How Souped Up Is Your Planter?

Whatever happened to the old two-row Deere planter?

Published on: May 23, 2011

Fortunately, the two-row Deere and its counterparts are either in a museum, junk pile, or in someone's yard as a lawn ornament. Can you imagine starting in on 3,000 acres with a two-row, plate planter? No monitor, no auto-guidance, no effective closing wheels, no accurate seed singulation method. Heck, it might still be a check-row planter that planted in hills so corn could be cultivated both ways.

Have you ever stopped to think how far planting technology has come? Here is just a partial list of how you could equip your planter today. How many of these gizmos and conveniences do you have mounted aboard? And trust me, it's not an all-inclusive list!

Standard row-by row monitor- Displays whether a row is working or not. Beeps if it isn't working.

Precision Planting Seed Sense 20/20 monitor- Displays all kinds of variables, including seed count, seed spacing, miles per hour, and so forth. If precise planting slips, you know it right away!

Two-row shut-off controls- For planted equipped with row clutches, two rows can shut off at a time, as directed by a computer program. Rows shut off on the ends or whenever they pass over an area already planted. Name of the game is saving seed.

Variable-rate capability- Program in where you want 25,000 and where you want 32,000 seeds per acre. Build your own prescription based on soil maps, yield maps or whatever you choose.

Auto-guidance- The rage of the decade- use RTK or try to get by on a WAAS signal- what works may depend on your location. RTK or similar signal is recommended for planting. Let the steering wheel go and concentrate on other things.

Central –fill – Auger or convey all seed into central hopper, instead of individual boxes. It makes fill-up a snap, although it makes it harder to do test plots and frequent hybrid switches.

Seed tenders- OK, they're not part of the planter, but carts that bring two or four plastic boxes, each holding 50 units of seed corn, to the field speed up planting.

Hydraulic-controlled residue wheels- Both Yetter and Dawn offer this feature. Each works differently.

Precision Planting Air Force- Use air to control and change downpressure on planting units on the go. Other brands are also coming on the market.

Keeton seed firmers with liquid fertilizer tubes- With or without tubes, one of the simplest but most effective inventions of the last 25 years.

Spader closing wheels- Pick the design of closing wheel that closes your slot best- either two spaders, two rubbers, two cast irons or any combination of these.

GPS unit on the planter- It's not the fastest invention to catch on, but GPS mounted directly on the planter comes in useful on hills and sideslopes

Vacuum planting- Some people still prefer finger pickups, a tremendous advancement over plate planters. Others think vacuum planters are the way to go.

Different row spacing- Try to find a 40-inch row planter. You can find 20-inch, row splitters for beans, and now a twin-row planter from Great Plains or Mononsem. Rumor is another major manufacturer is coming out with a twin-row planter soon- but it's not confirmed.

A chain!- Last but not least, a piece of chain, like you might have found on that old Deere two-row, to drag behind the closing wheels, especially in no-till, to smooth out the soil.

What did we omit? Smart-Boxes for insecticide? It's a great technology because it's a closed system, but fewer and fewer people apply soil insecticides. Refuge row units on Deere planter spaced so that you get 20% refuge in GMO-fields? They've served their purpose, but if the refuge-in-the bag technique takes off, they may become obsolete.