John Deere’s new air seeder

Visitors to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky., got up close to see John Deere’s new air seeder.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — No doubt there is a need for speed for farmers to get crops in the ground during the narrow planting window expected this spring.

With only 10 to 14 prime corn planting days, farmers want to move quickly once the weather allows. But they don’t want to sacrifice potential yield for speed.

“Speed is just part of the equation,” said Jeremy Hughes, product manager for Horsch. Seed placement, depth, furrow integrity and other factors are all important.

It’s more about planting efficiency than speed these days, he said at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Feb. 14.

He and representatives of other companies were part of a panel discussion on the changes in high-speed planting.

Initially, the push was to go from an average of 5 mph to 10 mph, but that doesn’t work for everyone with differing field sizes, shapes, conditions and soil types, Hughes said.

Planting at high speed “is like driving on the interstate in the winter — if you don’t drive for the conditions, you can get yourself in trouble,” said Phil Jennings, principal service representative for Kinze.

He and the other planter experts emphasized the importance of having a good seedbed, especially at higher speeds.

Everything that affects the row unit is affected by speed, said Matt Bennett, regional sales manager for Precision Planting. Among the considerations is residue and how clean the row is, Bennett said.

Planting date is also important. If a farmer is planting quickly when conditions are not right, more of the crop ends up in the wrong part of the planting window, he said.

Having an attachment that allows the farmer to change planting depth to reach the ideal soil moisture and temperature is one option that may help with timing, Bennett said.

He said big horsepower is one of the requirements to pull a planter at 10 mph.

“Most of you don’t own a tractor big enough for 10 mph,” he told farmers in the audience.

In recent years, many of the challenges with planting faster have been addressed. Horsch was at the beginning of the high-speed race in Germany, starting work on the concept as early as 2005-06, and by 2011, the company developed the Maestro planter, which was released to America in 2013.

Over the years, the Maestro, produced in North Dakota for the American market, has improved its toolbar stabilization for higher speeds, weight transfer to avoid compaction and downforce to help with placement.

Planting population, uniform spacing, uniform emergence and getting it all done in the planting window are all important, said Ryan Hough, John Deere’s seeding product marketing manager.

One of the benefits of more exact seed placement, at any speed, is consistency in germination. With better metering, downforce and confidence in placement, farmers have more options today, Hough said.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.