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Setting the stage for planting

(CIFN file photo)

The information farmers can see from the planter tractor is going to become more powerful and will continue to change the way we plant.

Precision Planting’s SmartFirmer has a sensor giving farmers the ability to find out about conditions each row unit of the planter is experiencing.

“I’m creating a map in the cab showing me variability,” explained Jason Webster, commercial agronomist for Precision Planting.

As this new technology measures organic matter in the soil, high-resolution detailed maps are the result. This also works as an indicator to know if we are planting seed into moisture or not. The end goal is consistent emergence, according to Webster.

“It’s just powerful information coming to our fingertips,” Webster told those attending an agronomy meeting this week hosted by Jenner Precision near Fairbury.

SmartFirmer can also read the soil temperature as you plant and find variations from row to row so the planter operator knows if there is a problem.

There are ways to increase planted acres per hour in the spring without sacrificing efficiency. Precision Planting’s Eric Huber believes the best way to do this is to run spring tillage in the same direction as the planter. He cautions against using a shark tooth row cleaner in a conventional field.

“The smoother you are running, the faster you can run,” Huber said.

Huber acknowledged a number of stand establishment challenges last spring such as slow emergence, seedling rot and sidewall smearing. There are some factors growers can control and others they can’t when planting time rolls around.

“I think there are some things we can control. Number one is planting date,” Huber added.

Those growers who waited an extra day or two last spring saw the decision pay off as many planted on the wrong day leading to spotty emergence and the need to replant in some cases.

SpeedTube from Precision Planting can match ground speed to planter speed, allowing growers to cut down on the time spent in the field.

“It’s possible to move quite a bit faster,” noted Huber.

The Precision Planting Winter Conference is planned for Jan. 16-19 near Tremont. Registration can be done online at

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