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‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ — a seed firmer with a brain

Precision Planting's SmartFirmer
NEXT-LEVEL TECHNOLOGY: Precision Planting has added technology to its seed firmer so it can also be a source of information on conditions in the seed furrow.
Hi-Tech Farming: A once-simple invention takes on a high-tech role in the planting process.

The Keeton Seed Firmer was one of the first add-on devices that helped improve seed placement and achieve uniform plant emergence. It’s a simple device, often described as a plastic beaver-tail-like object that fits behind the seed closing disk. It helps make sure each seed is placed properly.

That was some 20 years ago. This is now. Precision Planting recently announced it has given a serious, high-tech makeover to the simple seed firmer. The result is the SmartFirmer, and it can do things your grandpa couldn’t even have dreamed about. SmartFirmer is in beta testing in 2017.

SmartFirmer has unprecedented sensing capabilities, officials say. It can sense and map organic matter content, soil moisture levels and amount of residue in the furrow. Not only that, but it also allows on-the-go control of seeding rate and hybrid choice in planters equipped with the multi-hybrid feature, all based on organic matter measurement. SeedFirmer is compatible with Climate FieldView from The Climate Corp., which means you can view the data collected on that platform.

Sound too good to be true? Precision Planting says it’s here, and it will be compatible with 20/20 SeedSense single row module (SRM) systems with quick-attach Keeton Seed Firmer brackets.

Precision Planting says you will have the ability to do something about moisture variation in the seed trench as you move from one part of the field to another. Not only will you be able to see changes in soil moisture row by row, but you also will be able to make adjustments and choose the seeding depth you prefer as soil conditions change.

Major genetic technology agreements
NRGene is a genomic big data company. What does that mean? Representatives say the company develops cutting-edge technology to reveal the complexity of both crop plants and animals. Recently, NRGene announced three major agreements that could result in quantum-leap advancements in breeding in the future.

Monsanto will use NRGene’s technology to accelerate its breeding technologies. Using NRGene’s GenoMAGIC technology, Monsanto molecular breeders hope to enhance their ability to predict, compare and select the best genetic makeup for plants from Monsanto’s vast data sets of genetic, genomic and trait information.

Syngenta and NRGene have a two-year relationship aimed at helping Syngenta accelerate its breeding efforts, as well. Joseph Clarke, principal research scientist for Syngenta, says, “The genetic diversity management strategies behind GenoMAGIC are a step above conventional means and enable clear value gains for downstream analytics, directly impacting cost and timeline models.”

What does all that mean to you? Look for companies using big data solutions that help them comb through reams of data on plant characteristics to be able to ramp up breeding programs and turn out new products faster in the future.

Animal breeding
Meanwhile, NRGene and Illumina are busy doing similar types of big data analysis with beef cattle. Illumina is a California-based global leader in next-generation sequencing technology.

Working together, the two companies just completed what they call a high-quality genome assembly of Nellore cattle. They worked in conjunction with university researchers in Brazil. Nellore cattle are the most dominant zebu beef breed in tropical regions of the world.

Mapping the Nellore genome was just the first step, reps for both companies say. Their next goal is to sequence and assemble additional cattle individuals from different breeds. The goal is to accelerate knowledge of genetic variation across all cattle breeds.  


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