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10 Tips for High-Speed Planting

Is this the year you put the pedal to the medal on your planter? With new planting technology you can double your current planting speed, up to 10 mph.

Experts say planting at 10 mph allows you to plant 40% more acres per day, depending on the fields. That means more of your crop gets planted in the planting window - and you have more bushels to harvest in the fall.

Until a few years ago, you were limited to 5 mph planting. In 2014, John Deere and Precision Planting separately made the announcement that new technology would allow you to plant twice as fast.

At John Deere’s introduction at the National Farm Machinery Show, farmers rushed to look at the new ExactEmerge planter the moment it was revealed. While most farmers were excited about the prospect of high-speed planting, they were also skeptical. They asked the questions, “Is 10 mph planting possible? Or is it just a marketing ploy?”

Mark Fehr, Tremont, Illinois, had the opportunity to test Precision Planting’s SpeedTube, a flighted belt that replaces the traditional seed tube and enables faster planting speeds, for the entire 2014-planting season. “I was skeptical at first about high-speed planting, because we have to get the planting right,” says Fehr. “If you mess that up, you fight it the whole season.”

By the end of planting, Fehr was a believer. “As I went through the season, I gained more confidence,” he says. “It worked perfectly for me.” Fehr started at 5 mph, eventually trying out 11 mph, although for most of the season he stuck in the 7 to 8 mph range. To prove it worked, Fehr ran two planters, one with SpeedTube and one without, side-by-side in a field. “When we harvested it this fall, there was virtually no yield difference,” he explains. “The area planted with the SpeedTube planter actually had better seed placement than the other planter.”

Jason Schildroth, Reinbeck, Iowa, tried out John Deere’s ExactEmerge planter on about 40 acres last spring. “I wouldn’t call it a concern,” he says. “But I was very interested in finding out how fast I could go, and what the seed would look like in the ground when I was done.”

While Schildroth wasn’t able to test the new technology as long as Fehr, he had similar results. “It went very well,” he says. “When the field emerged, it was pretty much picket fence.” Schildroth also started out at 5 mph, progressed to 7 ½, and then was quickly pushing 10.

What Fehr and Schildroth discovered was that high-speed planting did work on their farms. It helped them get their crop planted in the optimum planting window. “We gear up to plant within five days,” explains Fehr. “After that optimum window, you start to lose yield.”

Both farmers also learned that you need to make some adjustments to make high-speed planting work. Whether you’re running a high-speed planter this spring, planning on investing on one for next year, or may not upgrade for years to come, the list below will help you prepare and make the most of high-speed planting technology.

  1. Set speed based on conditions
  2. Watch down pressure
  3. Focus on soil prep
  4. Size up your tractor
  5. Adjust fertilizer application
  6. Check planter attachments
  7. Be ready for potential maintenance
  8. Prepare for increased seed handling
  9. Add a headland pass
  10. Update tech

Pricing information

For an ExactEmerge planter, you pay about $3,386 more per row than you would for the MaxEmerge5. For a 24-row planter, that’s $81,272 more retail for the ExactEmerge option. SpeedTube comes at about $1,000 per row depending on the planter configuration. That’s $24,000 for a 24-row planter. 

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