New Technologies Address Seed Placement Depth

Two revolutionary seed placement optimization technologies from Precision Planting LLC are designed to provide greater seed placement precision, improve crop emergence and stand uniformity, and increase yield potential – all from the comfort of the tractor cab.

Precision Planting, SmartDepth Mounted on Show Stand

Precision Planting’s SmartDepth mounted on a show stand.

The new SmartDepth technology, now available through Precision Planting dealers, offers farmers increased precision for seed depth placement. SmartDepth uses a proprietary calibration process to ensure that every row unit is planting at the same depth, removing row-to-row variability. SmartDepth also allows a farmer to save time when changing depth settings on the planter, and to adjust depth more often, in tenth-of-an-inch increments, by simply pushing a button on their Precision Planting 20|20 in-cab display.

“Adjusting seed depth settings on your planter as conditions change is time consuming and requires numerous trips in and out of the tractor cab,” says Bryce Baker, marketing manager for Precision Planting. “Most farmers are looking to recapture precious time, especially during planting, so they sometimes forego the time and effort it takes to adjust and optimize seed depth.”

There are a number of field-level factors to account for when determining optimal seed planting depth, including soil type, moisture levels and future weather forecast. Baker adds that the true planting depth of each row unit can often vary, even with the same depth setting across the planter. Research conducted by Precision Planting reveals that row unit variations can be half an inch or more across planters, based on block checks.

“For shallow-seeded crops like cotton or sugarbeets, that depth variation can be the difference between the seed producing a plant or not,” Baker says. “In crops like corn, we have seen rows planted too shallow take a few days to two weeks longer to emerge. Digging up a few seeds per field doesn’t offer a complete picture of whether a particular depth setting will be best.”

SmartDepth can be paired with Precision Planting’s SmartFirmer, a seed firmer sensor that measures how much moisture is available for a seed to uptake. “Pairing SmartDepth with SmartFirmer allows an operator to see if their current planting depth has sufficient moisture for germination, and then make depth adjustments from the 20|20 in the tractor cab and see how that depth adjustment changed the moisture being measured by SmartFirmer, allowing for depth optimization.” Baker says. “Now, farmers can confidently change depths between fields and within zones in a field with confidence.”

Precision Planting agronomist Aaron Herrmann has spent three crop-production seasons analyzing plant emergence and yield based on seed depth placement. “Our research studies in corn show most farming operations experience the 2-inch depth setting being correct less than 50% of the time. There are many environments farmers can gain bushels in by going deeper or shallower than the 2-inch standard,” Herrmann says. “Our research also shows that when there is adequate moisture at depths shallower than two inches, speed and consistency of emergence is improved.”

“In early planted fields that are cool and moist, we have seen corn yield increases of 3-8 bushels per acre by planting shallower,” the agronomist adds. “Of course, if moisture isn’t present at shallower depths, planting deeper to find moisture provides massive improvements in emergence consistency and up to 25 bushel per acre gains.”

By using SmartDepth and SmartFirmer, along with Precision Planting’s 20|20 monitor, what previously was a cumbersome task that required getting in and out of the cab and touching every individual row unit on the planter, is now a simple and convenient in-cab adjustment, Herrmann says.

Both technologies are now available to farmers through Precision Planting premier dealers and require a Precision Planting 20|20 monitor and integration to operate across any planter equipment. The SmartDepth technology is available to farmers on a limited basis for the 2021 planting season.