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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Technology yields results


PRECISION PLANTING IS perhaps best known for their 20/20 SeedSense planting monitors, but the Tremont, Illinois-based agricultural technology company also produces a full line of mechanical planting equipment.


Based around the vSet singulator, Precision Planting’s mechanical product line features electric motors which they claim offer reliability and easy maintenance. The planting system the company has developed is modular, so that an older planter can be completely overhauled in phases as its original mechanical parts wear out and need to be replaced. All of Precision Planting’s mechanical products integrate completely with the 20/20 Seedsense cab-mounted monitor for real time control and planting information. Owners can outfit each row of their planter with meters that provide a constant stream of diagnostic information to the digital display inside the cab. The monitor even displays an estimate of dollars lost per acre if a row is underperforming or needs adjustment.

During the 2014 growing season, Devolder Farms in Chatham-Kent made two new Precision Planting products available for trials: the vDrive electric motor and the DeltaForce downforce system. Along with vSet meters and 20/20 Seedsense monitors, the new products were installed on Devolder’s own planter and on two other local farmers’ equipment.

vDrive is an electric drive system that retrofits onto already installed vSet meters, designed to be a direct replacement for the central hydraulic drive systems typically found on planters. vDrive enables each row to operate completely independent of each other, and to make automatic, real time adjustments that ensure even spacing regardless of soil conditions, elevation, corners, and other challenges that typically lead to doubles and skips in planting rows.

“Conventional central drive systems that run each meter at the same speed are problematic because rows always work differently,” says Devolder Farms seed sales and production specialist Wayne Black. “For example, if one wheel of the planter is pushing harder through the softer soil, it will slow down, and that affects seed spacing.”

The same effect is made even worse when the planter has to turn around a corner; because the rows of the planter closest to the centre of the turning radius are covering significantly less ground during the turn, seeds are planted significantly closer together.

“Installing individual vDrive motors to run each planting meter allows for real time data collection and adjustment that ensures for improved spacing consistency on a per- row basis, regardless of soil type, corners, or other external factors” says Black.

DeltaForce is a hydraulic cylinder that replaces the springs or air bags that apply downforce to each row of a planter. It constantly measures the weight and ground contact of each row and adjusts pressure specific to that individual row. According to specifications provided by Precision Planting, each DeltaForce unit makes adjustments two hundred times a second. Everything from soil type to the weight of the seeds in the hopper can affect the amount of downforce a conventional spring or air bag-controlled row unit applies.

Like other Precision Planting projects, the DeltaForce is designed to eliminate this natural variability by controlling and adjusting each row of the planter independently. DeltaForce is not yet available for all types of planters, although it is supported by most John Deere, CaseIH, Kinze, and some White planter models.

Chatham area farmer Jason Fox described an experiment that he ran with his 12-row corn planter once the vDrive system was installed. “We put a bag of seed in each row of the planter and ran it until the system gave us a warning that the first one was empty. We got out of the cab and had a look — every hopper had less than ten seeds left in it. It’s amazing how accurately it planted.”

Fox had seen Precision Planting equipment at trade shows before, but this was his first season using it. His planter was also outfitted with a 20/20 SeedSense monitor and vSet meters for the trial. Fox is now planning to install DeltaForce on his 24-row soybean and sugar beet planter this year.

“We tend to plant sugar beets fairly shallow, so the smoother the ride and the more accurate downforce we can get, with less bouncing, the better.”

Farmers who want to switch their planters to vDrive and DeltaForce must already have a 20/20 SeedSense monitor installed, and they will need to purchase units for each row of their planter. The vDrive is specifically designed to drive a vSet meter, while the DeltaForce can be installed on planters without a vSet meter system. Precision Planting’s product line is meant to be modular, so owners of older planters can gradually transition in phases.

Once a 20/20 SeedSense monitor is set up, the installation of vSet, vDrive, and DeltaForce parts is simple enough that most owners can do it themselves. Through dealers, Precision Planting offers a starter package that makes the 20/20 SeedSense and associated software available for significantly below retail cost. Pricing for vDrive and DeltaForce varies depending on the size of the planter; both will be commercially available for the 2015 planting season.

Devolder Farms has not conducted official field research, but Black has no doubt that these products can increase yields.

“Ultimately the end goal is this —  consistent spacing, at an optimum population, emerging all at the same time because they were planted at a consistent depth, with optimum down pressure to achieve maximum potential for root growth. That is what I want for maximizing yield,” he says.

Black also adds the extreme degree of control over individual planting, the ease of installation and maintenance, the advanced data collection capabilities of the monitoring system, and the modular design are all reasons why a farmer should consider upgrading an aging planter with Precision Planting parts instead of replacing it altogether. •


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