”

This Sand Mountain farmer also uses GPS when he sprays herbicide to control weeds in pastures.

"The system is really simple," McGee pointed out. "It helps me complete field applications productively, safely and comfortably with less operator fatigue. If I know my field well, I can even use the system after dark."

McGee and his wife, Lana, raise beef cattle and broilers. The $1,500 they spent on GPS equipment allows them to be more efficient on the 300 acres they devote to pastures and hay.

"We are anxious to improve our operations any way we can," McGee noted. "We started with a badly eroded farm several years ago, so conservation has been a priority. Thanks to such practices as establishing permanent pastures, cross-fencing, rotational grazing and taking advantage of new technology, like GPS, we have survived in the business we love."

Farmer Clinton Dobson is equally as sold on GPS. He started using the GPS guidance system last year and just this year added a GPS automatic steering system to his tractor.

"The steering system readily navigates curves in a field, and I’m really sold on it," Clinton observed.

Dobson said the same GPS rig can be transferred to other vehicles easily. He has two GPS units in operation now and may add an additional one soon.

"Actually, with the acreage I am currently farming, my savings in fertilizer and chemical costs paid for the GPS rigs the first year of their use," Clinton noted. "But a farmer would need at least 200 acres of crops to make purchase of the equipment cost effective."

Like McGee, Dobson is pleased with the results he gets from his GPS equipment.

But unlike McGee, he grows row crops which include corn, soybeans, wheat and potatoes. His scope varies from 1,200 to 1,400 acres. He applies commercial fertilizer, herbicide and insecticides to his crops with the GPS innovation.

Dobson noted the GPS device will keep an accurate count of the acreage being covered and can be precisely regulated for the amount of chemicals and fertilizer desired in an application.

This progressive conservation farmer grows all his crops except his potatoes using minimum tillage practices.

"Minimum tillage gives me year-round coverage of the soil with plants like wheat followed by soybeans," Dobson said. "Damaging rain water which otherwise would move readily over my sloping Sand Mountain land is cushioned and soaked up by the plant residue I leave on the soil."

In addition to minimum tillage, Dobson uses field borders and terraces as conservation practices on the land he farms.

"I’m just trying to keep technology from outgrowing me," the enthusiastic Fyffe farmer concluded.

Cecil Gant is a coordinator with the Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..