Some things I learned about planters and planting this spring:
-The new high-speed planters are amazing. I'm not a huge fan of how much technology is involved, nor their breath-taking price, but those suckers can do a terrific job of singulating and spacing seeds. I discovered that a couple of our customers were farming farms I didn't know they farmed, simply because the stands are noticeably better than adjacent farms.
-Some of those customers didn't buy the planters in order to plant faster. Their goal was to simply plant more accurately. They started out at their traditional 5.5 mph, but admitted that the longer they planted, the faster they went. Most ended up in the 7- to 8 mph range, and admitted to experimenting in fields out of sight of roads with up to 12 mph. One told me last week, "Now that the corn is up, I really can't tell any difference between the fields planted at 5-and-a-half and the fields planted at more than 10."
-The same farmer told me that he had one field where he couldn't plant faster than 5.0 mph. "That field was really rough and cloddy, and I could see on the monitor that any more than 5 miles an hour really knocked back the singulation and messed with the spacing. Field conditions are what decides how fast you can go with those planters."
-I've seen some fields planted with a high speed planter that looked pretty "average." Same model of planter, equipped with the same accessories, planted within a couple days of great-looking fields nearby. The only difference was the operator. High-speed planters are apparently not "plug-and-play."
-I'm slowly beginning to believe in the value of hydraulically-controlled downforce systems. When adjusted correctly, they really improved depth control and helped control seed furrow compaction. Like automatic row shut-offs and the original high-speed planter systems, I now grudgingly admit they seem to offer some significant advantages. I may have to eat my words about those technologies being "...more complicated than they're worth."
-Just like with automatic row shut-offs and high-speed seed meters, the learning and operating curves for high-tech planting systems are steep. If an operator doesn't like pushing buttons on a console and deciphering techno-lingo, it might be best to stick with conventional planter systems. Nothing wrong with that. Everybody has to farm within their comfort and confidence levels.