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Tricked-Out Planter Enables More Accurate Planting
Some might question the sanity of taking a brand-new John Deere DB60 planter with 20-inch spacing and scrapping half the components, including the seed meters, seed tubes, and row cleaners, then replacing them with aftermarket systems. However, Mitchell Corbin and his son, Larry Farr, who farm around 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans near Mound City, Missouri, have the figures to quickly silence any scoffers.
“The first-year payoff came primarily from the Precision Planting eSet seed meters and the electric drives with individual row shutoffs,” he says, noting that the automatic implement guidance on his planter was equally valuable. “We had ordered seed based on our normal use, but when we finished, we took back enough seed to pay for all the extra components we had added.
“About 80% of our fields are in the hills and terraced, so we have a lot of point rows. Having row clutches that automatically shut off by the row, based on a map and GPS signal, is invaluable,” he says.
Corbin says having GPS guidance on the tractor and planter also reduced overlap to a negligible factor. Prior to purchasing the 36-row, 20-inch planter five years ago, he says he figured on a 12% to 15% overlap with their previous 12-row, 30-inch unit. Now, he says, the overlap with their 60-foot planter is less than 3%.
“Between automatic guidance and the row clutches, the system is so accurate now that, if the field calls for 102 bags of seed, we better not open the 103rd bag until we know we need it,” he says. “Since then, we’ve added even more components, including WaveVision seed tubes, AirForce downforce control, CleanSweep row cleaners, seed firmers, and special closing wheels to reduce sidewall compaction.”
Each piece, he insists, has contributed to better seed singulation, better depth control, and improved seed spacing. The downforce system, for example, is constantly adjusting down pressure, which has typically ranged from 50 pounds all the way to 300.
“Before we had this system, we used to set down pressure at around 250 pounds, go to the field, and run it that way all day long,” Corbin recalls. “Now, we’re seeing much more even emergence. We want to see every seedling out of the ground within a 48-hour time period.
“We’ve experienced similar success with the 20/20 system and the WaveVision seed tubes, which tell us exactly what is happening with the planter,” he continues. “It has shown us things we would have never known otherwise. If it says we’re throwing doubles, we’re probably planting doubles. It’s also revealed subtle differences in the way different hybrids and seed size affect planting accuracy.”
The biggest payoff, he insists, has been from the venture into variable-rate seeding, which began two years ago. “We have over nine years of yield data, and we’ve conducted electrical conductivity tests on all the fields to determine soil types,” he continues. “In fact, we have so much data, it’s been overwhelming. We hired a third party to analyze the data and to create the variable-rate maps.”
Because most fields contain a minimum of three soil types that change throughout the field, seed rates on corn range from 36,000 to 41,000 seeds per acre in the 20-inch rows.
“We’ve had record yields the last couple of years, and I attribute a lot of that to variable-rate seeding,” he says, noting that they also variable-rate much of their fertilizer.
“The changes we made in the first year alone, after going to 20-inch rows and adding the Precision Planting components, resulted in a 12-bushel-per-acre increase. Now, with all the other additions, plus variable-rate applications, we’re seeing yields that are 20 to 30 bushels above the previous norm.
“I never dreamed when Dad was still alive and farming that I’d ever see yields like we’ve had in these hills,” Corbin says.