Should We Expect Perfect Planting?

Published on: 01:08AM Mar 31, 2015

We've reached the point with technology so we can accurately count every seed as its placed in the seed furrow, and record every skip, every double, every error this side of 100 percent perfection. But no matter how good seed meters get, or how carefully we adjust and operate them, it's really, really tough to plant acre after acre at 100 percent metering and placement accuracy.

The ability to see on a seed monitor every missed or doubled seed from a planter raises the question, "How close to perfect is good enough?" With auto steer doing the driving, planter operators can now sit and watch their hyper-sensitive, hyper-accurate seed monitors document every missed seed. Some operators are comfortable at 98 percent metering accuracy, others hope for 99 percent accuracy, and a few hyper-ventilate and pitch a fit if the planter misplaces a single seed in a 120-acre field.

Using a planter test stand, if I'm allowed an unlimited budget to make every piece in a seed meter PERFECT, and I run the seed size and grade of my choice, I can usually get seed meters to dance around the 98- to 100-percent range. But few farmers want to rebuild their seed meters to perfection each year, so it seems most are content if their seed meters average 96- to 99-percent.

The key is to remember that seed monitors merely reflect what you maintained and adjusted the planter to do. If the seed meters on a planter are adjusted to plant at 96- to 99- percent, then there's no gain from sitting and fretting when the seed monitor shows what 96- to 99-percent looks like in the field.