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Precision Planting Unveils Newest Products

Ag technology innovator Precision Planting announced the release of its latest products last week. Over 4,500 farmers from 32 states participated in Winter Conference 2018. Midwest farmers gathered at the company’s Tremont, Illinois, headquarters, while others watched via simulcast from five other locations.

Although ownership of the technology company has been in the headlines over recent years, general manager Brad Arnold assured attendees Precision Planting remains focused on innovation. In July 2017 AGCO bought Precision Planting from The Climate Corporation after a 2015 agreement to sell to John Deere was terminated.

20|20 Display

At the conference, availability of a new 20|20 monitor was announced, a product the company first developed 10 years ago. The device displays data in real time and is compatible with other Precision Planting technologies including vDrive, DeltaForce, and the new SmartFirmer.

“Everything we do interacts through this display,” explains Justin Kauffman, North American sales lead.

The new touch screen display shows operators maps and data while moving through the field. The thin, mountable monitor is connected to the display base module by a single cord. The power, implement, and GPS/Radar plug into the display base module.

Customizable views allow operators to prioritize the data they want to see. A 10-inch display is available for the 2018 planting season. A 16-inch display, offering 225% more space than the previous generation, is in beta. This size can be utilized in both horizontal and vertical orientation. Either sizes of displays can be combined to show multiple screens of data at a time.

SmartFirmer

Combined with the display capabilities of the 20|20, SmartFirmer lets corn and soybean farmers see furrow conditions as they plant like never before. The firmer fitted with specialized sensors measures organic matter, moisture, residue, and soil temperature.

“For the first time, we’ve got actual eyes in the furrow. It's going to be exciting,” Kauffman says.

Commercial agronomist Jason Webster says this wealth of information, without making an extra pass in the field, may be exactly what some farmers need to begin adopting variable-rate practices. Management zones can be determined using the high-definition maps the unit produces.

"We've surveyed growers for quite a few years now, and we've found that only 20% to 25% of growers are actually doing variable rate, whether it is seed or it's fertilizer,” says Webster. “When it comes to varying seed, whether it’s population or genetics, those zones have been the hurdle. Now that we have zones from SmartFirmer, and now that we have technology like mSet, I do believe it is going to change the game. That 20% to 25% of growers who are doing it today, that's probably going to get to 50% or 60% in a very short term because we're making this easier."

Marketing lead, Bryce Baker echoes, “SmartFirmer is a gateway to variable-rate practices.”

Soil Moisture

With SmartFirmer’s row-by-row soil moisture data, farmers can adjust to the appropriate planting depth on-the-fly. Keeping seeds in the moisture encourages consistent germination and emergence, translating to higher yield.

"The moisture is probably the biggest factor for me,” says Mark Schleder, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer from Illinois. He is considering adding SmartFirmer to his planter. “I basically know where my organic matter is sitting. But the moisture – I never know. That’s a year-to-year, field-to-field, acre-to-acre thing. If I can get that down to a science where I can actually place that seed in the right zone, in moisture, it’s a big advantage."

Organic Matter

The sensor-equipped seed firmer also detects organic matter. Its high-definition organic matter map can be used to determine yield-maximizing plant population, hybrid selection, and fertility programs.

The ability to sense organic matter is critical for Webster. "I look at some of the farms I have and some of the farms my customers have. We haven’t been able to do a good job of tracking variability. What I mean by variability is, I want to locate my best soils on the farm vs. my poorer soils. I want to know what the variability is. Is it just water-holding capacity? Is it cation exchange capacity? What is it? Then, more importantly, where is it at in the field? If I can capture what it is and where it is, then I can treat it differently. I can put a different seed on it; I can put a different rate on it. I can address my fertility. I can address my soil sampling. Basically, this is the foundational layer for everything I'm going to do during the growing season. It starts right here."

Soil Temperature

Soil temperature-sensing technology on the SmartFirmer helps farmers ensure seeds are planted in favorable conditions. Planting in soil that is too cool will dramatically increase germination time. Looking towards the future, Webster says, “With this information, maybe in the future we’ll variable-rate fungicide.”

Furrow Conditions

In-furrow residue can reduce moisture uptake or harbor disease. This is a problem for corn-on-corn fields, in particular, Webster says. The residue-sensing capabilities of SmartFirmer help farmers ensure they are planting into a clean furrow. Producers can make more informed row cleaner adjustments based on the quantity of in-furrow residue the sensors detect.

An example presented at the 2018 Winter Conference indicated a 25-bushel difference between corn planted in a 98% clean furrow compared with 85% clean.

With a live feed of information into the cab, issues can be detected and corrected sooner. “SmartFirmer is going to be a game changer,” says Brad Zimmerman. He farms about 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Illinois and beta-tested the technology.

“You don’t know what you don’t know until you use SmartFirmer,” Zimmerman says, recalling his experience last planting season. In the middle of the field, a residue manager wheel fell off his planter. Right away he noticed, due to changes in the data coming into his 20|20 display. He was able to stop and resolve the issue before too much yield potential was lost. “If I didn’t have SmartFirmer, I wouldn’t have noticed until after I’d finished for the night.”

mSet

Precision Planting also announced the availability of its mSet technology. The company has been working on multigenetic planting since 2011, but many farmers found the first solutions cost prohibitive.

“2011 was the first good look at changing hybrids on-the-fly out in the field,” Webster recalls. “It was dual row unit, dual meter technology. We had twice the planter we needed. Double row units, double meters, double crop kits, double hydraulic motors, and when we changed hybrids in the field, it was in twin rows. We knew this wasn't the best technology in the world, but it was the first.”

In 2014, the company brought vSet Select to the market, cutting down the hardware needs of multihybrid planting. “This was fantastic because this brought in single row, dual meter technology, but still two meters, two crop kits, two vDrives. Two meters sitting on a seed tube, and boy, was this thing accurate,” says Webster, displaying photos of logos planted into one of his cornfields.

Now with mSet, a single row, single meter system is the next generation of multigenetic planting. “This means a couple different things,” Webster explains. “One, it's going to be cheaper. It is going to be more affordable to get into this technology. Also, we're going to get rid of this choice we have in the planter market of speed vs. the variability. Now, we can do multigenetic planting and high-speed planting all together.”

How It Works

Luke Stuber works in R&D for Precision Planting and says three primary components make up mSet. “The first is a kit that will take a hopper, add a divider and dual lids. It turns your single hybrid hopper into a dual hybrid hopper. Then we've got a seed selector. That seed selector package is in the bottom of the hopper. The role of the seed selector is to regulate which hybrid and how much of that hybrid is allowed into the meter. The third component is a seed level sensor. This seed level sensor integrates to a vSet two meter. So, if you have a vSet two meter today, you would simply replace the back cover and add the one that is compatible with the seed level sensor. That seed level sensor tells you how much seed is in the feeder.”

With mSet, the hybrid transition happens within the meter itself. “We no longer start one meter and stop the other like we did with vSet Select,” Stuber explains, emphasizing the increased importance of controlling the seed pool.

“Our goal is that during normal operation, as you're out planting, there's somewhere between 50 and 100 seeds in the meter when you're running mSet,” he continues. “We're doing that with a combination of the seed selector and the level sensors. As you are approaching a transition line in a prescription, you will continue to reduce the amount of seed in your meter. Then right before you cross your line, you will dump the second hybrid on top. So, when you make the change over, you've got roughly 30 seeds of hybrid A still in the meter. What your transition will look like is a hybrid A, B blend for 20 to 30 feet as you cross your line. That transition will start out primarily Hybrid A and by the end be primarily Hybrid B. You'll see a hybrid blend rather than a perfect transition like with vSet Select.”

This technology is available now for John Deere 7200 and newer planters with 1.6-bushel hoppers. John Deere mini hoppers are in beta testing in the spring of 2018. New hopper options are expected to be available in the summer of 2018, along with CASE, Kinze, and White expansions.

SeederForce

In response to feedback that seeding depth variability and a lack of visibility to seed distribution across the seed drill create issue for farmers, Precision Planting has entered the small grains market with a new product. SeederForce allows farmers to control down force automatically, by section, as they move through the field.

Without this technology, a farmer’s best indicator of necessary down force is stopping and getting out of the cab. Even with frequent furrow checks, gathering enough information to make a good decision is impossible, says Will Frank, the SeederForce product manager.

"For wheat – really for all small grains – the number of seed per foot is significantly higher than row crops. Wheat planted at 1.5 million seeds per acre, with a row space of 7½ inches, even though the row is four times narrower than our corn planter, the number of seed per foot is 10 times higher. If your wheat field is 160 acres and you dig enough seed to check 100 feet of furrow, you would find 2,105 seeds. From that 100-foot strip, you have to make a decision. Is your drill ready to plant the rest of the farm? The frightening thing is, you have only looked at 0.000009% of the seeds. That would be like creating a fertility plan for your entire farm from the results of one soil sample. You wouldn't do that with your fertility program, so why is it acceptable with your air seeder? The reality is, you can't dig enough seed, enough times, for it to become statistically relevant. You need help."

With the current lack of technology, weight must be added or taken off the frame manually to control the seeder’s down force. After three years of research, the company’s engineers have developed a product to control seeding depth, promoting optimum root development and more uniform emergence of drilled crops. Used with the 20|20 monitor, SeederForce means no more manual adjustments.

How It Works

“With 20|20 and load cells on each section of the air seeder as well as a hydraulic valve on each rockshaft, your drill can start to make automated down force adjustments. Set a target gauge wheel weight, and when the load cells measure that a section is coming out of the ground, additional force is applied to that section. Another section carrying too much load on the gauge wheels? That section will automatically have less force applied to it so that the gauge wheels are not creating compaction in the root zone. Each section is continually and automatically adjusting,” the Precision Planting website explains.

The technology is available now through the Precision Planting network of dealers. At this time, it is compatible with John Deere 60 series/90 series air seeders.

Learn More

Farmers should check with their local Precision Planting dealer for pricing infomation on all the new products. Precision Planting will offer farmers hands-on experience with its technology at the new Precision Technology Institute in Pontiac, Illinois.

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