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By Staff | Apr 13, 2012

There are people who like to trade machinery frequently. I am not one of them.

My philosophy of machinery ownership is not so much that I own it; but rather I adopt it. When I do finally trade something off, there is not much left of it as it is close to worn out.

However, last week we traded in a four-wheel drive tractor that we bought new in 1979 to become the second owner of another four wheel drive that was bought new two years ago by another farmer.

To its credit, the trade-in was still a good performing tractor. Our implements had gotten bigger over the years and it’s around 300 horsepower was making it difficult to pull anything with much speed.

What did we get in the trade? Well, besides a tractor with only 400 hours of wear in place of the 33 years of use our trade-in had, we gained about 140 horsepower, maybe more.

We also gained 33 years in convenience, comfort, and general improvements. It was a good trade.

Since its delivery my son has been receiving instructions from our neighbor Doug (who is a frequent trader) about how to prepare it for use. Installing auto steer has been one of the improvements.

Over the weekend I received instructions from my son on the state of the art in auto steer. I could say this is not your grandfather’s auto steer, but my grandfather did not have auto steer. Although I understand those horses would get very good at what they were doing so he may have had something close to auto steer.

I was informed that tractors using similar brands of guidance systems can now work in the same field doing the same work and in addition to guiding the tractors, the systems communicate with each other to keep the tractors from crossing the same spot twice.

Well, of course they can. Just when you think something has been brought to the market and it has been refined as far as it can go, there is another development right behind it you never thought of that makes it even better.

I thought about what this improvement on auto steer means and realized that two (or more, probably) tractors could work up a field during the night in total darkness with their own lights off and the main job of the operators would be to stay awake.

How close are we to putting a tractor or tractors in the field and watching them operate while parked at a distance? With this concept, we no longer need an operator in each tractor.

Why limit this to tractors? Let’s put a combine in the field with the tractor with its own instructions. Now one person is operating several machines all while parked or sitting somewhere else.

Plus I bet I do not wait 33 years to see this. It is closer than we know.

Just think, if the machinery knows its position and how to go about getting its job done in the field while working with other machines, it can also inform the owner about the state of itself which would include the status of its fuel level, oil pressure, engine temperature and anything else.

The farmers of the future will not be farmers, but merely support people for the machinery out in the field, delivering fuel and playing Angry Birds or whatever becomes the popular game of the time the rest of the time.

I consider myself part of the John Deere 4020 generation when 100 horsepower tractors were big enough. How could they get any bigger and why would you want a want tractor that big?

That was so long ago we could refer to those years as BC, as in Before Cabs.

My dad grew up with horses and farmed with them while growing up. He would look at today’s tractors as both puzzling and amazing. I believe I am with my dad on this. Besides, I do not know how to play Angry Birds.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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