Final Term Paper
A Long Way from Broadcasting
Fundamentals of Crop Production Equipment
Agricultural Systems Management
West Lafayette, IN
November 27, 2018?
Dr. Bob Stwalley
27 November 2018
A Long Way from Broadcasting
In 2018 there was an estimated average of 89 million acres of corn planted. Not to mention, 88 million acres of soybeans as well. A majority of those acres were planted with GPS guidance to perfect the row spacing, and for some growers, this may make a considerable difference. However, GPS guidance has been with the industry since the early 2000’s, and modern agriculture is progressing rapidly. This progression has led to multiple forms of innovation and technology, one of the biggest being precision planting. This remarkable technology will be an important part of the future of agriculture, but it is a newer technology that may have the need for further improvement. Many growers have invested in precision planting technology, while others are skeptical to the benefits it can truly provide. The issue for growers who have yet to invest stems from the fact that they cannot get guaranteed that it will benefit the operation enough to outweigh the costs surrounding the upgrade. This issue leads to evaluation of precision planting technology, along with evaluation of the grower’s planting operations. In order to evaluate precision planting technology research must be done. Grower’s planting operations must be evaluated in the field during planting and also after emergence. Once the grower has evaluated all necessary aspects, then they will be able to weigh the benefits and downfalls of precision planting for their operation. Precision planting research provides a decent measure of the benefits it can provide. However, growers must carefully evaluate the need for the technology in their operation because it is such a large investment.
In today’s world, agriculture is old traditional farming in the modern way. Now, agricultural production is being optimized through improving the precision of existing agronomic management activities by implementing them at a subfield scale. Present farming methods mainly involve the uniform planting of a field with one crop, although the primary characteristics for crop planting within an agricultural field often vary greatly. The soil characteristics of a field are usually not uniform but vary according to topography and parent material. As a result, there are differences in water supply, nutrient availability, and potential leaching of fertilizers and pesticides which in turn lead to differences in crop yields. In agriculture, even small-scale site differences lead to great differences in yield and overall quality. To overcome these differences, new advancements are being made in precision agriculture in an attempt to adapt to specific differences within fields. Therefore, avoiding over/under supplying the plants. One innovation that is frequently discussed is Precision Planting. This company, founded in 1993, offers a variety of equipment and technologies that can be added to various types of planters. The aim is to create more precise and controllable planting operation. It is crucial for producers to understand the functions and accuracy of the way their current planter is running in order to research for premier methods to fix problems and increase yields and efficiency. Metering, down-pressure adjustments, sensors, monitors, and data collection are some of the products Precision Planting offers.
The basis for precision farming is the parceling of the agricultural field into smaller units (grid cells) to which a whole battery of information can be assigned. After evaluating the concluded information, a tailored management plan can be set up. Since present maps do not show such highly detailed information, this data can be determined and evaluated with such modern methods as GPS (Global Positioning System), GIS (Geographic Information System), airplane or satellite carried remote sensing data, soil analyses, etc.
Overall, Precision Planting technology may be a somewhat new and uncomfortable technology for certain growers or field experts to grasp and welcome to the rapidly changing agricultural industry. However, modern agriculture requires that grower must be efficient throughout the farming season. Some may say that the primary area growers must be efficient in is fuel/running costs. While this is definitely something that should be highly valued and managed, it can also be said that a growers planting practices and operation must be the most efficient area on the farm.
During fall and spring seasons growers work to revive and prepare their soil for the approaching cropping season. The copping season begins immediately upon seed contact with the ground. While many factors that affect the fate of the seed are out of the grower’s control, research on planting equipment has led to creation of equipment and technology to perfect the planting process. The use of technology has become crucial to giving every single seed placed in the ground an equal chance for the highest rate of survival and yield. The use of Precision Planting technologies gives growers the control and assurance they are searching for from their planter.
Precision Planting, as a company, offer a large amount of options for adding the most valuable equipment options to a planter. A few Precision Planting technologies currently on the market include: V-set meters, mSet, Delta Force, and 20|20 monitors. All these products can be proven efficient and worth the investment in various scenarios. It is quite interesting to spend time evaluating a grower’s field to see how their current planting strategies are affecting their yield.
Metering systems come in many different forms. One of which, Precision Planting claims as their own. The V-set meter, shown in Figure 1, uses high The use of V-set meters is especially interesting because electronically controlled singulation row-by-row is a game changer. This technology is leading agriculture professionals to make use of all the data they are collecting about a grower’s operation. With seed prices reaching an average of fifty-five dollars for a fifty-pound bag of soybeans, it is crucial to make use of every single seed in the bag. With V-set meters and row-by-row population recommendations growers are able to ensure the best use of their seed.
Hand-in-hand with V-set meters is the mSet technology. Released early this year at the 2018 Winter Conference in Tremont, Illinois, mSet turns a single hybrid hopper on a planter into a dual hybrid hopper. This allows for two different hybrids to be planted in the field by one single planter as it switches between hybrids when crossing into different zones. A seed selector package is also included in the bottom of the hopper. The role of the seed selector is to regulate which hybrid and how much of that hybrid is allowed into the meter and into the ground. The third component is a seed level sensor. This seed level sensor integrates to a V-set meter. For growers today, if a planter is already equipped with V-set meter, all that would need done is simply replace the back cover and add the one that is compatible with the seed level sensor. The seed level sensor tells the farmer how much seed is in the feeder.
Delta force is likely one of the most beneficial innovations when it comes to the field of Precision Planting. New planters have been created to get the most done in the least amount of time possible. With this mentality, the overall weight of planters is increasing due to the larger size. This also means that the individual weight per row unit is increasing as well. Weight is necessary for getting the seed planted to the desired, uniform depth in varying conditions. Alternately, too much weight can cause the seed to be planted too deep causing late emergence or, in some cases, no emergence at all. With Delta Force this problem can be eliminated because of the ability to lift and adjust each row unit up and add pressure down, all on-the-go, which can ensure desired planting depth.
Another incredibly useful Precision Planting technology is 20|20 display. This is also a fairly new technology released at the conference in January. Precision Planting’s 20/20 Monitor optimizes planting, harvest and application decisions with its intuitive interface that visualizes performance and field conditions in real time. Seed by seed, plant by plant, drop by drop, this monitor does it all. Users can customize display configurations and add sensors as their operation and preferences may change. 20|20 can be utilized as a monitor to collect the most spatially accurate yield data available and to provide information for setting the planter to maximize production. That same 20|20 also powers the most advanced systems on the market that control population, down force, liquid, multi-hybrid planting and higher speed planting. In addition, the 20/20 senses the furrow, monitors seeding variance, controls down force on a seeder and can control liquid applications on a side-dress bar or sprayer.
Precision Planting offers an extended variety of equipment options and features for farmers. The options offered are an expense some growers may not find necessary, but with the demand of a quickly increasing population, the demand for more food is also climbing upward. In order to alleviate some financial barriers, Precision Planting offers a three-year, zero-percent financing option. Along with financing options, equipment can also be split into different levels of upgrade. Options are available for growers in search of bettering their operations with technology. Due to the current circumstances with grain market prices dropping and input costs increasing, finances are making a great impact on grower’s choices. Financial inputs must be carefully analyzed in order for farmers to be profitable in their industry. Today, farmers are being put in a position where it becomes necessary to the world to produce the most grain with the least amount of land possible. Being put in this type of position demands sacrifice and compromise but focusing on the planting operation may be one sacrifice growers should not make.
Calculations can be convenient for deciding if investing in Precision Planting can be beneficial for the operation. With data collection and in-field evaluation of real-time planting, each row of the planter can be monitored for skipping and overplanting. This data can then be translated into a dollar amount lost per infraction of planting. Thus keeping the grower informed on the effects their planter may be putting on their yield. Analysis becomes important and can lead the grower to a decision based on their current equipment. It is remarkable that yields can be traced back to the exact way the seed was placed in the ground. Not only is it important for growers to match up their yields with the planting data, but it is important data for agriculture industry as a whole. With the data retrieved from tracking every move within an operation other parts of agriculture can benefit.
It is a matter of time until all farmers can decide to take their operation to the next level with their equipment. For some, the first step may be simply adding a guidance system to their tractors. For those growers, upgrading to Precision Panting may be a few steps ahead of what their operation is ready for. However, it is something they should be informed about and considering for the future.
The technologies and equipment offered by Precision Planting are extraordinary and have the potential to make growers more profitable. Getting growers to upgrade to Precision Planting will certainly be a barrier, however with the future of agriculture revolving around technology it is only a matter of time until Precision Planting is adopted across the board. When technology has proven itself to growers and can be seen as profitable is when Precision Planting will be an aspect of every grower’s equipment operation.
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