We’ve all heard the phrase “plant to moisture,” but we’ve also seen the moisture variability that can occur within a few paces, never mind over an entire field. Precision Planting LLC is working on a technology that will take moisture variability into account, automatically adjusting drilling depth on-the-go.
The system uses SmartDepth (a prototype) in conjunction with SmartFirmer, the company’s seed-firmer sensor. SmartFirmer already measures temperature, residue in the seed furrow, and moisture levels, and provides a real-time display on the monitoring system. When paired with SmartDepth, which allows operators to control the drilling depth from the cab, the system can adjust to real-time moisture readings.
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The driver simply defines a drilling range (minimum and maximum depths) and minimum moisture level, and the seed placement mechanism adapts to varying conditions.
Each SmartDepth module is calibrated at the beginning of the season to ensure accuracy.
Precision Planting is testing the system to determine its agronomic value — does it make sense to adjust the depth on the go, or should it be used primarily for manual control from the cab? In 2019 the company had roughly 20 planters testing the technology, but high moisture conditions across much of the States made for little variability in soil moisture readings, encouraging further trials.