Growing root crops in rows and beds means that working straight and maintaining predetermined lines offers the greatest efficiency and optimum yields.
But in practice, preparing soil, planting and harvesting of root crops such as potatoes and onions involves multiple implements and tractors, often working on variable and sloping land, which presents a steering challenge.
Steering systems In addition, passive steering systems, which require the tractor to steer slightly out of the row on a side slope to ensure the implement – such as a cereal drill – tracks straight, are by the nature of row and bed systems, not suitable.
Root crop machinery specialist Scanstone has been fitting steering systems to its stone separators for several years, but upgrades to John Deere software and collaboration with precision ag specialists in Deere’s dealer network has now made the process simpler, quicker and more versatile.
Specialist Ripon Farm Services (RFS) precision agriculture specialist Jack Forman says: “We can supply a steering kit with a controller which can be swapped quickly and easily between implements.
“We work closely with the implement manufacturer to ensure the system is properly integrated.
It is now an active, implement-based steering system, rather than being tractor-based, which means the GreenStar system will steer the tractor and the implement independently of each other along the same guidance line.”
The system has also been adapted to work with multiple tractor brands and older John Deere models.
Latest versions can use a tractor-integrated selective control valve as the control source, which can communicate with the controller on the implement, while a standalone valve is needed for older and third-party tractors.
An application controller is fitted on the implement in a protective polycarbonate box and linked forwards to the tractor and backwards to the receiver on the implement frame and to a steering sensor on the axle.
Accuracy Once initially installed, the implement is stored as a ‘profile’ in the control software for a quick changeover on subsequent fitting.
The RTK signal is picked up by the receiver on the tractor and transmitted to the receiver on the implement, eliminating the need for the second receiver to be unlocked to full RTK accuracy.
Field position is established and the tractor and destoner are steered according to the guidance lines from field maps sent via the MyJohnDeere portal, either from another tractor or direct from the John Deere Operations Center application in the farm office.
Scanstone destoners are now supplied ‘steering ready’, and older versions can be upgraded; Kitchen Garden Produce (see case study) has had the system fitted to 2019 and 2018 models, as well as to a 2004 Jones Engineering windrower.
In addition to increasing the accuracy and thus potential output for two-row systems, it also offers growers the potential for expansion, making matching up for a four-row harvester much simpler, says Stephen Hesledon, Scanstone (Brigg) service specialist.
Partnership RFS is looking to expand the service to other machines and is already working with Chafer sprayers.
Mr Forman works closely with the implement suppliers using the relevant components from both sides of the partnership to build up and install the system.
He also offers technical support, including via John Deere’s Remote Display Access, which allows technicians to view the tractor terminal remotely.
He says: “Updates to John Deere’s Operations Center make the support of such systems, as well as monitoring by farm managers, so much simpler and more effective.
“But we also offer in-field backup to set up and operate the steering.”
A John Deere steering system complete with second SF1 receiver is priced at around £8,000