Limiting factors in farming tend to come in all shapes and sizes, save for one – time. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. To that end, farming efficiency has traditionally been solved in one of two ways: Buy bigger equipment, or buy more equipment.
Precision Planting has been investigating a different approach for planters: Run the equipment faster. Speed sacrifices accuracy, but product manager Jason Stoller says their newest product, SpeedTube, which they debuted to farmers at their winter conferences in January, allows farmers to run planters at significantly higher speeds while maintaining accurate seed spacing.
"Growers could double their current planting speed with good performance," he says. "In most cases, they should truly expect to be able to plant at speeds up to 10-12 mph if they are able to plant well at 5-6 mph with accurate seed spacing today."
(Related story: See Photos of New Precision Planting Technology)
Stoller says some farmers may be skeptical about being able to plant significantly faster, but adds that Precision Planting has field tested the SpeedTube product extensively at 10 mph across a wide range of field conditions, including no-till, conventional till and vertical till fields from Louisiana all the way north to the Dakotas.
Stoller says research completed by Precision Planting suggests farmers will also want to consider other factors to ensure success at high speed planting. They will also have to consider ground conditions, depth control, downforce control, residue management, row cleaners, closing system configuration and even horsepower required. The company is also testing the product across many of the most popular planter makes and models, but what will exactly be supported is as-yet to be determined.
SpeedTube is not ready for a commercial launch, but Stoller says Precision Planting chose to introduce the concept to farmers this year and will continue extensive testing across as many speeds, terrains, soil types and tillage systems as possible.
"Planting at twice the speed really is a new paradigm that will require a new approach," he says. "We want growers to be ready."
Two main factors can cause poor in-ground seed spacing as planter speed increases, explains Ian Radtke, the lead design engineer for SpeedTube. First, poor ride quality at higher speeds causes the row unit and the seed meter to bounce more and release the seeds inconstantly, what he calls "the elevator effect." Second, at high planting speeds, seeds bounce and roll in the trench as they leave the seed tube.
Paired with vDrive and vSet meters, SpeedTube replaces the traditional seed tube entirely. It is variable-rate compatible and integrates with the latest in electric meter drive technology.
"We’ve solved these problems by controlling the seed all the way from the meter disk to the furrow," Radtke says. "Feeder wheels at the top of the SpeedTube grab the seed from the disk and deposits it into a flighted belt that carries the seed all the way to the bottom of the trench."
SpeedTube is positioned so it sits in the seed trench rather than above it, Radtke says. The belt spins at a rate that increases and decreases with planter speed, ensuring that the seed doesn’t roll when it lands in the furrow."
As the seed is released, it is directed rearward, effectively cancelling the difference between the seed’s horizontal speed and ground speed that would otherwise cause and the seed to roll. To accomplish this, SpeedTube has its own separate integrated motor and seed sensor, Radtke says.
Ultimately, Stoller hopes farmers look beyond the convenience of time saved and look at faster planting potential as an avenue to higher profits.
"The optimal planting window is very short, and it’s so critical" he says. "We really hope that growers will see the potential in switching out one component on their planter to double their speed."