What Lies Beneath

July 21, 2008 06:49 AM

What if you could see your stand before it emerges? Precision Planting is making it more possible with the 20/20 SeedSense monitor that gives a new view of planter performance.
The monitor, which is new this fall, provides a snapshot of planter performance in real time. Prior to its release, we had an exclusive opportunity to evaluate the 20/20 SeedSense monitor in the Farm Journal Test Plots. Two of our cooperating farmers used Beta versions in 2007, planting 5,000 acres.

"This monitor gives the farmer the opportunity to stop and make adjustments when they see problems, instead of after the crop comes up,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.

The system incorporates an in-cab touch-screen monitor, a processor module, row unit modules (RUMs) and down-force gauges mounted on planter sections. From the sensors, the monitor displays down force, ground contact, singulation, population, doubles, skips, proper spacing and speed.

"If the unit sees a pattern of errors, it will give a recommendation for a remedy,” explains John Larkin from Precision Planting. "This could be recommendations such as adjust your brush or change the vacuum pressure.”

Ground truth. Knowing what is going wrong behind the tractor gives the operator a target to find mechanical failures affecting planting.

"If you cause compaction or sidewall smearing you can't see those problems on the monitor,” Ferrie says. "You've got to ground truth it. A monitor can tell you a lot, but you have to make sure you're planting the way it says you are.”

In one case, our plot crew was planting in a field with a clay knob. The planter had four RUMs, each set at a different downpressure.

"The lightest downpressure setting, which was perfect for the balance of the field, was not enough to maintain depth on the knob,” Ferrie says. "The higher downpressure allowed us to maintain depth on the knob but caused sidewall smearing in the rest of the field. The farmer had the tools to help make the decision on whether to continue or let the field dry out.”

A monitor like this can be a tool to be consistent and accurate throughout the planting season, Ferrie adds.

"In most fields there are many areas of variability,” he says. "Farmers spend too much time setting the planter for the first field, then back off their adjustments through planting.”

The SeedSense allows in-cab calibration of vacuum pressure depending on seed size. It also shows any skips or doubles in seed delivery. This gives a better understanding of the actual population being planted.

"You can have two skips and two doubles and still be at 34,000 plants per acre,” Ferrie says.

Using GPS, the system logs data and creates a planter performance map. The monitor gives a calculation for losses per acre dependent on population, singulation and spacing.

"We were looking for something that will motivate guys to get out of the cab and look for the problem,” Larkin says. "We ran 60 test units in the spring. As they ran their planters, a number of farmers found residue lodged in the seed tube that they would not have found without the monitor.”

Since our trial with the Beta version, the monitor has been enlarged to 8.5" and includes a feature that counts acres by field and season. It is compatible with John Deere, Kinze and White planters. Base price: $5,400. Contact: Precision Planting, 23207 Townline Road, Tremont, IL 61568; (309) 925-5050; www.precisionplanting.com

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