Farming Technology.. How it has evolved from the Horse and Plow

If you ask your grandparents about how they farmed when they were young they will more than likely tell you that they used horses and plows or plowed an 80 acre field with the ole John Deere Model A. I was born in 1994 and it wasn’t long after my birth that I was riding in the tractors with my grandpa or dad. Technology was very different back then only being 22 years ago. I still remember the story of my mom looking out our front door and seeing me go down the road in my grandpa’s old gray Ford truck following him to the field. Farming technology is something that will never change and will only keep getting better and more advanced. The days of the horse and plows were a long time ago and the new era of farming technology is here and is getting more and more precise. Technology is needed in today’s society in order to increase food production for the increasing population. In this blog I am going to talk about some of the main features of Precision Farming and how it has evolved.

Photos by Jacob Thompson

  • Auto-trac guidance made it possible for farmers to work longer hours and have less stress by letting them focus more on decisions and watching their implements in case of breakdowns. John Deere first developed hands free guidance in 1992.

Back in the day when mold board plowing was roaring, farmers guidance for a straight line was running one of the rear tractor tires in the previous pass. Then for planting everyone used markers on their planters, as some still use them today. Although some farmers still use old technology, some have adapted to new high tech updates, for example: Auto-trac guidance, row shut off clutches, VRT(variable rate technology), high speed planters, swath control for spraying, multiple variety planters, driver-less tractors. John Deeres first type of hands free auto steer was developed in the early 1990s and was accurate within a couple feet and as gotten more and more accurate since then. Today farmers can run different guidance’s for different accuracy levels, RTK,SF1 and SF2. RTK guidance is guaranteed for accuracy within an inch or two and its the highest priced and the most accurate. RTK is used most in strip-till operations, so they can plant their corn row right on top of their anhydrous ammonia row. Some of the most high tech guidance systems can cost up to $20,000. SF1 and SF2 are less accurate than RTK systems but are still very reliable.

Image result for john deere rtk  Image result for john deere row shutoff Photos by John Deere

Row shutoff technology has been very popular in the past couple years because it shuts off individual rows when the monitor detects a recently planted pass. Accuracy for row shut off can be up to 3 inches. The more accurate the more money the farmer can save by getting as much seed into his field without worrying about overlap, overlap can reduce yield and increase seed cost. Row shut off and swath control are very similar. Swath control is used mainly on sprayers to reduce overlap of chemicals. Just like row shut off on planters, overlapping when spraying can be costly as well. If you overlap when spraying you are applying more product than whats needed and you can potentially cause harm to the crop from having to much chemical. Row shutoff and swath control are very handy in fields where point rows are needed.

What would farming be like today if there wasn’t all this fancy technology that works perfectly(sarcasm). Farmers revolve their operations around technology so they are able to make better economical decisions for future applications. 40 years ago their wasn’t much technology and their yields were lower because of it. Farming technology has led to a dramatic increase in productivity and yields over the past 20 years and it will always keep getting better and also more complicated. Like they say, if farming was easy everyone would want to do it.

picture Written By:

My name is Jacob Thompson, I am a senior and have been here at WIU for all 4 years. I am from Jacksonville, Illinois and graduated from Jacksonville High School in 2013. I have a job here in Macomb working for Kelso Brothers Farms and have been there for 4 years. I also farm at home with my dad and run our own cow herd. I am the co-owner of a fencing business (Agri-Pro Fencing) as well as custom hay. My mom and dad have been very supportive of my decisions here at Western and so have my sisters who are both alumni. After I graduate in May, I hope to go home and farm as well as run the businesses and increase our Angus cow herd. My life would be completely different if I hadn’t come here 3 1/2 years ago and I’m very appreciative of the professors here as well as my friends I’ve met along the way. I hope you enjoyed reading my blog! Thank You


One thought on “Farming Technology.. How it has evolved from the Horse and Plow

  1. Joe Breece

    Great article on the evolution of farm technology Jacob! It is very interesting to think a short hundred years ago most people were using horse power and only farming 80 acres and now farmers farm several thousand acres using 200 horsepower tractors!


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