Precision in the Potato Fields

The John Deere tractor trundles across a dusty brown field at 3 mph, planting potato pieces every eight inches, in a perfectly straight line under a perfectly blue sky.

At the end of the row, Jeff Merrill grabs the steering wheel, punches a red button on a computer touchscreen and turns the tractor, which continues down a line kept true by satellites 12,000 miles overhead. The global positioning system driving the tractor could keep it going in a straight line ”all around the world,” Merrill says.

”You think driving a tractor is just that,” says Merrill, who’s worked for Green Thumb Farms for five years. ”Now you just get in and make sure the computer is driving it where it should be. Takes a lot of work out of it, that’s for sure.”

The GPS system allows workers to plant the potatoes with sub-inch accuracy — as each row stretches across the field, it won’t vary left or right by more than an inch. Another computerized system puts the tuber pieces exactly eight inches apart, at exactly the same depth. The whole system is called ”precision agriculture.”

Read the full article at the Portland Press Herald… Click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *