Now you can rapid-fire inject seed into desired moisture depth without getting out of the cab
Patrick Meagher and
DOVER CENTRE — A Western Ontario farmer has retrofitted a planter to fire corn seed into the soil at the optimum moisture level, giving the seed a full day’s head start.
Using Precision Planting’s SmartDepth technology, Nick Zwambag of Devolder Farms in Chatham-Kent, says a local grower used the technology and watched as the corn emerged 24 to 36 hours before other corn planted in the same field.
Using a 16-row planter, four rows had the SmartDepth technology, which adjusts moisture depth on the fly. No more jumping out of the cab to adjust for desired soil depth.
The one local grower was “very impressed,” Zwambag said. “Before the first stuff even came up, he and his boss looked at me and said, ‘you better order the other 12 rows and let’s get them coming.’”
Then he saw the four rows punch through the soil first. “He’s more than delighted. He cannot believe how variable the moisture is in his field and how evenly his crop emerged this year because he was chasing moisture”
Devolder Farms is one of only two dealers in Ontario with the technology. The other is Greg Millard, of Vernon Valley Farms, south of urban Ottawa, who says this technology is one-of-a-kind in North America and one customer has already reported requiring 5 per cent less seed to cover a field.
The setup does double duty, demonstrating the latest breakthrough from the Illinois-based manufacturer while showing that high-tech Precision Planting upgrades can be retrofitted to old and new equipment. With final testing of the technology completed last year, 2021 marks the product’s commercial debut.
Early observations found that out of 32 corn kernels planted using SmartDepth within a measured 17 ft. 5 in. row length (equivalent to one thousandth of an acre) 27 plants emerged at the same time. But rows where SmartDepth was intentionally not used plant emergence was “very hodge podge” and “all over the map,” Millard reported.
As the planter is pulled across the field, an onboard computer monitor actively “hunts” for the optimum moisture level of 33 to 35 per cent in the soil, using readings fed from another Precision Planting component — a “SmartFirmer” — a sophisticated hockey-stick shaped moisture sensor dragged along the seed bed. The computer reacts to the flow of moisture data by constantly adjusting small, pneumatic airbags to adjust the planting height and plop each kernel into the desired depth. A hydraulic levelling system also assists with the process, while a unique furrow-closing system ensures the earth is zipped up nicely.
“You can quickly reduce your stand count from 28,000 to 27,000 in a sandy field,” Millard says, “and then bring it up again in those bottom areas where the soil is better.”
Ballpark cost per planter, if starting from scratch, is about $3,000 per row, Zwambag said. If you already have the 20/20 monitor and a Delta Force or V-Drive system you’re looking at about $600 per row, he said.