Accuracy of GPS technology leads to an uptake in the tillage sector

GPS agriculture

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technologies are becoming increasingly popular in the tillage sector. Topcon technologist Craig England expanded on the developing role of these new technologies in the potato sector at a recent Tillage Edge podcast.

“Normally the most experienced driver, or the farm owner himself, is doing the ridging of the potatoes. This job has to be done straight and the ridges have to be even. We find that if we add a full auto steer system with Real Time Kinematic, or RTK technology, a less experienced operator can drive the tractor. The end result is a lovely even ridge bed. Meanwhile, the farm owner can get on with other, more important jobs.”

Two types of RTK systems exist – the first being a base station which sends out a radio signal. Here the farmer would bring the base station out to the field and set it up on a tripod. This would then talk to the tractor, providing 2cm accuracy for the required field work.

“This was the original version of the technology, which has been superseded by RTK NTRIP,” England explained.

“This option is now growing in popularity here in Ireland. Using it required the operator to place a sim card into the GPS system on the tractor. This is then talking to a website, which is in communication with the nearest base station on the island.”

“All these base stations have a 50-mile radius, covering the whole island. And it is this process that delivers the 2cm accuracy that is required in the field. This is a much more convenient solution,” he said.

England said that all GPS systems have access to various American, Russian and Japanese satellite systems. “They will deliver an accuracy down to 30cm. Here in Europe we also have access to another satellite system called EGNOS. This will deliver an accuracy down to 15cm.”

He added that a Precision Point Positioning (PPP) correction system can deliver even further accuracy. “This is courtesy of a single satellite located permanently above the equator,” he said. PPP can only be accessed on the back of a subscription-based payment service. Depending on their level of spend, farmers can secure accuracies in the range 4–8cm. This specific satellite is fixed in a single position at all times.”

LSL News.