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The Planter of the Future is Here

“Tools of the future are already here,” says Jason Webster as he opened his session at the Tools of the Future tour. Webster, the research director for Beck’s Hybrids, spoke to farmers about the planter of the future and the technologies indicating the future isn’t far off.

High-Speed Planting
This year Precision Planting and John Deere introduced technology that will eliminate the seed tube from the planter and increase planting speeds. Precision Planting’s SpeedTube and John Deere’s brush belt trench delivery system will take gravity out of the equation and will control the seed from the meter all the way to the seed trench.

Webster believes with the new components you will be able to plant 30 to 40% faster for an efficiency improvement of 10 to 20%. So if you normally plant at 6 mph, you could expect to go 8.4 mph. Webster cautions that your speed will still be dependent on field conditions and you don’t want to sacrifice planting accuracy for speed. He recommends using a hydraulic downforce system, like DeltaForce, to ensure you have accurate down pressure at higher speeds. And he reminds farmers that planting at higher speeds will require more horsepower.

Another exciting planter innovation is multi-hybrid technology, which Webster has researched for years.

Multi-Hybrid Planting
Webster tells the story of when he started farming in 1988 and had to choose a seed hybrid for one field. The farm had varying soil types and he couldn’t decide between an offensive and defensive hybrid. The defensive hybrid would perform better on the hills, but the offensive hybrid had higher yield potential. About 25 years later, he has a solution that will allow him to plant offensive and defensive hybrids within one field.

Precision Planting and Kinze have separately introduced the concept for a multi-hybrid planter. Both bulk fill planters incorporate two electric-driven meters per row so you can switch almost instantly from Hybrid A (offensive hybrid) to Hybrid B (defensive hybrid). These designs have come a long way from the initial multi-hybrid planters.

In 2011, Webster started working on building a planter that could change hybrids on the fly. For the first few years, this could only be achieved with a twin-row planter. When electric-driven meters were introduced, this changed the multi-hybrid game. By eliminating the drive chain and clutch, two meters could be placed close enough in each row to feed one seed tube.

While the technology is nearly ready, Webster says the next step is knowing your management zones so you can effectively use a multi-hybrid planter. “We have a long way to go,” says Webster. “Farmers will need to use their yield data to identify offensive and defensive areas within each field.” Taking the time to identify these zones can provide big benefits.

In a two-year research study by Beck’s Hybrids, multi-hybrid planting resulted in a $54.24 net profit per acre and a 9.5 bushel per acre yield increase.

Webster does mention that Kinze and Precision Planting haven’t revealed prices for the new equipment, so these numbers don’t include the cost of upgrading your planter.

If you’d like to learn more about these innovative technologies, attend the Tools of the Future tour in Illinois on June 17 or Indiana on June 19. 

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