Grudging Acknowledgement of Technology
May 13, 2017
I'm not a full-bore Luddite, but I tend to resist change. So I've been reluctant to get excited about all the fancy gadgets farmers are hanging on their planters: variable down pressure systems, remote control row cleaners, even remote control for the amount of pressure closing wheels exert. Not to mention the electric seed meter drives that allow you to plant faster than the traditional 5.5 mph. I've been in a few fields of emerged corn so far this spring, gave a lot of fields a 55-mph scouting, and I have to admit that there may be something to all this technology.
Back in the day, you could pretty much tell which fields were farmed by the local "big farmers" because they tended to look a little ragged. It was tough to farm big in the 70s and 80s and not work the ground when it was too wet or too dry, and the crops often showed the consequences of rushing things. But in today's world of farming, the fields of many big farmers look as even and consistent as those of smaller farmers who tend to "garden" their smaller acreages.
Maybe there's something to carefully matching down pressure to changing soil conditions. Maybe all the gadgets on planters and display consoles in the cab actually improve germination, emergence and general crop health. I don't know how to compare apples to apples, because weather conditions and seed genetics back in the day, compared to recent weather cycles and seed genetics for the past few springs, may be factors. But I have to grudgingly admit that planters with the new technologies seem to create crops that emerge and start very, very well.
Will the advantages of great looking fields of corn this spring translate into enough additional bushels of grain in October to pay for all the fancy gadgets on the planters? I dunno. I just fix busted farm equipment.