The tractor weaves to ride the field's dips and rises while perfectly hugging the row previously cut by its black-clawed tiller, creating a seamless pattern of turned soil. But the person in the cab has nothing to do with this precision. Aided by a computer and a Global Positioning System a constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites the vehicle is driving itself.
All the farmer has to do is turn the tractor around when it reaches the end of the field.
The use of technology has increased in the past few years as farmers try to cut costs to compensate for relatively stagnant crop prices. Infrared sensors control how much fertilizer is applied. Retinal imaging tracks cattle. On the horizon, perhaps, are tomato-picking robots.
Experts estimate that up to 15 percent of farmers now have GPS precision-controlled tractors or combines, which first began hitting the fields in the late 1990s.
"It's the difference between making money and not making money," said Dave Mowitz, machinery and technology editor for Successful Farming, a national farm publication based in Des Moines, Iowa.
Farmers are going High-Tech also!