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Tractor guidance improves production efficiency by reducing overlaps and gaps

Tulsi P. Kharel, Amanda J. Ashworth, Aaron Shew, Michael P. Popp, Phillip R. Owens
Agricultural & environmental letters 2020 v.5 no.1 pp. e20012
agricultural mechanization, agricultural productivity, fertilizer application, financial economics, input output analysis, precision agriculture, sprayers, spraying, tractors
Tractor guidance (TG) systems presumably improve agricultural production efficiencies by reducing overlaps and gaps during field operations. However, replicated field studies that calculate TG gains are limited but necessary to estimate efficiencies on small farms (82% of U.S. producers). We applied fertilizer with a wheel spreader and herbicides with a boom sprayer on six and four fields, respectively, with and without TG. This study developed novel postprocessing methodology to calculate spatial coverage efficiency from TG systems. Overlap and gap estimation was implemented using the individual pass polygon method (IPPM). We propose a correction factor to adjust biased estimation of overlap area by IPPM. Results from IPPM suggest TG systems reduced overlaps (up to 6% of field area) and gaps (up to 16%) during field operations and improved overall efficiency up to 20%. Consequently, TG systems lead to reduced input use and in‐field operation time, as well as improved equipment efficiency, leading to potential economic and environmental savings for small‐scale producers.