This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Planter

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Multiple monitors, an iPad, bluetooth devices, and more. While this sounds like a white-collar office environment, it’s actually the scene in a modern tractor cab during planting season.

Modern advances in planting have been driven by precision hardware, software and GPS technology which now play a major part in achieving yield and efficiency goals as farmers write prescription maps to automatically adjust seeding rates (plant population) across each field. Yield history collected during harvest and soil sampling allows farmers to plant more seed in areas that have produced higher yields in the past and less seed in areas that don’t.

Precision satellite technology steers the tractor in a straight line within an inch of accuracy and a computer can tell certain rows of the planter to stop planting if they happen to overlap onto a row that has already been seeded. The technology can also record how the planter is performing when in operation so that farmers can make adjustments to further improve accuracy.

Further advances in planter technology are allowing farmers to plant multiple hybrids throughout the field as soil types and conditions may favor one line of seed genetics over another.

Farmers utilize these precision tools to keep costs down, including fuel and seed corn, which can cost more than $100 per acre (over $300 per bag) while maximizing their production opportunity.

“50 years ago when my Grandpa was farming, he was far less efficient that I am today but he knew every foot of his ground due to the smaller equipment and management practices of that time. Precision agriculture technology is allowing us to get back to knowing every foot of our ground just as intimately as past generations, and allows us to become much more efficient and sustainable each year,” noted Reno Brueggeman, president of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and Miller farmer.

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Inside a modern tractor cab. Photo courtesy of former SD Secretary of Ag, Walt Bones.

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