GPS Makes Drainage Work More Precise – for Jul. 25, 2011

I can remember hearing a farmer complain he had spent a very frustrating day trying to figure out why the water wouldn’t run downhill in his newly dug drainage ditches. The answer was obvious. His ditches didn’t run downhill. He finally figured that out. As funny as that incident seems, it highlights how difficult it can be to “eyeball” drainage runs.

As it has in so many other ag applications, GPS has taken the guesswork out of creating drainage systems in the field. Using RTK technology, Trimble’s AgGPS FieldLevel II System is designed to run on any tractor-mounted Trimble FmX display, which means there is no need to add another monitor to already-cluttered cabs. “That’s one of our market advantages,” says Chris van der Loo, product manager for Trimble Water Management.

“The FieldLevel II module for the FmX display can be independently purchased,” adds van der Loo. “We would provide a password at a cost that would give you all the FieldLevel II functionality for the FmX display. FieldLevel II has all the water management applications, so it’s not just drainage, it’s levelling and levee marking as well.”

And farmers can expand on that capability with Trimble’s Surface software package, which is an analysis and design tool that helps producers place ditches or drain tile in the best locations. It creates 3D views of a field to help in the process by displaying watershed boundaries, flow arrows, contours, and tributary paths. Drainage lines can be drawn over the map to create a profile which makes it easier to decide if the placement of ditches follows the best possible route. It will also calculate how much pipe and other material is required to complete a job.

The finished drainage plan can be transferred directly to the FmX display in the tractor to get the work done. To further automate that process, Trimble offers a hydraulic control valve option which enables GPS control of a scraper or other ditching implement. These are called platform kits and cost up to US$2,995. The system plugs into the CAN bus at the back of the tractor, so it is a quick installation without requiring a mechanic to plumb into complex circuits.

It doesn’t matter what make of tractor or type of ditching implement a producer wants to use. “We can pretty well control any vehicle and Water Management implement combination,” notes van der Loo. FieldLevel II interfaces directly with the three major manufacturers, AGCO, CNH and John Deere without the need for external hydraulic valves. Platform kits are also available for other vehicles with the use of an external valve.

If a farmer already uses a Trimble system, the cost of adding the Surface software package is only US$1,850. For an additional fee, Trimble also offers an end-user technical support service to help operators solve any problems they encounter.

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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