Precision cultivation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,439.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Klaas Martens
Lakeview Organic Grain

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, millet, oats, spelt, wheat


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Pest Management: cultural control, physical control, cultivation
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    In today’s challenging economic and environmental climate, it is imperative for farms to correctly balance productivity while also addressing environmental concerns. One viable solution being employed to strike this balance is to adopt and employ precision farming solutions. Organic and sustainable farms in New York State are often faced with rushes of weeds throughout the growing season. These weeds need to be treated in a timely manner to avoid yield reduction, wasteful energy consumption, and soil compaction. However, because herbicide spray cannot be used as a weed management technique as is done by conventional farming operations, organic/sustainable operations use cultivation as the main tool to eliminate weeds. One of the biggest factors in being able to cultivate efficiently is keeping the planted rows as straight and evenly spaced as possible. Straight and evenly spaced rows reduce: machinery overlap, damage to crop, energy consumption, equipment wear and tear, soil compaction, and operator fatigue. The purpose of this project is to use precision farming tools to offer an alternative, innovative solution to the current problems of cultivation practices used in organic and sustainable farming. The results of this study will evaluate precision guidance as a way to improve cultivation. The information obtain from this study will be disseminated by: writing an article in a local magazine, field days, and meeting presentations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    -Objective and Benefits-
    The objective of this project is to use precision farming tools to offer an alternative, innovative solution to the current problems of cultivation practices used in organic and sustainable farming.

    The benefits of the use of precision cultivation will be:
    • A field with evenly spaced and straight rows will speed up cultivation.
    • Increase removal of weeds by not having uneven row widths.
    • Safer cultivation since every planted row is mapped and the technology will avoid planted rows.
    • Energy savings by doing less passes in the field.
    • Driver fatigue reduction as a result of RTK auto-steer capability.
    • Soil compaction reduction by using control traffic practices.
    • Facilitate other farming practices in the field such as fertilizer and manure application.
    • Overall fewer weeds in the field will: conserve crop inputs, reduce pest refuge, reduce water consumption, and reduce weed’s seed bank.


    Two technologies that complement each other will be employed in this grant: a guidance system using the GPS satellite constellation, and a tractor compatible technology to auto-steer the tractor on an assigned path. RTK GPS is a highly accurate and repeatable guidance system. This system allows for < 2 inch accuracy and more importantly is the only system that has high repeatability. Repeatability allows the user, to return to a previous driven pass at any time in the future without position drift caused by atmospheric errors.

    RTK accuracy also permits the adoption of auto-steer technology. This technology provides vehicles or implements with automated steering and positioning in the landscape. It is useful in farming because it can reduce the overlap between passes of machines, thereby cutting down on energy and time wasted as well as expensive chemicals and fertilizers. It can also relieve drivers from the stress of driving very precisely for many hours and enables operations to continue when visibility is poor, such as at night or during dusty conditions.
    Demonstration fields will be set up in Martens farm located in Penn Yan and Geneva NY. The test plot will consist of several acres (to be determined) of planted organic crops. Half of the acreage will be planted and cultivated using RTK-GPS guidance and the other half using conventional cultivation.

    An Agrinetix, LLC (ANX) precision Ag consultant (technical advisor) along with Marten Farms will assess the chosen fields to address the best mapping pattern for the field. Then before planting, mapping of the field will be performed using RTK-GPS equipment installed in a tractor. Later, the planting tractor will be fitted with precision guidance technology consisting of an RTK-GPS receiver, mapping screen, and steering equipment. During the planting operation, the mapping screen will automatically map the field and the location of the planted rows. This data will then be saved and verified by an ANX Geographic Information System specialist. Electronic and printed files of the mapped rows will be produced for planting records. Before the first cultivation pass, the RTK-GPS technology from the planting tractor will be installed in the cultivation tractor, and then the mapped planted rows will be uploaded to the screen. The cultivating tractor will then auto-steer to remove all the weeds that are 2.5 inches away from the crop row.

    This technology will be compared to cultivation without RTK-GPS guidance and the measurable outcomes will demonstrate if the technology provides a justifiable benefit to organic and sustainable farming.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.