The AutoGuide steering assist system and section control features available on Valtra tractors make spraying crops much easier, as Jyrki Rantsi, a pig farmer from Varpaisjärvi in the North Savo region of Finland, can attest.
Automated steering is often thought of as a tool designed for working on massive fields, but in fact like the section control feature too, it is of most use on small fields with irregular shapes. Using these systems does not require advanced engineering skills either, simply the motivation to do the work faster, better and more easily.
Jyrki Rantsi farms around 160 hectares and has 400 sows, producing around 10,000 pigs a year. Most of his fields are within a five-kilometre radius, but some are as far away as 15 kilometres.
“Many people think that automated steering and section control systems are useful on enormous prairies or steppes. In fact, they are needed more on these kinds of small, hilly and irregularly shaped fields that make it challenging to drive in long straight lines,” Rantsi explains.
Rantsi drives a Valtra T163 Direct tractor connected to an Amazone UX3200 trailed sprayer. The systems on the tractor and the sprayer work well together through an ISOBUS connector. On the fields the tractor is steered automatically by the AutoGuide steering assist system, while the section control opens and shuts the seven valve blocks on the 21-metre boom as needed. In this way the pesticide is sprayed only where needed, even if the combination is driven diagonally across a section of field that was partly sprayed before. The nozzles open and close precisely on the borders of the unsprayed areas.
“I am not at all interested in technology or computers, but I don’t need to be either. What I am interested in is doing my work faster, better and more easily. It has been surprisingly easy to learn these systems and begin using them,” Rantsi says. Rantsi considers the costs of the systems to be quite reasonable. He uses the AutoGuide steering assist system with an RTK correction signal that allows the tractor to be driven with an accuracy of just a couple of centimetres. The correction signal is also necessary because so far north the satellites are often behind trees and hills on the horizon. The system is also good at detecting if the tractor and implement are leaning to one side when driven across the hills, and can correct the steering accordingly.
“The subscription for the signal costs around four euros a year per hectare, which is easy to make up with the better harvests. Some farmers spend thousands of euros on bigger tyres and don’t consider that too expensive. To me AutoGuide is the same kind of investment,” Rantsi adds.
Rantsi does not drive the same lines from one year to the next, even though the AutoGuide sys-tem would make this easy. Nevertheless, he does drive along the same lines during a single season. He has tried the bigger C3000 touch screen and the smaller C1000 keyboard screen and finds advantages in both.
“The bigger screen is easier to read, of course, and it can be used with the reverse camera, but it also obscures visibility and using the touch screen while moving can be tricky. The keyboard on the smaller screen is easier to use on bumpy surfaces, and it leaves more space in the cab,” Rantsi points out.
Jyrki Rantsi is definitely not the kind of farmer who buys machinery just to have it. For example, for several years he experimented with outsourcing all his field work to a contractor. The scheduling and organisation required for this convinced him in the end that operating his own machinery was a better option for him.