Game-Changing Trends

08:05AM Dec 13, 2014
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Cutting-edge planters, baler and truck transform on-farm production and efficiencies

From one horse to 600 hp, tech-nology has evolved through the years to enhance power, performance and precision. The year 2015 will be one for the history books. Technolog-ical advancements continue to change equipment design to maximize in-field efficiencies. With smarter machines, farmers have the upper hand to boost yields in a demanding environment.

Multi-hybrid planting: Two companies, Raven with OmniRow multi-hybrid control and Precision Planting with vSet Select system, have been paving the way for farmers to match management zones with seed hybrids for best results. These aftermarket products give farmers the ability to automatically change seed hybrids instead of selecting one seed variety to use across an entire field. 

The OmniRow multi-hybrid control is currently available. Precision Planting’s vSet Select system will be available on a limited basis for spring 2015 with expanded availability in 2016. 

The Kinze 4900, the first multi-hybrid planter, is equipped to create and apply prescription maps to control both hybrid type and plant population.  

In December 2013, Kinze started production of its electric multi-hybrid planter concept. Since then, the company has been collaborating with multiple seed companies, including AgriGold, Beck’s Hybrids, Burrus Hybrids and DuPont Pioneer, to conduct test plots. This past spring, Kinze tested six electric multi-hybrid prototype planters in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.  

The planter demonstrated it could successfully switch hybrids automatically and on-the-go. Hybrid changes were conducted within a single seed drop, so there were virtually no gaps or overlap switching between hybrids, according to testers.

“The yield gains in our trials varied from 2 bu. per acre to more than 10 bu. per acre by using multi-hybrid
planting,” says Rhett Schildroth, consultant and senior product manager for Kinze Manufacturing.  

Each row unit on the concept planter incorporates two meters, which feed a single seed tube. Row-unit gauge wheels, openers and closing wheels are identical to those on a standard Kinze 4000 Series row unit, which eliminates the need for drive chains and clutches. 

“We were able to orient the meters close together so they feed a single seed tube,” Schildroth says. “It is a very elegant way to add the multi-hybrid planting capability.”

A limited commercial launch of the multi-hybrid planter is set for the 2015 planting season. Kinze plans to release the 16-row multi-hybrid planter for the 2016 planting season with a 24-row version to follow.

High-speed planting: The past year ushered in high-speed technologies to bump planting to more than 10 mph. In January, Precision Planting announced their SpeedTube system, which controls seed from the meter to the furrow. Feeder wheels at the top grab the seed from the disk and pull it into a flighted belt that deposits it in the bottom of the trench. The SpeedTube belt spins at a rate that increases and decreases with planter speed and seeding rates, ensuring optimal seed placement. 

The retrofit option for existing planters is available on a limited basis for spring 2015 with expanded availability coming in 2016.   

When moving to higher planting speeds, John Deere has focused on maintaining uniform depth, accurate seed spacing and population, as well as an easy-to-use monitoring system and reduced machine downtime. 

Higher speeds result in more data to analyze. The SeedStar 3 HP allows for real-time data display to monitor seed sensor activity on belt brushes.

The MaxEmerge 5 row unit, the driving force behind the ExactEmerge planter’s ability to perform at 10 mph, is the combination of the MaxEmerge XP and Pro-Series technologies. The planter features a rear-facing bowl-shaped meter and brush belt trench-delivery system that releases seed only 2" from the bottom of the trench in a true dead drop. 

“We began designing the planter starting with the brush belt,” explains Jacob Swanson, John Deere product manager for planters. “It provides the ability to control all sides of the seed, helping maintain uniform spacing,” 

Each row unit has two electric brushless motors, which rotate the meter and brush belt independently. The speed of the meter dictates ground speed and population, and spacing is done with the brush belt, which maintains the same ground speed as the planter. A controller on each row sets how fast the meters should turn.

“First and foremost, the benefit of the ExactEmerge planter is its ability to provide accurate seed placement even at traditional speeds,” Swanson says. “Then comes its ability to travel at double the speed to boost productivity and maintain premium performance.”

This past spring marks the third season the prototype planter has been in the field for testing. The planter is available to order for the 2015 season.

Continuous baling: Hay and forage manufacturers are advancing their equipment to provide efficient round bale systems to cut down on time and manpower in the field. In September, Vermeer unveiled the first prototype continuous round baler (CRB) working with Lely Group to create the cutting-edge concept.  

“We’ve been wanting to adopt this type of machine since the 80s,” says Phil Chrisman, Vermeer product manager for the beef segment. “With the knowledge of three engineering teams, Vermeer, Lely and Lely Vermeer Mashinenfabrik GmbH, in different parts of the globe, we finally had the capability and resources to make this concept a reality.”

Vermeer baler technology allows producers to bale nonstop, forming two bales simultaneously.

Although the structure and design of the baler is complex, the concept is quite simple. When the first bale nears the preferred size, the bale moves back to the rear chamber. Simultaneously, another bale starts to form in the front chamber. When finished, the first bale is ejected, the second bale moves into the rear chamber for completion, and a new bale begins. The process continually repeats until the field is finished.

“The CRB is something hay and forage producers around the globe have been waiting for,” says Alexander van der Lely, CEO of Lely Group. “No matter where you are located, there is a certain window of opportunity to perform baling and forage harvesting to create the right feed for cattle. The continuous round baler allows you to bale more, with the right quality, in a narrow window of opportunity.”  

The CRB baler is in development, and a final release date is yet to be announced. 

“Now that Vermeer has unveiled the concept, we plan to be open with our testing and utilize key producers to help refine the baler concept,” Chrisman says.  

Aluminum-body truck: A new era in pickups will debut in 2015 with the F-150 sporting an advanced aluminum-body with high-strength steel frame. The truck sheds more than 700 lb. by switching to aluminum alone, the first of its kind in the industry. “In my opinion, 100 years from now, this truck will be remembered because it changed how the automotive industry designed and manufactured trucks,” says Scott Fosgard, Ford-150 Communications. 

The 2015 aluminum-body F-150 truck is built with 130 meters of adhesive and uses the same 6000 series aluminum used in military tanks and weapons.

Using aluminum rather than the alternative, steel, is not common in pickups. However, this is not a new concept to Ford. For decades, the company has manufactured smaller vehicles using aluminum, which sparked the initial interest for the F-150. 

“When Ford made the decision to use aluminum in the body of the F-150, they thought through each detail,” Fosgard says. “We have enough aluminum and supplies to produce the lightweight vehicles in high volume.”

Equipped with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, the F-150 boosts fuel economy with an estimated 26 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Ford expects the F-150’s fuel economy to improve by more than 20%.  

The truck might be lighter but it proves to be durable, towing 1,110 lb. more and hauling more than 530 lb. for a 5% to 16% better power-to-weight ratio. “At the heart of it, guys want to haul more, tow more, go faster and spend less doing it,” Fosgard says. 

The safety ratings for the F-150 are yet to be released. However, the company has taken extra steps to ensure the new era of trucks are not only durable but safe. Ford put more than 10 million miles on the prototypes before going into production. “This is double what we did with the previous generation truck and 2 million more than the current truck,” Fosgard notes. 

Ford says this move is just the beginning of the advancements in technology on the F-150 lineup. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to introduce a hybrid F-150 by 2020 and is working on a 10-speed transmission with General Motors that will be used in the F-150 lineup. 

As the coming year unfolds, let’s not forget how big data is exploding  in production agriculture. The capacity generated by big data adds to the performance and precision of today’s game-changing machinery—and the future of machinery design.