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John Deere tractor and planter sitting in field
DEPTH CONTROL: Precision Planting will continue working on its SmartDepth concept, which is in beta testing in 2020. If the concept proves out, it will provide automatic or manual control of planting depth.

Automatic depth control for planting within reach

Hi-Tech Farming: A new concept in beta testing could give farmers more control over an age-old dilemma.

How deep should I plant corn? What should I do if moisture conditions change across the field? Should I set depth for an average?

You ask these questions every spring. Your father asked them, and your grandfather did, too. How deep to place seed is a dilemma as old as farming itself.

Precision Planting is working on technology that may change the way you approach the seed-depth placement dilemma. It won’t make decisions about proper depth for you. What it could do is give you control over where seed goes once you make your decision. And it would let you do this on the go. That would reduce the need for making compromises because you could make changes from one soil type to another.

The product is called SmartDepth, and it’s the next natural step after the SmartFirmer technology, introduced by Precision Planting in 2017. SmartFirmers feature sensors mounted on a Keeton seed firmer-type platform that relay information to the 20/20 monitor in the cab, including information on temperature and relative soil moisture content.

SmartDepth could take that information and automatically make changes in seeding depth based on parameters you set. Or, you can see information on the 20/20 display from SmartFirmers and manually change planting depth yourself by pushing a button.

Bryce Baker, marketing manager for Precision Planting, notes the concept is still in beta testing. “When people planted in 2019, it seemed like either all soils were wet, or later, everything was dry,” he explains. “We didn’t get a good feel for the importance of adjusting depth to match changes in moisture conditions. However, we know this technology is the next step in becoming even more precise in planting seeds.”

Learn more at precisionplanting.com.   

More than pretty pictures

Gryfn is a startup tech company offering precise geomatics solutions for co-aligned and repeatable multisensor drone data collection. What does that mean in layman terms, and why should you care?

Matt Bechdol, CEO of Gryfn, says data collection in plant breeding is labor intensive and slow. Measurements can be subjective. What the flying laboratories they’re developing do is make data collection faster, more automated and more consistent.

The startup is partnering with Purdue University on a $4.5 million grant with the U.S. Department of Energy. The technology used in Gryfn’s system was originally developed through a $6.6 million grant in 2015. Currently, Gryfn is using its technology to help with rapid genetic improvement and production of sorghum crops for biofuels.

The payoff to you could be down the road as researchers learn how to use the technology in other applications.   

DuPont shares knowledge

Six DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences scientists recently shared discoveries that could move the whole field of science forward in meetings in Denmark in cooperation with TED. TED Talks are designed to share valuable information.

For example, DuPont’s Adam Garske discussed how enzyme engineering could result in catalysts for many purposes in the future. They could be used to degrade plastic waste or make household products more effective.  

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