Why You Should Evaluate Planter Performance

- Tamra Boucher

While planting season is just under way in some areas, it is wrapping up in others. This is a good time to think about planter performance, research needs and how they have changed over the past several years.

When evaluating planter performance, some questions to consider include:

  1. Does it perform to the conditions of the field? Is it capable of meeting the demands of a no-till operation?
  2. Does it distribute seed efficiently and evenly? Are you getting the placement and spacing you need?
  3. What is the overall condition of your planter – before, during, and after planting? Has maintenance been performed? Are repairs needed?

Also, I’d be remiss to talk about planting and not mention fertilizer operations. Does your planter offer the functionality you need? Maybe this need has changed over time.

I’ve been working with a customer who has multiple locations, each about three hours apart. The sticking point is they plant all their trials with one planter. This seems efficient on the surface. If the conditions are good in one spot, they might be bad in another. They can move the equipment to get the seed in the ground as soon as possible, and take advantage of that ideal planting window.

But what if Mother Nature doesn’t offer this ideal offset of conditions? What is the real cost of moving equipment from site to site and sometimes revisiting a site? What if the planter breaks down? What is the cost of not having the equipment?

If there’s an issue at planting time, you could be looking at a one-year delay in getting the data you need. You may get a second shot, but, as we know, timing is everything. Lost data points at planting can lead to extending the launch of a new product – which inherently adds cost – or, even worse, may lead to poor decisions due to an insufficient number of data points.

For plant breeders and researchers, planting is the most critical part of the year. Your research and data depends first, of course, on seed quality, and then on even seed distribution, good plant emergence and the right placement at that right time. While those in production agriculture expect variability and can more easily deal with it, those in the research field need consistency and the ability to eliminate as many variables as possible to reduce experimental error. Don’t let your planter be a variable that’s out of your control. Make sure your planter is waiting for you, not you waiting for the planter.