As I talk to many growers about their adoption of precision farming equipment and tools, I always like to find out what technology they could eliminate from their operation—if they were forced to give up something.
Well, as you can probably guess, almost everyone who has auto steer would never go back to steering again. Who can blame them. However, the other day I spoke with central Ohio grower Gary Piper, who told me, “I’d give up auto steer in favor of my planter row control.”
This Centerburg producer, who farms 5,400 acres with his two brothers, just finished his third season using Ag Leader SeedCommand on their Insight monitor that controls Tru Count clutches on their 16-row planter. Piper admits to being skeptical when he first installed the units—about the reliability of the clutches and how soon he might recover his investment. But he figured with smaller, odd-shaped fields, ‘like one 24-acre field with eight corners,’ that it would pay off eventually and help control costs.
“The first year running them, I was very impressed. I saw first hand the results since I do all the corn planting. It wasn’t just the seed savings, but it really improved harvestability not having to deal with doubled-up rows that combine like a weed patch,” Piper says.
One-year payoff. It wasn’t until last year that he kept track of exactly how much seed he saved. “After planting 2,500 acres, we saved 38 bags, or about $7,600 worth of triple-stack hybrids—enough to easily pay for it in one year. And with SmartStax hybrids running $300-$350 this coming year, you can save even more.
Another benefit he liked had to do with comfort, under weather-stressed times. “Last spring we had challenging weather, which forced us to spend three long nights running the planter. As an operator I could not have physically done that and still kept the precision I demand—which the SeedCommand gave me.”
Yield loss. The other savings not often considered is yield loss from double-planted rows. “I never realized how dramatic that can be until I helped a neighbor combine last fall, who had double planted point rows—and I watched the yield monitor drop to about one-third the normal yield.”
After hearing that, one begins to understand why Gary won’t part with his planter row control system. Just plain common sense.
If you’re interested in a precision agriculture decision-making spreadsheet tool developed by Kansas State, look under ‘Decision-Making Tools’ called KSU-GPSguidance at this link: