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Row Shut-Offs on Planters are Growing TechnologyRow Shut-Offs on Planters are Growing Technology

Payback is easy to see from simple calculations.

Tom Bechman 1

December 17, 2013

2 Min Read

You can tell whether someone is using one of the options that allows for automatic shut-off when planting soybeans or corn, just by walking their end rows. If no main rows extend into the end rows, except maybe here and there,, they likely have row shut-offs installed on the planter.

We recently surveyed our long list of past Master Farmers. Those surveys are coming back, and technology was one of the primary things we asked them about. Automatic row shut offs is one of the technologies that is starting to show up on several of their farm operations.

The feature saves in two ways: seed cost and avoiding high populations on end rows.


Some experts estimate it can save as much as 3% in seed cost. This may be higher if you have point rows in a lot of fields, but even in rectangular or square fields, avoiding going into the end rows saves seed. If you plant 32,000 seeds per acre and save 3%, that's 960 kernels. Seed averages close to $3 per 1,000 seeds. So you're saving nearly $3 per acre in seed corn costs alone. If you raise 1,000 acres of corn, that's $3,000.

The other savings is from avoiding high populations on end rows with hybrids that may not be ready to stand high populations yet. If you typically overlap 6 rows and cut yield by 30% or more, that can add up to several dollars per field in a hurry.

The result is that while automatic shut-offs require an investment, it typically pays for itself over a shorter period than many other equipment investments, either now or in the past. Most experts say it's second only to auto-boom section control on sprayers as far as how quickly you can directly pay off the investment in purchasing and installing new technology on your planter.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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