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Precision Planting’s New Seed Firmer Features Real-Time Sensor

The SmartFirmer measures organic matter, residue, and soil moisture. Beta testing begins this year.

Variable-rate seeding just got a lot more realistic for those of you who may be reluctant to spend the extra time and energy currently needed to get started with the practice. 

The SmartFirmer by Precision Planting functions as a seed firmer regularly would, but it’s equipped with an optical sensor that can measure organic matter, residue, and soil moisture while you drive through the field planting. In real time, you can map out the different zones of productivity in your fields through Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense system and view it in high definition on the Climate FieldViewTM app.

“You can pay $10 an acre to get comparable information from other systems, but this technology would be a dramatically lower cost difference,” says Dale Koch, Precision Planting R&D product manager.

A sensor this advanced has been in the works at Precision Planting for a couple years, and the team hopes to have the product in your hands by spring of 2018, assuming this year of beta testing goes well. 

“We’re eager to show how we’ll have the ability to not only sense organic matter on-the-go, but also to control planter population on-the-go,” says Koch.

For those of you with the 20/20 SeedSense operating system and Precision Planting’s row control modules already on your planters, you can easily transition to game-changing SmartFirmers when they become available for purchase. They’re made to fit exactly the way the company’s Keeton firmers fit, the only difference being a small electrical harness that needs attached. Updating 20/20 SeedSense to be able to handle the new technology should only take a few minutes.

By showing exactly how much residue is in the furrow, you can adjust row cleaners to do a better job as you plant. Residue is one of the leading causes of delayed emergence and improper root growth. “I believe measuring the residue in the furrow will shine some light on different methods for tillage and incorporating residue,” says Cory Muhlbauer, agronomy lead at Precision Planting.

Being able to see just how much moisture varies – even row by row – should be eye-opening, as well. 

“It is the first time technology will allow you to see exactly what the seed’s available moisture is on every row of the planter throughout the day,” says Muhlbauer.

The company’s recommendation is to have a SmartFirmer in every furrow as you plant to get an inch-by-inch analysis of daily furrow quality, but Precision Planting will also test out planters with only one or a few of the SmartFirmers to see if you can still get a clear sense of what’s happening in the soil without investing in a full set of firmers. 

Precision Planting hopes that having high-resolution zones already mapped out after planting will encourage you to apply that existing, accurate data to your tillage practices, fertilizer applications, and more.

Unlike the company’s Keeton firmers, the SmartFirmer has a bottom made of cobalt, which should extend its life compared with the standard firmers made of poly that are typically replaced every couple years depending on usage. The SmartFirmers can also apply starter fertilizer, like the Keeton firmers do. 

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