Part of the equipment deemed necessary to consider testing with the Indiana Prairie Farmer and Precision Planting plots this year was a better seed monitor. It was thought it would be helpful to know how the planter was reacting to changes on the spot, rather than waiting to count plants and check spacing after they emerged to know for sure that it was producing the desired effect.
"The old monitor we had was basic," says Pete Illingworth, who drives the planter for plots at the Throckmorton research Farm near Romney. "It basically told you if the row was dropping seed or not."
This year, as part of the grant program, a Precision Planting 20/20 Seed Sense monitor was installed into the planter instead. "It was like going from the bottom to the top in one fell swoop," Illingworth says. "I've sure learned a lot already about planting and our planter, and the season isn't over yet."
One thing Illingworth learned is that even though he thought he was doing a good job in the past, he wasn't always planting as uniform as he thought. The Seed Sense monitor displays what's called a singulation factor. It's supposed to be 100%, meaning each seed is spaced the same distance from each other. When it doesn't, it's time to try to figure out how to make it better.
"One thing I watch closely now is skips and doubles," Illingworth says. "It displays it on the monitor in the cab. If you're getting too many of either one, you know you need to look for a solution so you can improve accuracy."
Bob Nielsen drove home the importance of accurate stands 20 years ago when he demonstrated that erratic stands, more common with some of the older planters that weren't cared for well, either, could account for a 5% yield drop or more, and do it rather quickly. He has preached even spacing and even emergence.
The beauty of the monitor now on the planter, Illingworth says, is that if they someday trade to a bigger planter instead of a six-row unit, they can use the same monitor. And it simply plugs into the sensors that fed the original monitor on the planter. Only now he gets more information other than just if a row is planting seed or not.
The hope is that after evaluating what happened on the monitor, it will be easier to explain some of the results found in the plot later in the season.