Getting Planting Up To Speed

New tools from AGCO can as much as double your planting speed for better yields.

By Des Keller

The AGCO Crop Tour in 2017 has shown that with the proper equipment and seed bed preparation, planting can be conducted at higher speeds than the norm with excellent results.

The results were impressive. “The plot data showed that the White Planters 9800VE Series planters were able to achieve the same excellent singulation of 99%-plus along with 99%-plus spacing accuracy operating at 10 mph as they did at 5 mph,” says Joe Whorton, AGCO tactical marketing manager, seeding and tillage.

The implications of this are clear. “If you can plant 40% to 60% more acres during your optimum window, that is a good thing,” says Larry Kuster, AGCO senior product marketing specialist. “This is more corn planted when the opportunity is there so you are not suffering from weather delays.”

Like last year, this year’s Crop Tour used best practices as well as some intentionally poor ones to illustrate the importance of seed planting depth, seed spacing and singulation, and down force. New this year, though, was adding Precision Planting’s SpeedTube™ seed tubes to the White 9800VE planters and running side-by-side planting-speed tests.

SpeedTube is the seed delivery unit on each row that uses a ‘flighted’ belt driven by its own electric motor that matches the ground speed of the planter. Each seed is captured by two rotating and pliable ‘fingers’ on the conveyor that create a seed chamber that deposits the seed accurately, regardless of planter speed.

Without this system, higher speeds can cause the seeds to bounce around in the seed tube and ricochet into the trench, leading to uneven seed placement. The 2017 test plots were planted at speeds varying from 5 mph to 10 mph using SpeedTube-equipped White 9800VE Series planters.

Seed Bed Preparation

Running a planter at speeds 50% to 100% faster means that other parts of the operation have to be able to keep up. For example, “The 20/20 SeedSense monitor evaluates the ride of every row unit on the planter,” says Kuster. “That lets you know whether the placement and accuracy is what it needs to be,” even at higher speeds.

The 20/20 SeedSense monitor displays planter performance on the go.

The 20/20 SeedSense monitor displays planter performance on the go.

Tillage tools also must be able to prepare an excellent seed bed fast enough in the spring, Kuster says. Many of the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour plot seed beds were prepped with a Sunflower 6830 rotary finisher to ensure level beds.

The challenge there, according to Kuster, is having an implement like the 6830 running at 10 mph ahead of the planter unit. The faster a tool is pulled in contact with the ground, the more tendency there is for ineffectiveness, but even at 10 mph “the SF6830 stays where it needs to.”

Kuster also recommends that “if a vertical tillage tool is being used ahead of a planter, then it is best to run it in the same direction the planter will travel. Tools such as these do not leave a smooth, flat, seed bed profile, so it’s advised to run the planter in the same direction to not bounce the planter over the peaks and valleys remaining from the tillage pass.”

If the SF6830 rotary finisher is used prior to planting, the necessity to run in the same direction as the tillage tool is negated, he says. The 6830’s “spider tines eliminate the peaks and valleys created by the blades, sculpting the seed bed profile smooth.”

Precision Sea Change

Being able to plant with this new level of accuracy—at speeds up to double the typical—is really a sea change in the industry, according to Bryce Baker, OEM Account Lead, Precision Planting. “We’re showing that whether the planter is working at 5 mph or 10 mph we’re seeing the same results,” he says.

Bryce Baker, OEM account lead with Precision Planting, with a demonstration planter row unit at the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour.

Bryce Baker, OEM account lead with Precision Planting, with a demonstration planter row unit at the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour.

“Twenty to 25 years ago, singulation accuracy was probably between 90% and 95%,” says Baker, “and depth control was a guess.” Now those factors can be set and maintained at a 99%-plus rate, he says.

Among the tools on the White Planters 9800VE Series that make that possible are vSet® electric drive meters, DeltaForce® down force control, 20/20 SeedSense® monitoring, the Climate FieldView™ Cab mapping app, and, new this year, SpeedTube® seed tubes, all from Precision Planting.

“We’re not trying to eliminate the need for an operator to be skilled and knowledgeable about planting,” Baker says. “We’re trying to give them tools so that the decisions they make based on their conditions, about how their seeds should be planted, will be carried through until they change it.”

Overall, Whorton says, the AGCO Crop Tour is about finding and demonstrating the ways to make the most of each and every crop season.

“A farmer may get only 40 attempts at planting during his or her career,” he says, “and how many of those 40 have you already had, and how confident are you that you’ve done them accurately and what can you do with those left to maximize your investment?”