Saturday November 22, 2014

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Pearce: Planter row unit's launch helps boost growers' spirits

Canadian prototype unveiled at a clinic near Tillsonburg, Ont.

Commodity prices are higher than 10 years ago, but growers are still looking for that competitive edge -- that one parameter that boosts their production on a per-bushel basis. In the past year, one theme that has popped up repeatedly is "Control the controllable," referring to everything from fertility to tillage and from crop rotations to weed management.

And there's been considerable attention focused on planting -- particularly seed singulation and planting depth -- all in an effort to maximize production.

Against that background, White Planters launched its new 9000 Series design late last month at Dey's Equipment Centre near Tillsonburg, Ont. The unit is actually the first of its kind in Canada, attracting roughly 35 farmers interested in learning more about it.

Changes in the new series include the use of positive air pressure versus a vacuum system; a reconfigured seed tube; and a disc that provides more consistent positioning of the seed.

The reconfigured seed drop system is an interesting example of the thought that's gone into enhancing the delivery of the seed. Angles inside the seed tube on comparable units can allow more opportunity for seeds to ricochet and suffer some form of misplacement as they're set in the ground. The release point on the edge drop system on the 9000 series is actually lower, shortening the distance seed falls through the seed tube, thus avoiding more ricochets.

The seed plates also have been redesigned to provide more consistency in the seed's position. The disc has recessed cells to hold the seed in place. The disc also can be removed via a single release system; for other seed discs, that would mean removing the hopper and meter and releasing the housing.

White's positive air pressure design is also unique, in that it takes smaller water volumes for the conversion of hydraulic energy to power a vacuum to ensure accuracy in seed singulation. If there are interruptions in the hydraulic energy flow, the accuracy can be adversely affected. White's lower water volume (0.5 to four inches, versus eight to 26 in other designs) reduces that potential.

Other changes in the configuration include a reversed air flow system, where positive air is drawn from above the planter and forward of the row unit. Other manufacturers draw the air for their vacuum systems from around the metering unit, which means dust can be drawn in, causing premature wear. Another change is the even positioning of the opener discs, where on other designs they're offset. The evened-out discs do the same amount of cutting and seed trench opening is more consistent.

In all, there are 15 changes in design and configuration incorporated into the 9000 series; most seem to have the same "Control the controllable" theme in mind. Seed meters, frames, the depth gauge wheel adjusting link, the seed depth adjustment and indicator and others are all geared to increasing planter efficiency and performance.

Agco representative Steve Hosking talked about the reaction from the industry, and said other manufacturers have commented favourably on White's redesign. He added the engineers with White have done well to listen to their customers and incorporate many of their suggestions.

Farmers who attended the planter clinic also had the opportunity to see Dey's strip-till unit. Tony Balkwill, an agronomist with FS Partners, attended the clinic, and highlighted some of the details of a study he's co-ordinating with five nearby co-operators, who are interested in seeing the effects of strip-till.

Interest in the practice is much stronger in the U.S., Balkwill said, but conceded there are different demands with lots of individual farming systems in use. Balkwill acknowledged previous attempts to introduce strip-till management –- also called zone till –- were slowed by the lack of precision ag systems, namely GPS and RTK technologies, that can now position a planter precisely above the berm created by the strip-till unit.

-- Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

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