|LINDSAY, KAREN - University Of Arkansas
|POPP, MICHAEL - University Of Arkansas
Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/4/2018
Publication Date: 8/10/2018
Citation: Lindsay, K.R., Popp, M.P., Ashworth, A.J., Owens, P.R. 2018. A decision - Support system for analyzing tractor guidance technology. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 153:115-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compag.2018.08.014.
Interpretive Summary: Precision agriculture technologies can assist producers by improving yields, reducing fertilizer and poultry litter inputs, enhancing field speed, and thereby optimizing the efficiency of machinery and tractor operators. Although, it is widely unknown at what farm size, crop type, field shape and terrain (slope and field irregularity), and equipment type results in the quickest technology pay off. Therefore, researchers developed a decision-support software called Tractor Guidance Analysis (TGA) that performs partial budgeting to answer such questions. This tool summarizes effects of tractor guidance technology on user-specified farm operations and quantifies resulting environmental impacts from reduced poultry litter, seed, and fertilizer inputs. With cheaper equipment, efficiency gains are smaller and thereby greater acreage is required to offset annual TG costs. However, environmental impacts follow a different trend, considering the use of poultry litter on hay increased the carbon footprint and; hence savings with TG technology were greater under commercial fertilizer applications, albeit with row crops only. Environmental impact assessment is thereby quite enterprise and input-use specific. Should a producer be incentived to reduce emissions, crop choices with greater environmental footprint will promote the investment in TG technology, although the impact would be minimal at current prices traded in carbon markets.
Technical Abstract: A Decision-support software called Tractor Guidance Analysis (TGA) was developed to assist small-scale crop and livestock producers, consultants, and extension personnel with assessing the viability of auto-steer tractor guidance to improve yields, reduce inputs, enhance field speed, and thereby enhance the efficiency of machinery and tractor operators. Using the Microsoft Excel® software platform, TGA implements default efficiency gain observations from the USDA-ARS Booneville, AR Small Farm Research Center or uses efficiency changes from existing literature to provide a decision-support tool that performs partial budgeting and breakeven analyses. Consequently, this tool summarizes effects of tractor guidance technology on user-specified farm operations on a whole-farm basis, such as, at what level of annual use will the technology pay off with changeable equipment when producing various field and forage crops, suppressing weeds, and under various nutrient management regimes? TGA allows for users to quantify technology-driven changes in fertilizer, fuel, seed, labor, and chemical inputs to operation-specific circumstances leading to an estimate of the profitability of tractor guidance, sensitivity analyses, and potential environmental impacts.