Should something go wrong and a row stop planting, you're going to know it, no matter what monitor you're using. That assumes that you have a sensor on every row. Some soybean drills don't have monitor systems, or if they do, there aren't sensors on every drop tube.
However, as long as each row keeps planting and the overall seed drop stays within range, you'll assume you're doing a good job with many monitors. Rich Schlipf prefers to know more information. He claims that if he gets enough information displayed in the cab about how the planter is performing, he can troubleshoot what the problem might be.
Schlipf, Milford, farms, but he's also a Precision Planting dealer. So naturally his planter is equipped with Precision Planting's 20/20 Seed Sense monitor. It replaces a monitor that might have been supplied by the manufacturer of the planter.
Two readouts he gets from his monitor screen continuously are seed singulation and spacing. In some ways, it's like running the whole planter on a test stand all the time. Test stands are typically used in the off-season to check signulation and spacing for each row unit, one at a time.
"If singulation and spacing aren't where they're supposed to be, then you know something is wrong," Schlipf says. "That's why I actually tell guys that if they pay attention to the information on the monitor, they can troubleshoot their planter to determine what the problem might be."
Once, for example, Schlipf recalls a customer did the necessary pre-season prep work, had his units checked on the test stand, and was all set to plant. Or so he thought. But when he was in the field planting, he would notice that occasionally, his singulation and spacing numbers would fall way off to very unacceptable levels. Then they usually would come back to where they belonged.
"The problem turned out to be worn bearings on his hex shaft," Schlipf recalls. "It was causing irregular performance. The same thing could happen from a rusty link in a chain on the planter drive unit.
"Without an indication that something was wrong, he wouldn't have looked for the problem that quickly," Schlipf says. In fact, he may have ran a sizable number of acres, perhaps all season, before he figured out something was wrong. Unless you concentrate on checking performance by digging in each row, and doing careful measurements, you're not going to pick up these types of variation in spacing and singulaton. You'll know each row is planting, but you won't know if you're going to get the picket-fence sands you're after.