The changes in corn planting in the next five years may be as dramatic as the change from check-row corn to regular corn once herbicides became available. Gene Leak, West Lafayette, Ind., 101 years old, remembers the days of check-row corn.
"We didn't have any choice because we didn't have chemicals to control weeds," he says. "We had to cultivate. I started out in 1935 with a mounted cultivator on my first tractor – a Massey- Harris General Purpose four-wheel drive. We had to take cletes off the wheels so the cultivator would fit. That's the only weed control we had."
Leak may have farmed in another time but he's interested in what his grandson in-law A.J. Booher does with technology on his farm today. When it comes to planters, technology is set to change at warp speed.
Precision Planting introduced a pilot seed drop tube this winter that supposedly will allow planters to run up to 10 miles per hour. It's not here year, and Barry Fisher, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is still telling farmers that 5 miles per hour is fast enough in many cases, especially in no-till.
"Some successful corn contest winners say you give it the champagne glass test," he says. "You should be able to go across the field without spilling a drop with it sitting on a seed box lid."
John Deere is introducing a new planter at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week. While it's been kept under wraps, one of the teasers is that it can run faster and still be accurate.
The other big update will be planters that can change hybrids on the go. Agronomists are reporting yield bumps, and companies aren't waiting to develop the technology. Kinze, working with Raven, will test four planters this summer. Beck's Hybrids and their customers will be closely involved in the tests. Beck's Hybrids has been instrumental in demonstrating an advantage for changing hybrids.
Precision Planting also unveiled a new concept row unit that switches hybrids on the go earlier this year. It is scheduled for extensive testing this spring as well.