The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal Media. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Some of my recent blogs are a little contradictory because on one hand I advocate working hard to prepare planters to plant as precisely as possible, but on the other hand I caution against expecting perfection.
For the past two decades we've learned more and more about not only how to make planters plant more precisely, but about the costs associated with producing less than a perfect stand. Farm Journal agronomist Ken Ferrie has proven that skips and doubles reduce yield, and that any corn seedlings that emerge 48 hours after their neighbors are essentially weeds. He's proven that optimum yields start with optimum planter performance.
On the whole, modern agriculture has done a good job of fine-tuning planters and planting practices, until it's not uncommon for farmers to achieve 98 percent planting accuracy across thousands of acres. The challenge is that some farmers now expect 100 percent planting precision, and they're documenting any shortcomings with a new wave of ultra-precise seed monitoring systems. It's now possible to map EVERY skip or double in a field in real-time. When you ombine auto-steering with these ultra-accurate seed monitors, the result is farmers sitting in their cabs with nothing to do but watch their seed monitor display, and they sometimes get bent out of shape every time they see a skip or double bloom on the screen.
It is admirable and profitable to maintain and adjust planters to plant as close to perfect as possible. It is wise and profitable to prepare seedbeds and plant in ways that optimize planter performance. But while 100 percent efficiency should be the goal and is sometimes attainable, there's nothing wrong with averaging 98 to 99 percent efficiency across the entire planting season.
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