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Front Porch: Technology stumps me again!

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

May 24, 2021

3 Min Read
seed trench in dirt field
WHERE’S THE SEED? I couldn’t find seed in this row, but I am not good at finding anything. Where is Sherlock Holmes when you need him? Read to solve the mystery. Tom J. Bechman

The late April morning was bright and sunny. I climbed into the tractor cab and was soon transfixed by the display monitors. A little mock tractor and planter on the screen were planting in the field as we went. The tractor was on autosteer, so the operator could show me things as we planted. Soon, we stopped so he could fill up his starter fertilizer tanks.

“Did you check seed depth when you first got here?” he asked.

“No, I was just taking pictures,” I said.

“I haven’t dug today, but it’s set at 2 inches, and it’s been right on target,” he said.

I took it as a strong hint that he wanted me to check seed depth while he filled the fertilizer tanks. I did my share of digging for seed in my day. In the good ol’ days, kids were the “seed monitor.” There were no fancy screens or beeps and buzzes to tell you if you were still planting. It took a lot of faith that everything was set right and working back then. Unfortunately, I was about as good at finding seed in the row as I am at finding anything else. Dad usually checked my work.

Let the digging begin

I moved in a few rows and started digging. I didn’t have a pocketknife, so I clawed at the dirt, expecting to see a seed pop into view at any moment.

I mounded up a bunch of soil. Still no seed. So, I moved down the row and started over, scraping a layer at a time. Three inches down and there was still no seed. I switched to the next row and repeated it, but still found no seed.

Then I walked several rows into the field where the soil was darker and checked again. Sure enough, at 2 inches I found a blue seed. So, I went back to the rows where I started and dug again. I got the same result: no seed! Hmm, did the planter really plant there?

Once the tanks finished filling, the farmer turned off the pump and came over. I told him I couldn’t find seed in the rows near the edge. He assured me there was seed there and took out his pocketknife. Now I would see “seed finding” done right.

He picked soil away carefully with his knife. Once he was down 3 inches without finding seed, he sighed and moved down the row and started over. He adjusted his cap. I could tell he was getting nervous too.

A revelation

Suddenly, his head popped up and a smile spread across his face. “Tom, there are point rows along here,” he said. “They match up pretty well, but there are rows with no seed in it. That’s what’s going on. The planter automatically shuts rows off if the area is already planted. You had me worried there for a minute though!”

Perfectly formed rows with no seed, go figure! Technology did it to me again. The seed wasn’t missing after all. The planter was smart enough not to plant it where it wasn’t needed. In the good ol’ days, there would have been 60,000 plants per acre there. Who said those days were so good?

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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