PLOWS AND GPS. When I was in graduate school fifty years ago, a friend I admired was both a graduate student and responsible for the family farm. He said that a third party could be hired to do most jobs around the farm, but that he always flew back to do the plowing because it was so important to get right. Robert Samuelson had an article in the Washington Post which describes some of the remarkable things that tractors can do nowadays (link via Realclearpolitics). Samuelson describes a $350,000 John Deere tractor pulling a $150,000 Deere corn planter. The tractor is guided by GPS, which makes for straighter rows. (I could never have imagined fifty years ago that the rows in a field could be guided by satellite.) The planter plants 24 rows of seeds, and the flow of the seeds is adjusted for each soil type. I note that Samuelson describes the farmer as operating the tractor. I wonder if there are still some tasks that a farmer will prefer to do himself.

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