John Deere highlights advancements in planting technology at CES 2021

As the first two-row planter for use with a tractor, the Model 290 Check Row was considered the latest in precision planting when it was introduced by John Deere in 1941. With the ability to plant 30 acres per day, the planter was a combination of well-known and new advances. 

“The familiar check row system required the farmer to stretch a length of wire across the field. The wire, which had knots in it at regular intervals, would pass through a drop mechanism on the planter,” says Neil Dahlstrom, Branded Properties and Heritage Manager at John Deere. “As the planter moved across the field, the knot would trigger the drop and deposit the seed. It replaced having an operator sitting on the planter to pull the drop lever.”

The implement also featured a built-in powerlift, which was controlled by a rope attached to the tractor seat, to lift and lower the planting units and markers. With its ability to plant at five miles per hour, the 290 planter was considered high speed at the time, and increased productivity by 33% over previous models. 

John Deere 290 planter

With a price tag of around $350, the popular planter model, which is pictured to the right, remained in Deere’s line for more than 30 years, partially because of its versatility. 

“Seed plates could be switched out to plant hybrid corn, sweet corn, soybeans, sorghum, peas, among other crops,” Dahlstrom says.

In the 70 years since the Model 290’s debut, the planter has evolved into a massive and sophisticated technological tool. Yet, many outside agriculture have no idea the level of technology farmers employ to precisely place a seed in the ground. What better place to tell the story of how technology and agriculture are intersecting than at the world’s largest technology event.

“Farmers are trying to raise plants in an open-air environment exposed to many variables that are out of their control. Technology gives them the ability to control some of those variables,” says Than Hartsock, Global Director of Corn and Soybean Production Systems for John Deere. “CES gives us the opportunity to bring that story to the masses.”

Showcasing Every Aspect of the Growing Season

This year marks the third year Deere has attended CES. In its first year, the company focused on harvest and the technology in the combine. 

“We talked about tools like Combine Advisor and how we’re adding sensors and capabilities to a combine that make it smarter, so no grain is left behind,” he says. “Last year we talked about smart spraying and how Blue River’s See & Spray technology, with its cameras and artificial intelligence, will drive plant-level management.”

Because CES went virtual in 2021, John Deere took 50 technology reporters to the farm through a hands-on experiment and virtual reality. 

Each reporter was sent a corn seed, a soybean seed, cotton seed, dirt, and planting instructions. “The idea was to show him or her what it’s like to grow a plant. Now imagine if you were a farmer doing that with millions of seeds across thousands of acres,” Hartsock says.

In addition, a computer generated simulation provided a unique perspective on how a crop is planted and the technology integrated into the machine. Outfitted with virtual reality goggles, the reporters were taken into a soil pit to learn about the importance of uniform spacing and seed depth. 

“The most interesting part of the experience is when a 1775NT ExactEmerge planter plants over top of you,” Hartsock says. 

Equipped with 300 sensors and 140 controllers, the planter makes a pass in slow motion first to show how each row unit consistently delivers the seed to the soil. Planting 100 seeds per second, it then makes another pass at 10 mph. "With a configuration like this, it’s not unheard of to plant 400 to 500 acres in a day," he says. The list price for the 16-row 1775NT ExactEmerge planter featured at CES is priced at $305,204.

It’s an amazing transformation from the Model 290 that planted 30 acres a day 70 years ago. And Hartsock says the runway of opportunity to continue refining planter performance is still long.

“For example, we can look at how the planter deals with varying conditions as it moves across a field. We want it to be able to sense its local environment. What does each row unit see? What adjustments can it make in real time to ensure that seed has the best chance at germination?” he says. “While it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come, it’s also exciting to think about the opportunities ahead for integrating more technology that will drive higher yields and lower costs, so farmers are more profitable.”

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