2017 Crop Tour Results
Harvest results prove precision technology and best practices boost yields and ROI.
By Des Keller
The 2017 AGCO Crop Tour involved 11 crop test plots at seven locations across the Midwest, with AGCO and its partner dealers and cooperatives hosting nearly 500 farmers at nine Crop Tour events at the sites in August. The test plots compared best practices to intentionally poor ones, side by side, to illustrate the importance of getting seeds planted at the right depth with correct spacing and with a down force suited to the soil conditions.
Planting Depth Trials
In plots comparing yields when corn was planted at six different planting depths at 0.5-inch intervals from 1 inch to 3.5 inches deep, AGCO observed that maintaining good planting depth of at least 1.5 inches resulted in a corn crop 18 bushels per acre greater than if corn is only planted at a depth of 1 inch, and 23 bushels less than the optimum depth of 2 inches. These results confirm agronomists’ recommendations that anything less than 1.5 inches is too shallow for adequate nodal root development.
Planting too deep can be detrimental as well. “In both 2016 and 2017, we saw losses in both stand and yield at the two extremes of planting depth tested: 1 inch and 3.5 inches,” says Joe Whorton, AGCO tactical marketing manager, seeding and tillage. Again, the optimum depth was 2 inches, yielding 209 bushels per acre, he says, emphasizing that the results were a two-year average of six plots per year in four different states, all with varying planting conditions.
As for singulation, when the plots were intentionally planted with skips and doubles to create an average of 94.7% spacing accuracy, yield was 6 bushels an acre less than the control planted with 99.9% accuracy. After two years of planting Crop Tour sites, AGCO found that for every 1% in singulation errors, a grower stands to lose about 1 bushel of yield per acre.
Correct Down Force Pays
Results in 2017 showed the use of correct down force alone could boost farmers’ yields up to 8 bushels per acre. In 2017, as in 2016, down-force trials showed that “individual row units must be adjusted independently from one another in order to ensure uniform depth control while avoiding compaction in the row,” according to an AGCO summary of Crop Tour findings. Precision Planting’s DeltaForce system automatically senses the down pressure or lift needed in each row to plant the seed at the chosen optimum planting depth. The system increases or decreases down force automatically and independently on each and every row as the planter moves through a field.
Given the capabilities of DeltaForce and the resulting yield difference, AGCO estimates the cost of equipping a planter with DeltaForce would be recouped after planting only 733 acres of corn.
“Another thing the data has shown,” says Whorton, “is that excessive down force results in less yield loss than down force that is too light. If you don’t have DeltaForce [meaning you have a system using down force springs or air bags], you would be better off to err on the side of too much force rather than too little.”
Trial results showed that corn planted with down force that was intentionally too light averaged 195 bushels per acre. Excessive down force resulted in average yields of more than 198 bushels per acre. Yields went up to an average of 203 bushels per acre in the plots planted with the White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters using the continuously adjusting DeltaForce down-force control system.
All told, controlling these three factors—down force, planting depth and singulation—could increase income by $136.50 an acre. The number assumes a corn price of $3.50 per bushel with an average 6-bushel-per-acre advantage with the correct down force; a 5-bushel-per-acre boost with accurate singulation; and up to a 28-bushel-per-acre advantage with a planting depth of at least 1.5 inches or more versus 1 inch.
This year, the Crop Tour added trials to evaluate planter performance at speeds up to 10 mph—much higher than the typical 4 to 5 mph speeds most farmers run when planting corn. These tests showed that singulation, depth and down-force results maintained top accuracy at the higher planting speeds when the 9800VE Series planters were fully equipped with Precision Planting technology.
Additionally, the 2017 trials monitored the results given different levels of closing-wheel aggressiveness. There was not much difference in yield results unless the most aggressive closing-wheel setting was used. Yields in the trials ranged from 202 bushels per acre to nearly 204 bushels per acre using the first three closing-wheel settings. Only when the most aggressive setting was used did yields dip to just under 195 bushels per acre.
Use of Keeton Seed Firmers, a simple Precision Planting add-on that helps tuck the seed into the bottom of the trench “V” for optimum seed-to-soil contact, resulted in an average of 4.4 bushels per acre more corn compared to when no firmers were used.
Overall, the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour highlighted the abilities of AGCO’s White Planters 9800VE Series planters with Precision Planting technology to make a significant financial difference for customers, especially when paired with the efficient power of Challenger® 1000 Series and Massey Ferguson® 8700 Series tractors. And while the company is happy to sell new planters, much of the Precision Planting technology is available as an add-on to older White Planters, as well as to many brands of late-model planters.
Looking Ahead: The AGCO Crop Tour in 2018
In 2018, AGCO plans to widen the geographic area in which it will conduct Crop Tour plots beyond the seven 2017 locations in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.
“The reality of what we’re trying to do is continue to study factors, such as down force, planting depth and singulation, and gather data in multiple years in a variety of conditions around the country,” Whorton says. “This allows us to not only demonstrate how sound agronomic practices work in practice, but also helps us prove our hypotheses or not, to help us develop even better products.”
Conducting crop trials in new locations in a wider geographic area will allow more AGCO customers and potential customers to see firsthand how the technology and the agronomy come together to maximize a grower’s investment, he says.