Planting Speed Still an Important Factor

Experts say fancy gizmos don't change the equation.

Published on: Apr 19, 2010

You can hook all kinds of sensors and monitors on your planter. You can equip it to change downpressure on row units on-the-go, even automatically. And you can even program planters set up fort it to change planting rate on-the-go. That's usually gone according to instructions from a computer in the tractor cab, based upon a prescription map you've prepared in advance for that field.

You may not even technically have to drive the planter across the field. With RTK or new cellular systems (Slingshot), the tractor may guide itself without your help. That means you can plant without markers, and even plant at night and still get accurate, straight rows if you so choose.

Despite all this technology and 'gee-whiz' gizmo gadgetry, one thing still remains the same, some experts insist. While some of these things may help your planter work better, planting speed is still important. Just because you have auto-steer and the best monitors money can be doesn't mean you can plant seven miles per hour or faster, experts insist.

"Speed still kills when it comes to planting," says Barry Fisher, state agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "You need to be able to keep planter units running smoothly. A friend says you ought to be able to sit a glass of champagne on each box lid on each row, fill the glass, and not either tip the bottle or in fact spill a drop as you go across the field. You're not going to be able to do that if you're planting too fast."

Dave Nanda, a crops consultant, Indianapolis, is also a big proponent of not driving too fast while planting. He believes that consistency of stand placement suffers with certain planters when some operators choose to drive faster than recommended for that planter, or for the conditions.

Nanda recently prepared an extensive list of factors that it takes to obtain picket-fence, most productive corn stands. He interviewed some of the most meticulous corn planting farmers in the Midwest to put together his list. Maintenance and pre-season preparation of the planter is crucial, but so is driving at the correct speed, Nanda insists.

The best way to prove it to yourself is to plant at different speeds, then dig and check placement. That can take time. In the pre-season, you can test row units on monitor stands and discover what happens at various operating speeds.

You won't get a ticket form a cop for speeding in the field, experts say. But you'll pay a fine just the same!