Getting Ready for Go-Time

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planting

Our son irritably pressed the controller’s “A” button, yet his video game console failed to launch. He vented frustration about his inability to use the game and that he wasted the screen time earned for completing chores. The incident seemed an emotional refresher for the upcoming planting season, when farm equipment sometimes goes awry and we just need it to work.

On the farm, we stand ready and set for when planting’s “go-time” arrives. In the last few weeks, we serviced the planters and tractors, stocked seed, prepared the planter maps and loaded prescriptions in the monitors. We hope our preparation eludes the down-time that hinders a timely planting process, one of the most critical and often controllable factors in the success of a corn and soybean crop.

The modern day planting process resembles a glorious work of technological art that showcases capabilities unseen in Grandpa’s or even Dad’s planters. The tractor drives itself straight and hands-free. The planter plants seeds at precise spacing. Automatic sensors adjust ground pressure per planter row to sow seed at appropriate and consistent depths. Software prescriptions vary the seeding rate with the guidance of global-positioning systems. Meanwhile, that same guidance signal pairs with automatic row shut-offs to prevent overlapped planting of seed, otherwise a waste of money in more ways than one.

Success delivers picket-fence-like rows of plants. Ideally every seed starts with the paralleled potential to produce a bumper crop. But when going for that goal gets tough, my husband fields the phone calls. In his daytime precision farming management role (and often weekends troubleshooting from our farm’s tractor cab), he diagnoses problems and offers solutions to keep those planters running and guidance connections working. Lost signals and small details like bad wiring pins or blown fuses can put a quarter-million-dollar planter at a standstill in the midst of a timely planting window. If nothing else, desperate farmers may opt to drop the planter markers and go the old-fashioned way – if they can. With satellites guiding the way, more farms opt-out of planter markers to save thousands on the planter price tag.

The gap between today’s planters and those of the previous generation continues to widen, and high-speed planting ranks among the next big things. A speed of 10 mph proves slow even for a school zone. Yet, planting accurately at this speed would double the current average planting pace of near 5 mph and literally put today’s average planters in the dust.

Thankfully, our son found that a couple reboots put him back in the game. This planting season, we hope for similar quick fixes, if necessary at all.

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