Planter Style Can Affect Planting Accuracy

Vacuum vs. finger pick-up planters have differences.

Published on: Feb 4, 2013

Note that the headline says style of planter, not model, not make, not color. Style refers to what method the planter uses to singulate seed and get it started on its way to proper placement in the soil. There are more than two methods, but methods most used today are finger pick-up type planters and vacuum planters.

Agronomists are discovering that there are some inherent differences in how these two types of seeding mechanisms respond to various things that may happen during planting. For example, with finger pick-up planters, if you plant faster, particularly faster than recommended speeds, plant population tends to increase above the target level you're shooting for.

Style of planter matters: This planter uses a vacuum delivery system, so the overall seed drop would likely decrease as the operator increased planter speed.
Style of planter matters: This planter uses a vacuum delivery system, so the overall seed drop would likely decrease as the operator increased planter speed.

In contrast, if you drive faster with a vacuum planter, the planted population tends to decrease. You will put on fewer total seeds per acre driving at 7 miles per hour vs. 5.5 miles per hour with a vacuum planter, but more seeds at those same driving speeds if the planter uses a finger pick-up delivery system. Most agronomists would not recommend driving 7 miles per hour with either system with the vast majority of planters on the market today.

Vacuum meter planters also tend to be more forgiving on seed size than finger-pickup machines, note spokespersons with Precision Planting, Tremont, Ill. That boils down to being able to plant a wider variety of seed sizes and grades with more accuracy with a vacuum planter compared to a finger pickup planter.

Overall, it still doesn't mean you shouldn't calibrate your vacuum planter for the size and grade of seed you will be planting. That is still the best way to get the most accurate seed drop and plant spacing. You may need to adjust settings based upon the seed that you plant.

What agronomists say, however, is that seed size shouldn't rule your decisions, no matter which style of planter units you use. Make seed choices for your farms based on hybrids, and which one best matches the field, not on which grades of seed are available in one hybrid or another.