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Plot Planting Just Got Simpler With GPS ToolsPlot Planting Just Got Simpler With GPS Tools

Don't let the time commitment scare you off from trying plots.

Tom Bechman 1

May 13, 2014

3 Min Read

Maybe you have your corn in. Maybe you have soybeans left to plant. Some of you in areas hit with more rain early likely have both. But don't write off doing a plot just because you think it will take a lot of time.

With GPS helping you know where to drive and yield monitors on combines, you can put out meaningful plots to check various practices and seed hybrids or varieties in a lot less time than it used to take. You can even replicate plots if you plant full passes in a field and just use up the width of the field to repeat treatments.


Wait a minute, you say – if you're going to test planting depth and one hybrid vs. another at the same time, and you have three or four replications with strips picked at random so each treatment gets a fair chance, that's a lot of switching back and forth from one setting to another or one hybrid to another.

Related: New Planting Season is Also Time For New Batch of Testing

That's where the beauty of GPS comes in. Using RTK GPS, or even SatLoc services that you subscribe to, you can likely get readings accurate enough to plant all four passes of the same treatment in a four rep test before making any changes.

How it works
First, make a pass on the border of the field to set and A-B line for GPS. The computer figures out how many passes will be in the field. Using a Trimble FX system on its third year, not the latest model available, a driver we worked with went to any pass he wanted in the field. If treatment one is hybrid A at one inch deep, he could plant all four passes, one in each rep, of that combination, before needing to switch adjustments on the planter.

The GPS simply tells him which pass he's headed toward as he drives along the end of the field after completing a pass. With some of the older systems it may tend to overshoot the pass, but an alert operator can still "grab onto a pass" and steer the tractor into position, then turn the auto-steering loose.

When the entire plot is planted, there is no room left, and each pass is an equal distance from the other. It takes the excuse of wasted time out of planting plots. And the good part is you have a test on your own farm on your soils.

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About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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