Every new planting season is a clean slate.
“You only get 40 or 50 chances to do this,” says Green Valley, Ill., farmer Mark Schleder. “And you try to do it right those 40 or 50 times.”
How does Schleder stay on point? He uses every piece of information available, including a real-time look at soil temperature, furrow moisture, planter ride, organic matter, furrow cleanliness, population, downforce, starter fertilizer consistency, singulation and ground contact — down to the row — with Precision Planting’s SmartFirmer and 20/20 SeedSense monitor. For the inaugural season, on his 24-row planter, Schleder installed SmartFirmers on rows 4, 11, 14 and 21 for a furrow-deep look every 15 feet; he kept Keeton Seed Firmers on the remaining row units.
So far, Schleder says the peace of mind alone has made the investment worthwhile.
“Everyone keeps talking about soil temperature,” he says. “I can tell you exactly what the soil temperature is — in the furrow.” Schleder waited for soil temperatures to reach at least 50 degrees F under 2-inch bare soils for 12 hours a day before pulling the planting trigger. After five days of fieldwork, from April 27 to May 1, SmartFirmer soil readings went from 46 degrees to 56 degrees.
What about SmartFirmer’s accuracy? “It’s right on the money,” Schleder says, noting the air temperature matches SmartFirmer’s temperature readings when the sensors are aboveground.
With every pass, Schleder keeps an eye on soil temperature, moisture, clean furrow, good ride and ground contact indicators. He is confident his 41st season is off to a strong start.
“It’s knowing you’re doing your job right,” Schleder says. “It’s an amazing feeling to know something right is going on, and it’s not one of those things you’re worried about.”
Want a close-up view from Schleder’s tractor seat? Check out this slideshow for a look at various data points and how he plans to use them.