“There’s a cost to it, so you have to weigh the benefits between managing down-force across the whole planter, or individually managing each row with hydraulics. That’s why it’s important to go ahead and start recording your down-force data.”

Research has shown about a 10 to 15-bushel difference in managing down-force automatically versus trying to guess it yourself, says Pace.

Uniform depth in planting, he says, allows for uniform emergence. “It’s a matter of managing that plant throughout the year. Uniform emergence helps us with uniform ear placement and uniform-size ears, and that’ll give you more yield potential.”

An Illinois study showed that a corn plant located next to a runt, or one that’s two or three collars behind, produces more grain, says Pace.

“But if you look at the average of those plots versus the average of a uniform stand, there was about a 25-bushel advantage in having uniform emergence versus uneven emergence.”

While there have been a lot of advances in planter technology, he says, it still boils down to looking at seed tube data. However, it’s easier now to do something with that data.

“With variable rate planting, the only thing you’re doing is adding a drive, be it hydraulic or electric. We get a lot smoother performance with these new motors, fewer issues with your meter and vibration, and not as many problems with population.


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 “Standard transmission settings are guidelines, and sometimes they aren’t accurate.”

Variable-rate technology means identifying two different zones — a higher management zone and a lower management zone, says Pace.

“We’re talking about varying that rate automatically from the tractor, so I can plant a different population in each zone. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish. We get better spacing, better sunlight utilization, and better yield.

“The future is variable-rate seeding, and one of your suppliers will approach you about the ability of prescription planting with a variable rate.

“If you’re looking to invest in a new planter or trade in your old one, make the investment in hydraulic or electric drives so you can apply prescription planting rates that match up with soil type and other data. It has become easier for growers to plant variable-rate prescriptions.”

Growers, however, shouldn’t expect to automatically save money on seed with variable-rate planting, cautions, Pace.

“You’ll find yourself starting to push your land. So unless you have a water issue, where you want to drop rates outside a center pivot, you probably won’t save money on seed.”

Pace urges farmers to invest money in the most important factor on their farm – the planter. “This technology won’t be cheap, but it pays off, and you’ll do better than the average.”

Tomorrow: Planter Management for Peak Performance


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