Planter Technology About to Make a Trend-Busting Move

CORN ILLUSTRATED: Planters that can run faster and planters that can switch hybrids are already on the horizon.

Published on: Feb 11, 2014

The changes in corn planting in the next five years may be as dramatic as the change from check-row corn to regular corn once herbicides became available. Gene Leak, West Lafayette, Ind., 101 years old, remembers the days of check-row corn.

"We didn't have any choice because we didn't have chemicals to control weeds," he says. "We had to cultivate. I started out in 1935 with a mounted cultivator on my first tractor – a Massey- Harris General Purpose four-wheel drive. We had to take cletes off the wheels so the cultivator would fit. That's the only weed control we had."

Leak may have farmed in another time but he's interested in what his grandson in-law A.J. Booher does with technology on his farm today. When it comes to planters, technology is set to change at warp speed.

Hold back the throttle: No one will convince Barry Fisher that planters that can plant accurately at speeds up to 10 miles per hour are here yet. He recommends slower speeds to keep row units form bouncing.
Hold back the throttle: No one will convince Barry Fisher that planters that can plant accurately at speeds up to 10 miles per hour are here yet. He recommends slower speeds to keep row units form bouncing.

Precision Planting introduced a pilot seed drop tube this winter that supposedly will allow planters to run up to 10 miles per hour. It's not here year, and Barry Fisher, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is still telling farmers that 5 miles per hour is fast enough in many cases, especially in no-till.

Related: Precision Planting Readies New Seed Tube, Metering System

"Some successful corn contest winners say you give it the champagne glass test," he says. "You should be able to go across the field without spilling a drop with it sitting on a seed box lid."

John Deere is introducing a new planter at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week. While it's been kept under wraps, one of the teasers is that it can run faster and still be accurate.

The other big update will be planters that can change hybrids on the go. Agronomists are reporting yield bumps, and companies aren't waiting to develop the technology. Kinze, working with Raven, will test four planters this summer. Beck's Hybrids and their customers will be closely involved in the tests. Beck's Hybrids has been instrumental in demonstrating an advantage for changing hybrids.

Related: Raven, Kinze To Partner On Multi-Hybrid Planter System

Precision Planting also unveiled a new concept row unit that switches hybrids on the go earlier this year. It is scheduled for extensive testing this spring as well.