It seems like almost every day there’s a new bell or whistle that can be placed on a planter, all insuring greater performance and accuracy, but a few simple adjustments can make all the difference.

“You can buy just about anything and everything for your planters these days, including if you want to put some sweet LED’s on them,” says John Fulton, Auburn University Extension precision agriculture specialist.

“There’s a lot of new stuff coming out with planter technology, and our job is to figure out what it all means to growers, not only of grain crops but also of cotton,” he adds.

A good place to start is with the seed plate, says Fulton.

“A standard plate on a planter has a dimple that the seed falls into as it’s turning. Conceptually, that’s a pretty good idea, but that’s old technology. All of your seed are not the same size and same shape. If I’m running a standard plate, I can do a pretty good job of getting one seed per hole, but when I change a seed – going from a round to a flat or from a big to a small – I’ll start to get skips. And if you go to a small seed, there’s more of a chance of getting doubles caught in that dimple,” he says.

Multiple seed placement can be a detriment because you could be over-seeding by 5 to 10 or more percent, says Fulton. “Most growers are paying too much for their seed already to consider putting out more seed than they want to put out. In one recent test, we were over-seeding by 10 percent, routinely, when we changed seed.”

But there are options today to the standard seed plate, he says, including ones from Precision Planting and the John Deere ProMax 40.

“Today, we have a Precision Planting cotton plate. It has more of a flat face rather than a dimple. A John Deere ProMax 40 set-up also has a flat plate. The hole is flat, and that tells us that no matter the size of the seed, or the shape of the seed, a flat plate is a lot more forgiving than a standard plate. A flat plant will put out a seed every time with very minimal skips and multiples.

We haven’t done any hill-drop planting studies in three years, so we’re working with a single-drop in our cotton planting research here," he said.

If you’re using a Precision Planting plate, and you’re using them on corn and then planting hill-drop on cotton, you’ll need two meters, says Fulton. “We’re planting anywhere from a little over 3 miles per hour to 6 miles per hour, looking at the factor speed plays in planting.”