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The History of John Deere's Planters

Tractors draw most of the attention shed on Deere’s history. Yet 40 years before the Waterloo Boy got Deere into horsepower, the company was a powerhouse in planters.

The Deere & Mansur planter (a joint venture between Charles Deere and Alvah Mansur) came to prominence soon after its launch in 1877, due to the unique Rotary Drop design, innovating the use of a horizontally operating plate to meter seed. The advance soon caught the attention of farmers, and by 1899, Deere was the largest producer of planters in the world.

By 1913, the Deere planter (the Mansur name was dropped) consisted of the No. 999, which touted the Natural Cell Fill plate that further improved seeding accuracy. Plus, the No. 999 operated with 50% fewer moving parts than competitive planters, while offering a unique foot lever that allowed the seeding rate to be changed on-the-go.

Two decades later, a variable-drop mechanism was added that let farmers change their seed-spacing distance from 5½ to 26 inches without changing plates.

The 999’s basic design remained the same for decades to come, while the rest of the industry copied its features. To differentiate itself from the market, Deere replaced the plates in 1968 with its unique finger-pickup mechanism that selected seeds one at a time to further improve accuracy.

Six years later, that advance was supported by the introduction of Tru-Vee technology. This used double-disk openers to create a uniform V-shape furrow assisted by innovative rubber depth gauge wheels. Combined with parallel lift arms that kept row units parallel to the field, the acclaimed MaxEmerge planter became the most popular row planter in the world. 

Since then, Deere has introduced an avalanche of advances, such as pneumatic downforce design (replacing downpressure springs) and cable drive lines (replacing chains). All are innovations in keeping with the spirit of the Rotary Drop’s devotion to accuracy.

Read more about John Deere's History in  100 Years of John Deere Tractors. 

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