Planters are one step closer to operating themselves this year. New smart features and attachments for 2013 can automatically clear the row, test ground hardness, adjust down-force, vary the type and rate of seed, and track bin levels. And a grower can control all of these operations without leaving the tractor cab.
Tom Evans, vice president of sales at Great Plains, says many of the technologies that were just concepts a few years ago are now available for consumers to buy. “The ‘bells and whistles’ that used to be a luxury are now almost standard equipment,” Evans says. “Automatic point-row control, automatic row-unit down-pressure control, variable-rate prescription seed rates, and variable-rate fertilizer are making planters very high-tech.”
He says higher commodity prices are driving sales of this technology. “With corn hitting $6/bu., farmers are looking to maximize everything they can get out of an acre,” Evans adds.
Other manufacturers echo this sentiment. “Recently we’ve noticed a change in conversations among customers,” says Gary Hamilton, AGCO. “We’ve always talked about the iron and all the things that it can do. Now technology is top-of-mind. That includes not only the ability to monitor seed but also the way we place it. Farmers like auto row shutoff so they don’t waste any seed on end rows. They like autoguide so the planter is precisely in line with the previous pass across the field. So the technology side, placing seed and monitoring in its place, has really become the topic as we move forward.”
Like Great Plains’ Evans, Hamilton says strong commodity prices are driving this attention. “As corn and soybean prices come up, [farmers] now have the means to invest in new technology as a way to balance out the higher price of inputs we are experiencing. The technology is now available for farmers to help them manage their operation as best they can.”
Here’s just a sampling of new planter technologies that will be available this spring, all designed to automate the task of planting corn and soybeans.