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Equipment Hub: Maximizing productivity with high-speed planting

Brad Niensteadt for Progressive Forage Published on 01 February 2021

Advancements in planter technology in recent years have helped farmers increase their productivity and maximize yield potential.

Innovations such as electric drive, curve compensation and enhanced planter displays, among many others, continue to make planting simpler and more efficient.

One of the latest new technologies – high-speed planting – further accelerates this trend, enabling farmers to cover more acres in the same amount of time without sacrificing accuracy critical to crop performance.

As farmers weigh the benefits of incorporating high-speed planting on their operations, there are several factors to consider.

First, high-speed planters are not merely designed to go faster. Instead, they enable growers to achieve the best performance possible given the environmental and field conditions on their farm. That’s accomplished by taking gravity out of the mix.

With a traditional planter, seeds are released from the meter and dropped to the ground. Vacuum meters do a great job singulating seed, but accuracy can be reduced if the row unit moves or bounces as the equipment travels across the field. Hydraulic downforce systems can help compensate. But high-speed planting technology removes that variability by providing complete control of the seed from the high-speed seed meter and delivery tube directly to the seed trench.

The result is: Farmers can maintain precise singulation and seed spacing at the right speed for their operations. Most high-speed planters can operate from 3 to 10 mph, with 12 mph as the current top speed in the industry. This level of precision is particularly beneficial in difficult fields, such as rough or hilly terrain and steep side hills that make consistency all the more challenging for conventional planters.

Shrinking planting time

The benefits of high-speed planting, of course, are not limited to challenging fields. Regardless of field type, the main advantage is the ability to approximately double the number of acres that can be covered in a typical day. Farmers face a tight planting window every spring, which can be even more daunting when delayed by the kind of wet, cold weather experienced in recent seasons. By shrinking planting time, high-speed technology gives farmers a valuable edge against adverse conditions.

In considering the switch to high-speed planting, another consideration is future growth. For farmers planning to expand their operations, the technology offers a great solution: the ability to plant more acres with the same-size planter.

Wear life and maintenance

Although all high-speed planters offer similar technology and benefits, there are differences in how they are designed and manufactured. With higher speed comes more friction and wear points in the equipment. Therefore, when comparing costs of ownership between different models, it’s important to know how long major components are expected to last and what the cost of replacement is.

When it comes to routine maintenance, high-speed planters are not really that different from standard models. Farmers should still perform routine checks before each planting season and make any repairs needed before heading to the field in order to avoid costly downtime. Although high-speed planters have more components, maintenance and repairs should actually be easier because they are engineered for consistent performance and durability.

Planting conditions

For both traditional and high-speed planting, the basic rules apply concerning planting conditions. The ability to plant at higher speeds does not change the fact that good planting conditions are still paramount. Avoiding planting in wet fields and achieving good seed-to-soil contact with the correct planting depth is still the best formula to help crops reach their full potential.

Similarly, higher speed doesn’t eliminate the need for farmers to do what they have always done – get down from the tractor and check what’s actually going on in the field to ensure consistent planting spacing and seed depth.

Each farmer will need to determine if high-speed planting is a good fit for their operation. The technology typically involves a higher up-front investment than a conventional model. But factoring in the benefits of time savings and increased productivity, many growers will see high-speed planting as offering a good return on that investment.  end mark

PHOTO: By shrinking planting time, high-speed technology gives farmers a valuable edge against adverse conditions. Photo courtesy of Kinze.

Brad Niensteadt is the senior product specialist with Kinze Manufacturing.