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Everything You Need to Know About Planters

It all begins with putting the seed in the ground. Seed meets soil, taps water and nutrients, and emerges to find sunlight. And, thus, the crop-growing cycle begins.

But how do you know what equipment will create the best starting conditions? There are many questions and issues to consider. It’s all about what is best for your farm, your budget, and your production goals.

New planters

If you’re in the market for a new planter, the latest models and technology were on display at the 2019 National Farm Machinery Show.

Kinze featured its new 4700, equipped with a 60-foot toolbar that plants 36 20-inch rows at speeds up to 8 mph. The planter also has a 120-bushel bulk seed tank and the capacity for 600 gallons of onboard liquid fertilizer. A cab-installed touch screen controls the planter.

Case IH has added the 2130 stack-fold planter to its Early Riser series. Billed as “high speed, high specs, and high tech,” the machine comes in five sizes and is designed for more than corn and soybeans, with features for cotton, peanut, and dry edible bean producers, as well as those who strip-till or irrigate.

The planter comes in a variety of sizes with a variety of row-spacing options, plants at speeds up to 10 mph, and has a factory-installed liquid fertilizer system.

Precision Planting options on the planter can be customized to suit a wide variety of crops and planting environments.

Selecting a seed drill

“The seed placement in the ground really is the most critical thing you can do,” says John Deere engineer Tyler Groves. To help farmers with that, Deere introduced the 60-foot 1895 No-Till Air Drill in 2018.

Being 40% wider than others in the line, the drill is designed to cover more acres in less time, up to 44 acres per hour, with more precision.

Standard 33-inch tires reduce compaction, support the 60,000-pound frame, and keep the 36 fertilizer openers and 72 seed openers in the ground, setting the stage for even emergence and high yields. Deere’s TruSet technology controls the seeder from the cab with real-time downforce feedback and blockage alerts.

Used planters can be a good option

With a new planter easily costing in the neighborhood of $300,000 and up, many producers opt for used models. Like any used equipment purchase, machine maintenance and condition matter.

In 2018, you could buy a reconditioned 2014 model for $59,000 to $72,000, but prices are on the rise, up around 10% from 2017.

When it comes to the used market, accessories impact sale value, but dealers are often slight in listing details, making it challenging if you are conducting your preliminary search online.

For those looking to sell, online may be the way to go. Online-only auctions allow sales directly from the farm, with the buyer handling transport. Most farmers have old equipment taking up space in their machine sheds, and most equipment has some value for 10 to 15 years. Smaller equipment that is no longer manufactured can be in demand for hobby farmers, and muscle tractors from the 1960s and 1970s are making a hit on the collectors’ circuit.

For some, retrofitting the old planter may be the most cost-effective way to go. Precision Planting Ready Row Units can add the improved technology you’re looking for in a planter upgrade.

It starts with a used planter with a good toolbar. According to Bryce Baker with Precision Planting, 73% of the cost of new equipment is the hardware; 27% is the new technology; most farmers already own upgradable hardware. In some examples, producers have saved $100,000 compared with the cost of a new planter.

Planter adjustments improve performance

It only takes a few planter adjustments to eliminate skips, doubles, and other planting missteps that cost money in lost yields. The first step is to define the problem as it is unique to your operation. Once that is done, the solution may be as simple as leveling the toolbar or adjusting the row cleaners so they only sweep away residue and do not churn soil.

Or, you may need to slow down. Adjust your speed, then check your planting progress.

If you are using a front-fold planter with center seed hoppers and your seed depth is inconsistent, you may need weight on the wings to make the down pressure system work properly. Making the adjustment may require some trial and error, beginning with leveling the planter in the field, and making sure the wheels are exactly centered between rows.

New planting attachments keep coming

Planter manufacturers continue to apply the latest technology to planters and planter attachments. Precision Planting has recently introduced FurrowForce and SmartDepth to its line.

Using a method that pinches the furrow closed and then “sews” it shut instead of the traditional method of forcing the soil downward, FurrowForce manages soil density and allows for improved emergence, especially in no-till environments. SmartDepth measures and uses moisture availability to determine optimal seed-planting depth.

Martin-Till has introduced prototypes of an innovative new closing wheel system that adjusts the closing wheel to soil and field conditions using a parallel linkage system. The technology helps prevent leaving an open trench when encountering a mound or when soil moisture or residue conditions change.

More advancements are on the way as farmers and equipment producers strive to use the latest technologies to gain efficiencies.

Choosing the right planter and the right planting methods will get your crop off to a good start and ensure the highest possible yields and maximum profitability for your farming operation.

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