At planting and then later in the season, our Test Plots crew measured how the Kinze Weight Transfer System can mitigate compaction.
Farm Journal Test Plots focus on fertility and how technology can improve the planter pass
Headquartered in central Illinois and southern Michigan, Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer conduct thousands of acres of test plots every year. Here’s a recap of Ferrie’s initial findings to alleviate planter pass compaction and a three-year wrap-up on automated planter controls. Bauer shares her insights from a two-year effort focusing on fertility in high-yield corn plots.
Take the Yield Punch Out of Pinch Rows
Using heavier tractors and planters outfitted with dual and triple wheels has been found to escalate compaction issues in test plots, causing as much as a 60 bu. yield decrease in pinch rows.
"You can see the stunted rows in the wheel tracks with your own eyes, as well as on NDVI maps and thermal images," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.
Partnering with Kinze Manufacturing, the first to bring hydraulic weight transfer to the planter market, Ferrie went to the field to see how the mechanical system can mitigate damage in pinch rows. Yield data wasn’t collected on the small plots, but we did learn valuable baseline information.
In two fields where farmers were running a 16-row Kinze, Ferrie and his crew used a standard compaction probe to evaluate compaction in and outside of the tire tracks with the weight transfer system turned on and off.
"It’s said that at 300 psi, soil compaction will impede root growth, and we were taking readings well above that level," Ferrie says.
Later in the season, the crew returned with a Spectrum Technologies FieldScout SC 900 compaction meter that records psi and GPS location.
"While we can’t evaluate what the difference in psi really means because we didn’t collect yield data, we did record the highest psi readings in the track of the inside dual tire," Ferrie explains. "We think the numbers are higher because that’s where the front and back tractor tires and a planter tire all run in the same track."
Ferrie and the test plots crew plan to continue the study this year. They hope to specifically learn more about how the hydraulic weight transfer system can not only reduce the planter footprint but also what that might mean for reducing weight on the tractor hitch.
The Right Amount of Pressure
On a 24-row planter, the Illinois test plot crew outfitted eight rows with standard springs; eight rows with air bag down pressure and eight rows with Precision Planting AirForce system.
Today planters are being outfitted with hydraulic and pneumatic controls to vary down pressure on row units and front-mounted row cleaners. A three-year partnership between Precision Planting and Farm Journal evaluated the 20/20 AirForce down force system and CleanSweep row cleaner system.
On a 24-row planter, the test plots crew outfitted eight rows with the Precision Planting AirForce system, eight rows with air bag down pressure; and eight rows with the standard springs. They converted half the planter to floating row cleaners and the other half to floating row cleaners with CleanSweep.
"Overall, I advocate for farmers to run floating row cleaners," Ferrie says. "Row cleaners that are run in a fixed position work well in level fields, but most fields have variability in the microenvironment in each row, causing the row cleaner to either be too aggressive or just skim the top of residue. In areas of the field that are mellow, the row cleaners can move too much soil when the row unit sinks in," Ferrie says.
In this particular field, the Illinois farmer-cooperator practices vertical tillage in the fall and runs a vertical tillage harrow in the spring to prepare the seedbed. It’s important to note that in all three years, the down pressure test plots were planted in fairly ideal conditions, Ferrie says. The farmer uses a tracked tractor and a planter outfitted with individual seed hoppers.
"From the get-go, all these factors add up to a fairly lightweight planter setup," Ferrie says.
- Early Spring 2013