Planter technology helps maximize profitability

As a farmer and seed dealer, Jeff Olson knows the value of getting the most from each seed.

As a way to maximize productivity, Olson, who farms near Madison, Minnesota, has used variable-rate planting technology for several years.

“For me, it’s a better way to use resources,” says Olson. “I farm some fields with hills and sandy soil that tend to run out of moisture. With variable rate, I can reduce plant populations in those areas and increase them on good soil.”

Technologies to help farmers maximize their productivity are becoming increasingly advanced and refined.

Because getting soybeans and other crops off to a good start is vital, equipment manufacturers are paying serious attention to planter technology.

Technology times are changing

“Looking back, a significant portion of our early planter advancements were in iron and steel,” says Phil Jennings, service manager for Kinze Manufacturing. “The last five-to-ten years, changes have been predominantly in control technology.”

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Control technology is equipping farmers to maximize every acre.

“Customers realize that if their planter isn’t doing the best job, it’s hurting their yield potential,” says Case IH Planter Marketing Manager Tony McClelland.

McClelland says many of the advancements made to the Case IH line of planters have come about from a desire to simplify the machine and reduce mechanical components.

Favoring more reliable electric-meter drives, Case has gotten rid of many sprockets and bearings for each row unit. This technology delivers more precise seed-delivery control.

“Increasing reliability and reducing maintenance improves farmer productivity,” McClelland adds.

Efficiency leads to profitability

New innovations in planting machinery give farmers the ability to maximize their productivity. For example:

  • In-cab controls allow farmers to make a multitude of adjustments to the planter without stopping.
  • Residue managers can be adjusted to give either more or less flotation depending upon the field conditions.
  • New speed-adjusted vacuum controls ensure that the planter maintains proper seeding rates, regardless of ground speed.
  • A down-pressure system controls each row unit for optimum seed placement in varying soil types or conditions.

“Very consistent control is important to get a uniform depth so seeds can germinate and emerge uniformly,” McClelland says. “Getting plants up evenly at the same time maximizes yield potential.”

Planter technology may put more control in farmers’ hands, but it has to make sense.

“Farming is a business, so it’s important to look at the return on investment,” says Jennings.

Kinze was the first manufacturer to offer a multi-hybrid planter. Each row unit contains two electric drive meters, each connected to a different seed tank that can be filled with a different variety.

“Farmers can switch on the fly and not miss a seed,” Jennings says. “You can put the optimal genetics in a particular zone.”

More innovation to come

Jennings says Kinze has several years of research showing a nearly eight-bushel-per-acre increase in corn yield just by using hybrids matched to specific zones within a field. Preliminary results are equally promising for soybeans.

The technology could also be used to place treated soybean seeds in areas of the field where they would be most beneficial.

Manufacturers are working to develop the next generation of technologies that can increase control and productivity even more.

Jennings says Kinze’s product innovation center works to deliver what he calls “disruptive innovations” that grow profitability. That could include such cutting-edge technologies as self-driving planters.

Farmers can anticipate even more improvements becoming available in the future.

For farmers like Olson, new technology allows him to maximize productivity and get the most out of his inputs.

“It’s about putting the resources where I need them,” Olson says.

McClelland expects to see further advancements in variable-rate fertilizer placement among planter improvements. The ability to plant successfully at higher speeds is also likely to be developed.

Regardless of what comes next, the focus remains on helping farmers get the most from their fields.

“Putting seed in the ground properly is critical,” McClelland says. “Having a planter that performs perfectly is important to farmers.”