Solar Storm Disrupts Some Farmers’ GPS Systems

The powerful geomagnetic storm that cast the vivid colors of the Northern Lights across the Northern Hemisphere over the weekend also caused some navigation systems on tractors and other agricultural equipment to fail at the height of the planting season, officials said. indicated suppliers and farmers.

Many farmers have come to rely on this equipment, which uses GPS and other navigation technologies and helps them plant more efficiently and accurately by keeping rows straight and avoiding gaps or overlaps. But over the weekend, some of those operations in the Midwest, as well as other parts of the United States and Canada, were temporarily halted.

In Minnesota, some farmers who had planned to spend Friday night sowing seeds were paralyzed by the outages. “I’ve never dealt with anything like this,” said Patrick O’Connor, who owns a farm about 80 miles south of Minneapolis that grows mostly corn and soybeans.

Mr O’Connor said after two weeks of rain, he got into his tractor around 5 p.m., hoping to spend the night planting corn. When he received a warning about his GPS system, he called a technical support line and was directed to a message saying there was a fault and nothing could be done about it.

In Nebraska, another farmer told 404 Media, an online publication covering technology, that his operations had been shut down. “All the tractors are currently stopped at the ends of the field due to the solar storm,” said farmer Kevin Kenney. “No GPS,” he added. “We are right in the middle of planting corn. »

Solar storms are caused by violent expulsions of charged particles from the surface of the sun. When directed toward Earth, the material can interact with our planet’s magnetic field, causing a geomagnetic storm. This weekend’s event was the strongest solar storm to reach Earth since October 2003.

Agricultural equipment suppliers had warned that the storm would cause disruption. And on Saturday, Landmark Implement, which sells John Deere agricultural equipment in parts of the Midwest, said the accuracy of some of its systems had been “extremely compromised” due to the event.

The company said in a statement that it was looking for a “tool to help us predict this in the future so we can attempt to warn our customers that this issue could arise.” He described the storm as a “historic event” rather than something that would “continue to be fought against frequently.”

Terry Griffin, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, said that while infrequent, such storms nonetheless pose a threat to agriculture in the United States, where the majority of crops are planted using modern guidance systems.

“It was the first time we had such strong geomagnetic storms, and we were dependent on GPS,” he said, noting that one of the worst times a storm like this occurred was during the planting season, when precision is required. crucial. Alternative technologies, including systems using machine vision and artificial intelligence, or a more localized navigation system that would not collapse in a solar storm, are being developed, Dr. Griffin added.

Mr. O’Connor, a Minnesota farmer, said the outage made him realize how much he depends on technology often taken for granted and that if it stops working again in the future and for a longer period he might have to “find ways to do without it.”

On Friday evening, instead of planting corn, Mr O’Connor said he prepared a different field for sowing, while admiring the “phenomenal” colors of the sky. “It interrupted my evening, but I was still on the field,” he added.

“I was able to see the Northern Lights in all their glory.”

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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