The recent solar storm wreaked havoc on precision agriculture tech

Space weather has a notorious history of disrupting GPS and communication systems, and this weekend, farmers are bearing the brunt of these challenges. According to 404 Media, heightened solar activity in recent days has caused GPS navigation systems, essential for guiding modern tractors from brands like John Deere, to experience outages. While this technology has enabled farmers to plant with remarkable precision, ensuring ultra-tight, straight rows, they’ve been advised to temporarily halt its use due to the risk of inaccuracies that could wreak havoc during harvesting.

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John Deere’s tractors are linked to Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) systems, as reported by 404, facilitating precision planting down to the centimetre level. However, without their usual accuracy, farmers face the prospect of rows not aligning as anticipated when it’s time to tend and harvest the crops, cautioned Landmark Implement, owner of some John Deere dealerships, speaking to 404 Media.

The timing couldn’t be worse, as it’s the peak planting season for corn. One Nebraska farmer, Kevin Kenney, lamented to 404, “All the tractors are sitting at the ends of the field right now shut down because of the solar storm.” Many farms have had to pause planting operations, while others are forging ahead, hoping for the best despite the disruptions.

The current geomagnetic storm ranks as the most intense observed in the last two decades, reaching G5 levels on Friday and Saturday morning, classified as “extreme.” Although it has somewhat subsided to G4/G3 levels, forecasts suggest a resurgence on Sunday evening when slower-moving coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun are expected to impact Earth. While this may offer an opportunity to witness the northern lights, for those reliant on technology affected by the storm, it spells further challenges for their livelihoods.