2017 Crop Tour Wrap-Up

On hundreds of acres at multiple sites across five states, combines will soon begin to collect yield results from the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour.

By Des Keller

On hundreds of acres at multiple sites across five states, combines will soon begin to collect yield results from the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour. The tour, in its second year, involves AGCO product specialists and AGCO dealers working with individual producers to evaluate multiple factors affecting crop yield and return on investment.

“The data we gained in 2016 was just phenomenal,” says AGCO Senior Product Specialist Justin Remus, who helped design the test plot protocols. For example, “We know that there was a 7- to 17-bushel loss per acre when seed placement depth was off.”

A seed depth of 2 to 2.5 inches is optimal for corn, according to Remus, as well as many agronomists—a finding confirmed by results of last year’s Crop Tour research. They found consistently in all five states that rain could contribute to soil compression and settling that would effectively cause the seed to be placed too shallow, at a depth of 1.75 inches. The lesson learned? “We’re setting the depth on the planter at 2.25 inches to make sure we end up at 2 inches.”

In this issue, we’ll hear from another AGCO product specialist, Kirby Woods, in charge of the trials and events at the two 2017 Crop Tour plot locations near Flanagan, Illinois, working with AGCO dealer Flanagan Implement & Service Co.

Kirby Woods grew up on his family’s farm in central Illinois and studied ag systems technology at Purdue University. He began working for AGCO after graduation in 1997, and for the past decade has been based in Peoria as AGCO’s product specialist for high-horsepower tractors and tillage. He plays a major role in coordinating the work being done for the 2017 Crop Tour, now in its second year.

Kirby Woods

Kirby Woods

“As a grower you may know you are doing a good job, but you really don’t know if you could be doing better without side-by-side comparisons,” says Woods. “That’s what the Crop Tour is all about.

“In 2016, the focus was on seed-to-seed spacing, down-force control and planting depth,” he adds. “The results showed the impact of misplaced seeds and doubles on emergence of the crop.

“In 2017, we have repeated the planting comparisons, but we are doing them at speeds varying from 4.5 mph to 10 mph. We are using the Precision Planting® SpeedTube™ seed delivery system on the 9800VE Series White Planters™ matched with Challenger® MT700 Series tractors.

“One of the goals in 2016 was to show growers the result of a planter pass involving errors and ones without. We’ve repeated planting errors this year involving down force, skips and poor seed placement, but added the element of varying machinery speeds.

“No doubt, in 2016 we saw the results in terms of yield, of intentional errors. They affected the corn plant’s root structure and stalk development as it matured and determined yield.

“For example, if two seeds are dropped on top of each other, their development will react to the population they are ‘seeing.’ They will develop and yield accordingly—that is, their competition with each other will hurt yield.

“Last year, our down-force work in the Crop Tour showed yields were hurt as much as 8 to 10 bushels per acre when too much force was applied. Among other things, too much down force can cause smearing of the trench sidewall. Under those circumstances, plant roots couldn’t always penetrate the sidewall to become better established and reach needed nutrients. As for varying the speeds this year, we’re seeing—with all of our machinery working together—that planting accuracy is still very high at the upper end. This is good news for growers in terms of being able to move in a timely fashion to get crops in the ground during the optimum planting window.

“We’re also interested in the final results of additional work we did this summer trying to broaden the window for nutrient placement and management. We applied in-season nutrients, as well as some fungicides, during the V8 to V10 stage in corn, rather than just during silking. If successful, this would allow a much bigger window to effectively apply both, which optimizes a grower’s time.”