Published on July 23, 2020
Increase Your Profits With Lessons Learned From the Ziegler Ag Crop Tour
Every farmer wants to know how to create better yields and grow their profits. But how do variations in soil conditions, equipment, and seed placement affect corn yields and profits? We found out firsthand in the fall 2019 Ziegler Ag Crop Tour.
Ziegler Ag Equipment partnered with Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg, Iowa, during the 2019 season. They allocated 30 acres to our corn planting trials. During these trials, we learned key takeaways that can tangibly improve your business.
This information is now helping growers make better decisions on their own farms, all aimed at increasing return on investment. We wanted to share these takeaways with you so you can make better decisions, too.
HOW IT WORKED
The Ziegler Ag Crop Tour used the latest technology to compare:
- Seed spacing, including skips and doubles, compared with precise seed singulation
- Planting speed and residue management
- Seeding depths for plant emergence, with comparisons at half-inch increments from once inch to three-and-a-half inches
- Planter settings to evaluate light, ideal and heavy downforce
We also used the trials to help growers understand how equipment technology affects planting accuracy through implements and options, including White Planters® 9800VE Series planters equipped with advanced seed metering (vSet®), electronic drive (vDrive®), automated downforce (DeltaForce®), high-speed planting with SpeedTube® seed tubes, and SmartFirmer® in-furrow sensing to record the moisture, temperature and organic matter in the soil, as well as in-furrow residue.
FOUR WAYS OUR FIELD TRIALS CAN HELP YOU
The Crop Tour allowed growers to see firsthand how seed singulation, planting speed, seeding depth, down pressure and other factors affect corn yields. We found four primary factors of our field trials that show how our findings can help you.
- Seed singulation affects corn yields
One area of Ziegler’s Crop Tour event focused specifically on singulation, including the effect of poor singulation and spacing due to skips, multiples, and misplaced seeds.
“It’s again clear how easily one facet of the planter pass, such as poor singulation, can quickly rob a corn plant from reaching its full yield potential,” Todd Hesse explained to growers who attended the Crop Tours. Hesse is product manager of Ag Technologies, Seeding & Tillage at Ziegler Ag Equipment.
“There are many factors throughout the growing season that a grower cannot control, but proper seed spacing and singulation can be controlled,” Hesse says.
To discover singulation differences row by row, Hesse and his team introduced errors during seeding such as simulating skips. They varied singulation, walked fields after emergence, and collected consecutive ears for detailed comparisons to determine actual planting populations, ear sizes, and yields, plus evaluate planter performance.
“We did a yield check in the singulation study where our properly-singulated control measured 180 bu/acre compared to our poorly singulated control, which measured 177 bu/acre,” Hesse says. “That’s a three-bushel-per-acre yield advantage.”
As growers at the Crop Tours discussed, since evenly spaced plants can better handle stress, singulation is critical. As variability increases, so does depth—and yield decreases.
“These results can help growers make key management decisions for future growing seasons,” he continues.
“In the case of the White Planters VE Series planters, powered by Precision Planting® vacuum electric technology, the vSet/vDrive meter has a proven record of achieving greater than 99% singulation in varying field conditions and seed sizes,” Hesse says.
- Downforce matters
The second area of Ziegler’s Crop Tour event focused specifically on downforce or the amount of force it takes to reach desired seed depth.
“Growers must verify that they have enough downforce but not excessive downforce,” Chris Thiel shared with growers who attended the Crop Tours. Thiel is an ag territory manager at Ziegler.
Growers saw recently dug corn plants’ roots from various downforce settings. Too little downforce created late emergence, and too much downforce caused smearing, compaction around the seed trench, and underdeveloped roots.
“It’s clear that incorrect downforce causes yield losses,” Thiel explained.
What isn’t always so clear is how to achieve proper depth and pressure on gauge wheels.
One key is to recognize that several variables drive ideal downforce, including field conditions, tillage practices, planting speed, and even tire location (some rows are near tires; some are not).
Thiel and his team used a White Planter VE planter with DeltaForce, including hydraulic cylinders and load cells that measure weight on the row-unit gauge wheels and keep it consistent.
“DeltaForce allows us to measure downforce more than 100 times per second and re-adjust up to five times a second if needed,” Thiel says. “This gives us the ability to reach proper depth and proper pressure on gauge wheels and ensure that each seed is placed at the chosen depth. These field trials clearly show the critical importance of downforce in getting seeds to the ideal depth, one of the first key steps to strong yields at harvest.”
- Set the pace in high-speed planting
Weather is a key factor in selecting planting speed. “Since we tend to only have a few quality days to plant, the ability to go faster without sacrificing quality shows up quickly in emergence and can yield huge dividends at harvest,” Jeremiah Behrens reminded growers. Behrens is with Ag Technology Sales at Ziegler.
So how do we efficiently increase acres per hour? Behrens talked through diverse planting conditions across fields, and the need to make on-the-fly adjustments to create the best possible seedbeds.
Growers also viewed several products to best equip planters, including:
- CleanSweep residue managers, which adjust to nearly all conditions and clear residue for a quality seed trench. Growers saw how to adjust CleanSweep on the go right from the tractor cab to keep planting.
- Keeton Seed Firmers control seed down to the trench and are proven to provide better seed-to-soil contact and increased yields vs. no seed firmers.
- SpeedTube seed tubes allow faster planting speeds with accurate seed placement. As Behrens explained, “We can drive a planter faster, but we need to also avoid causing seeds to bounce around in the seed tube and get knocked off-target. That hurts spacing, placement—and yields.” SpeedTube uses a conveyer that matches the planter’s ground speed, and each seed goes through a chamber to help avoid free fall and poor placement.
- SmartFirmer seed-firming sensors actually measure the seed furrow’s moisture, temperature, and organic matter and display the measurements on 20/20 in the cab. SmartFirmer pushes the seed down into the trench for ideal seed-to-soil contact.
“These options help growers plant faster while giving seeds the best opportunity to achieve high yields,” Behrens said. “We can control many variables to eliminate possible mishaps that can decrease yield.”
- Planting depth and closing systems
The fourth area of the Crop Tour focused on proper planting depth and closing systems. “We want to plant into moisture,” Patrick Lentz said to groups of nodding growers. “Typically, we achieve this with a planting depth of two inches. We also want to make sure our planting depth is consistent. Having seeds closer to nutrients allows them to germinate and emerge at the same time, which gives growers the best chance to achieve maximum yields.” Lentz is an ag territory manager at Ziegler Ag Equipment.
Plus, we want to ensure that seed is covered with soil and firmed. Poorly closed seed trenches can result in delayed or poor emergence.
Planting shallower than one-and-a-half inches leads to significant yield loss due to inconsistent moisture uptake that leads to uneven emergence. Shallow planting can also cause poor root formation that negatively affects yields.
Planting deeper than two inches, especially in early planting dates, can cause slower plant growth at that critical early stage and lead to uneven emergence.
“The White Planter VE series planters equipped with Delta Downforce maintains consistent depth and maximizes crop emergence, which increases yield and ultimately revenue,” Lentz says.
He talked growers through several of the many options for closing wheel systems and settings and encouraged growers to talk with a dealer about options to best fit their conditions and practices.
GET RESULTS BY CONTACTING ZIEGLER TODAY
As Lentz said: “We hope growers left our Crop Tour with some helpful knowledge on the importance of their planter’s pass. We appreciated the chance to share real-world examples of ways to improve yields through the products and people that Ziegler offers.”
To put the practices and equipment from our Crop Tour to work on your farm, contact us or find a Ziegler location near you.