If you could invest in one of the new tools in the precision farming toolkit, what would it be? Consultants like Greg Kneubuhler, G & K Concepts, Harlan, and Danny Greene of Greene Consulting, Inc., Franklin, say farmers are telling them it's row shut-offs on planters.
What row-shut off devices do is immediately stop seed form dribbling out of boxes. While that may sound rather insignificant, there's more to the story. Once you program in a field and establish the ends, Kneubuhler says. A computer tells the planter where you've already planted. Once you hit end rows, the units automatically shut off and stop planting. It's also a big hit amongst farmers who plant many odd-shaped fields that often require point rows, or doubling some rows to get the last few rows in. the bigger the planter, the more doubling that may occur.
Various companies are offering row shut-off mechanisms. Depending upon who you buy your unit from, the mechanism may work differently. Some rely on electronics, other son air cylinders. Planters can be ordered with this feature on them from the factory, or it can be added later as an add-on feature.
Just how much can saving some extra seed be worth? Kneubuhler says data he's seen and helped work up from his own plots puts the number at 5%. If that seems high, think about how much overplanting can occur on ends. If you plant 700 acres of corn and purchase 300 bags, and then add the shut offs and save 5%, you should be able to take back 15 bags of seed.
How fast payback will be depends upon the type of seed you're planting. If you're into triple stacks and paid $250 per bag net, then that's $3,750 in seed savings in one season alone. Prices for the row shutoff can vary, but most say about two years worth of seed savings in that example would pay back the cost of the add-on feature. How many things can you invest tin that pay for themselves in two years?
"There's another part to the equation," Kneubuhler says. "When ends are double-planted, they often don't produce well. Ears may be small because the stand is too thick. It's very hard to put a value on that, but you should pick up some extra income from the fact that end rows aren't overplanted."