AGCO Crop Tour Plots Underway

More states and new planting technology mark the successful program’s third year.

By Debbie Clayton | Photos By Marc Ward

Sign up now to attend an AGCO Crop Tour event near you at For more information and directions to the Precision Technology Institute, see

Discovering how common planting mistakes impact yields and return on investment for the average farmer is the primary goal of the AGCO® Crop Tour,™ now in its third year. Being able to see plots firsthand is crucial to that understanding, made possible through on-farm trials again underway in locations throughout the Midwest.

Inspired by AGCO’s desire to comprehend fully the interactions among equipment, plants and soil, the Crop Tour has grown in both size and scope since it began in 2016. “In 2018, we are broadening the footprint of the AGCO Crop Tour,” says Brian Celli, AGCO tactical marketing manager. “We want to ensure more of our product specialists and dealers, as well as producers, really understand the agronomics behind planting practices. As part of this effort, we’re expanding our geography to Wisconsin, Ohio and eastern Nebraska, in addition to returning to Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota.”

It is important to understand how the seeding and tillage practices affect corn growth and development at various crop stages, Celli says. In order for customers to see those effects in person, two of the Crop Tour events are scheduled to take place in June when corn is in the V6 to V10 growth stages, with the rest held in August during reproductive growth stages.

2018 AGCO Crop Tour Studies

While obtaining a third year of data for AGCO’s primary studies is a key strategy for Crop Tour this year, new technology and added protocols are in place for 2018, including:

  • Formal planting speed trials. “We did speed trials last year, but will formalize our data-gathering in 2018,” notes Celli. “In 2017, we planted a couple of plots at each location, one at 5 miles per hour and one at 10 miles an hour, to gather more data on the impact of speed.” Plot data showed that the White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters achieved the same excellent singulation of 99%-plus, along with 99%-plus spacing accuracy operating at 10 mph, as they did at 5 mph.
  • Corn performance in varying conditions. As in the first two years of the program, Crop Tour locations will continue to study corn hybrid performance and ROI with varying planting depths, singulation and down-force settings. “These plots demonstrate how variation in soil, equipment and technology impact plant emergence, health, productivity and yield,” says Darren Goebel, AGCO director, global agronomy and farm services. When growers see the Crop Tour plots and demonstrations, it encourages them to check their own fields for emergence, root strength, seeding depth and singulation to determine if better planting practices could help next year’s crop return even more on their investment.
  • Offensive vs. Defensive Hybrids. “In 2018, we have the opportunity to use the new SmartFirmer™ from Precision Planting,” Goebel says. A seed-firmer sensor that measures organic matter, moisture, residue and temperature, SmartFirmer allows growers to optimize hybrid selection, population, depth and fertility in real time. “We’ve put in four strips with four populations with a split planter to study offensive and defensive hybrids while running the SmartFirmer,” explains Goebel. “Post-season, we will analyze the data to show where we obtained the biggest ROI improvement.” A defensive hybrid is one that performs consistently in poorer soil conditions, while an offensive hybrid captures top yields in the best soils but may be inconsistent in poor soils. “By placing defensive hybrids on low-organic-matter soils and offensive hybrids on high-organic-matter soils, we believe overall field averages can be improved. That’s the hypothesis we plan to test anyway,” Goebel says. “Yield results will be analyzed against different organic-matter levels, as measured and mapped by the SmartFirmer sensors.”
  • Tillage practices. Many of the Crop Tour locations will compare multiple tillage practices to understand what works best in different parts of the country. Studies involve conventional till, strip-till, vertical till and no-till. “We’re really putting an emphasis on the agronomics behind tillage,” says Celli. “We want to develop a better understanding of how our tillage tools are adding agronomic value for our customers. The challenge we face is sometimes the right tillage is weather-dependent and soil-dependent … the plots will tell a story either way.” Part of the analysis this year will look at best production-system practices, such as matching tillage and seeding practices with varying soil, residue and moisture conditions to optimize a grower’s ROI.

New Precision Technology Institute

A new component of Crop Tour this year will be ongoing trials at AGCO-owned Precision Planting’s new 200-acre Precision Technology Institute (PTI) research farm in Pontiac, Illinois.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us to gather data and agronomic insights,” adds Celli. “As opposed to the single-year trials we’ve had the past two years, we will perform multiple-year studies at the same location.”

Along with the 2018 singulation, depth, down-force, planting-speed and hybrid trials, PTI will run long-term tillage, fertility, organic-matter/hybrid yield trials and other precision-planting studies. The PTI trailer—an air-conditioned multimedia classroom in a converted semitrailer—will be used at the Pontiac farm for most of the summer when it’s not traveling to select AGCO Crop Tour and Precision Planting events.

Moving forward, AGCO’s global initiative will embrace customer profitability and economics within all facets of its business. “It’s all about bringing agronomic value and advice to help our customers get more value out of the equipment they already own, and understand how new advancements can help them improve profitability,” says Goebel. “We learn as much from our field-plot research as the growers who attend our Crop Tour events, and we look forward to sharing what we’ve learned at a field near you later this year.”

1  Morning Sun, Iowa: June 12

2  Falls City, Neb.: June 14

3  Union City, Ohio: August 14

4  Wausau, Wis.: August 15-16

5  Fremont, Neb.: August 16

6  Gladbrook, Iowa: August 21

7  Irwin, Iowa: August 22

8 Arthur, Ill.: August 23

9 Hankinson, N.D.: August 24

10 Madison, Minn.: September 18

Precision Technology Institute: Pontiac, Ill.
Contact your local Precision Planting dealer for PTI event dates and information.

Sign up now to attend an AGCO Crop Tour event near you at For more information and directions to the Precision Technology Institute, see