2017 AGCO Crop Tour: All Done But the Harvest

This is the second successful year for the agronomic program.

By Des Keller

AGCO coordinated 11 crop test plots at seven locations across the Midwest with cooperating dealers as part of the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour. In August, nine on-site Crop Tour events let growers see the agronomic results first-hand.

The focus of the test protocol—using best practices as well some intentionally poor ones—was to illustrate the importance of getting seeds planted at the right depth with correct spacing with a down force best suited to location-specific soil conditions.

“The biggest single takeaway, based on preliminary tests prior to harvest, is that controlling your down force had the single biggest impact on yield,” says Joe Whorton, AGCO tactical marketing manager, seeding and tillage. In a number of the plots where the constantly adjusting DeltaForce® down force control system from Precision Planting® was used, corn yields were 20 bushels/acre higher than fields where down force was intentionally set too heavy or too light.

“If too little down force is applied, you will not be able to achieve your target depth—you’ll plant shallow,” says Whorton. “Too much down force can create compaction and inhibit root growth.”

The findings regarding down force were the most striking from the many lessons learned in the 2017 Crop Tour, but planting depth and singulation (skips and doubles) are also vital factors to maximize yield. When the planter achieves optimum depth consistently and maintains a high percentage of seed singulation and proper spacing across the field, the plot results show significant yield increases. The tests also demonstrated that all three factors–down force, depth and singulation–can remain accurate at planting speeds up to 10 mph with the White Planters™ equipped with Precision Planting technology.

“The message is powerful,” says Darren Goebel, AGCO’s director of Global Commercial Crop Care. “This is about return on investment, and we believe farmers will make their money back on the DeltaForce system, alone, after planting only 642 acres.”

Proven accuracy at high speeds

Researchers at all the Crop Tour test plots conducted some planting passes at 10 mph, however none of the field averages are at that speed due to machinery slowing at turns. At one test site, for example, the AGCO 9816VE planter averaging 7.9 mph achieved 99.8% singulation, 99.5% spacing and 1% loss of ground contact with 98.3% good down force.

When running at 10 mph, planters using SpeedTube® seed tube technology maintained 99.6% and 99.3% singulation and good spacing, respectively. The planters without SpeedTube achieved only 97.9% singulation and 92.9% good spacing at 10 mph.

The top-performing planter was equipped with a whole suite of technology from Illinois-based Precision Planting, now owned by AGCO: DeltaForce® down force control, vSet® electric drive meters, vDrive® motor/controllers, SpeedTube® seed tubes, and CleanSweep® row-cleaner controllers. Operators monitored real-time planter performance and controlled all functions with the 20/20 SeedSense monitor while generating real-time maps and collecting with the Climate FieldView™ Cab app. While many of these come as factory-installed options on the White Planters 9800VE Series planters, they can be added on to other late-model planters.

Grower feedback

The AGCO Crop Tour hosted nearly 500 farmers at nine events. The Crop Tour also hosted 38 AGCO product dealers who received training on the technology provided by Precision Planting.

Based on feedback, growers who came to the events did go home with new ideas they can put to work on their farms.

“It was very beneficial to see how singulation affects crop yield,” says Brad Karl of Hutchinson, Minnesota. “I think this surprises a lot of growers and helps them decide—when they see the differences—what products can do to help.”

“The demo on planting depth, from 3 ½ inches to 1 inch was eye-opening,” says Tim Rasmussen of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, “as to how that 1 inch of planting depth is that detrimental to corn growth and corn yield.”

2017 AGCO Crop Tour attendee Tim Rasmussen says seeing the yield impact of planting depth was eye-opening.

2017 AGCO Crop Tour attendee Tim Rasmussen says seeing the yield impact of planting depth was eye-opening.

Per Goebel, ideal corn planting depth varies dramatically from soil type to soil type and from farm to farm.  “What is consistent regarding planting depth is that planting shallower than 1.5 inches leads to poor nodal root formation.  From there, planting into uniform soil moisture is the most important thing a grower can do.”

The two-year-old AGCO Crop Tour program represents something of a watershed moment, according to Goebel, in that the equipment company’s efforts will continue to focus more on the agronomic advantage AGCO equipment can provide in real-world circumstances. “Generally speaking, this is how we’re going to do things in the future—conduct side-by-side tests with growers throughout the season, and talk agronomics and how our equipment enhances yield,” he says.

For more information about DeltaForce, SpeedTube, CleanSweep and more, see the Precision Planting website.

Photos: Marc Ward