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The Most Important Thing You Can Do

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
filed under: Planting Systems

Being a sugarbeet producer, Tim Schumacher is very familiar with planter test stands. For years, the Thompson, N.D., farmer has regularly hauled units from his beet planter to a site where the North Dakota State University-run sugarbeet test stand is operating. There, the units are thoroughly evaluated for worn parts and other potential performance issues.

But Schumacher was in store for a big surprise when, last winter, he checked out the 16-row John Deere 1780 MaxEmerge that he uses for corn, sunflower and dry beans. He brought its metering units down to Oppegard, Inc., of nearby Hillsboro — a dealer for Illinois-based Precision Planting, Inc. Oppegard’s Randy Klassen mounted the units on the MeterMax Plus® test stand, filled the meter with the exact lot of sunflower hybrid that Schumacher planned to plant, and turned on the switch. The calibration system’s photoelectric “eyes” detected seeds on a 50-cell gated belt, counting the number of empty cells (skips) and the number of times two or more seeds were picked up (doubles or triples).

The result for Schumacher’s units? “Though we already had doubles eliminators in the planter, we found we were running about 25% doubles,” he reports — still rather amazed nearly a year later. After switching to a recommended eSet® corn disk developed by Precision Planting, Schumacher says his doubles dropped down to between 1 and 2%.

“We’d never had a problem before in getting the right seed drop per acre,” he notes. “Vacuum planters are known for their accuracy in that. The problem was in where we placed the seeds.”

According to Precision Planting’s web site, the company’s eSet disk offers four key advantages over a standard vacuum disk:

• It singulates any seed size or shape. There’s no pocket or cell, which means the disk is not seed sensitive.

• It improves seed release. The raised platform means seeds release down the center of the seed tube, thus minimizing seed tube ricochet.

• No adjustments. Singulation of 98.5%+ is achieved on almost every seed type without adjusting vacuum or double eliminators.

• Better seed agitation. Seed treatments can inhibit singulation because seeds pack together at the bottom of the meter. The eSet has aggressive seed agitation that keeps the seed pool fluid for better loading.

Count Tim Schumacher among the believers. He ordered a set of the disks recommended for the size sunflower seed (oil-type) he was planting last spring. “We could really see the difference in the fields this [past] year,” he states. “The stands were so even.”

While the planter update was not cheap, Schumacher considers it an excellent investment. “With the price of seed and importance of proper plant spacing — even more so with corn — we just felt it was something we had to do,” he says. “When we saw on the [test stand] that we were throwing 25% doubles and were able to get it down to around 1 or 2%, well, that really opens your eyes.”

Oppegard’s Klassen says that while the eSet disks were not designed specifically for sunflower, “they do work. It improves the accuracy by far over what we were doing before.” The disk has an automatic doubles eliminator, meaning it doesn’t have to be physically adjusted for different seed sizes — “unless you have a big seed size change. Then it comes down to basically swapping the seed disk out to a different one — and back to the field you go.”

“In today’s environment, with everything being so expensive, planter calibration is really important,” stresses Tim Schumacher. “If you don’t plant right, the season is not going to turn out right. The most important thing you can do is spend more time with your planter.”

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