Unless you look closely the back of Dennis Carnahan's John Deere air seeder he uses to plant soybeans, it may look like the back of any other John Deere air seeder. But if you take a closer look, you'll notice a small, rectangular black device attached securely atop one of the brace bars on the rig. What in the world could it be?
"It's a camera," Dennis Carnahan says. He and his son, John, were installing the camera system when we stopped by last week. It sends a picture to the cab. In fact, it sends a regular picture, and also lets you view what you would see as if it was a mirror. The image is displayed on the precision farming Greenstar III control box in the cab. There's no need for another box or another display screen to see what the camera sees.
"This system appealed to me because I like to keep things simple, and I don't like a bunch of screens cluttering up the cab," Carnahan says. Dale and his brother, Ross, have farmed for nearly four decades. John joined them recently, after graduating from college.
Dennis wanted the camera in the first place because he's tired of taking what amounts to unnecessary risk when he transports his equipment. Because of where their land is located, he sometimes finds himself going down Highway 50, a major road in the area, forced to make a left-turn across traffic to get to where he needs to be.
"With the camera giving me a wide view behind me, I hope I can pick up those coal trucks barreling up behind me," he says, in all seriousness. Tractor accidents on the road have been on the increase recently. Several incidents reported to and passed on from Bill Field, Purdue University's farm safety specialist, have occurred when farmers have attempted to make left turns, and vehicles not knowing they're going to turn into a road, driveway or field went around them to pass, only to either cause an accident or near accident.
Adding a camera isn't the only thing the Carnahans have done to try to improve their odds of traveling safely on the roads. Borrowing a page from farmers and equipment makers in Europe, they have added rotating lights on the top of tractor, combine and sprayer cabs.
'It just seems like the rotating light draws more attention," Carnahan says.
"People don't seem to pick up the flashing lights nearly as quick."