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FRiDay, Jan. 31, 2014

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Multi-hybrid planter advances ag University, private collaboration made it possible BROOKINGS, S.D. (SDSU) — When South Dakota State University plant scientist Peter Sexton needed a new row-crop planter at the Agricultural Experiment Station’s Southeast Research Farm near Beresford, he looked to the future — in terms of equipment and networking. With support from the experiment farm board, the nonprofit growers’ corporation that owns the farm, Sexton and SDSU forged a partnership with Sioux Falls-based Raven Industries and DuPont Pioneer. The collaboration resulted in a twin-row planter with the ability to automatically switch hybrids while seeding on-the-go based on global positioning system mapping of the field. It’s the world’s first multi-hybrid planter, which is testament to the value and ingenuity of this collabora-Contributed photo tive effort in identifying in- MULTI-HYBRID PLANTER technology allows for switching hybrids on the go. novative solutions for the The letters S-D-S-U were planted into a field on the Southeast Research Farm future of agriculture. near Beresford, S.D. The darker green is soybeans, and the lighter area is sunflowers. Field trials were also planted with corn and soybean hybrids suited to The first step wetter areas in the field and more drought-tolerant hybrids planted on the uplands The project was initiated in the same field. in spring 2012, when Sexton sought advice from the “We’ve got a good rela- most logical choice was a “Without their support, Southeast Experiment Farm tionship,” said Sexton. The twin-row configuration and this project wouldn’t have board, comprised of area board agreed that a preci- the Monosem planter, happened,” Sexton said. farmers, regarding the need sion planter with the capa- which had the three-point for a new planter. bility of planting multiple hitch the Beresford facility Retrofited planter Though SDSU staffs the hybrids was the way to go. required, Sexton said. Through an agreement farm, “the board plays a Kurt Reitsma, an SDSU The Southeast Research signed in summer 2012, valuable role in our decision- Extension field specialist, Farm corporation purchased Raven donated the engimaking,” Sexton said. Pro- arranged for Raven Indus- the planter and the board neering time to customize ceeds from the farm go to the tries engineers to meet with provided funds for the raw the planter. Sexton outlined corporation, which then rein- the board. materials needed to cus- what he wanted the planter vests them into research. They determined that the tomize the planter. to do and Raven engineers developed those capabilities. “This is a great model of industry partnering with public entities,” said Douglas Prairie, Raven Industries’ product manager, citing his company’s emphasis on innovation. Sexton gave Raven engiQuality Genetics & Traits neers feedback as they developed the hydraulic drives, control system and

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software to modify the Monosem . “It was fun to watch the excitement on the part of the engineering team,” Prairie Douglas Prairie. “They saw such a great purpose and vision in what they were accomplishing.” When the planter was used initially in spring 2013, Raven engineers worked on-site to make adjustments and get feedback from Sexton and the research farm staff. The development phase was kept under wraps until patents were filed and the system was unveiled by Raven at a June 2013 trade show demonstration. Raven also showed the prototype planter at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. “We have far exceeded where I thought this product would be today,” Prairie said. The multi-hybrid switching system, controls and software are now commercially available. In addition to the fields planted at the research farm, test plots were sown on private South Dakota farms near Parkston, Tripp, Lennox and Baltic. To select the appropriate corn and soybean hybrids for the fields that SDSU mapped, Sexton turned to DuPont Pioneer. For low-lying areas, Sexton wanted a hybrid that could stand what he calls “wet feet.” It needed to have a horizontal root profile and be resistant to fungi to combat wetness it would experience in May and June. However, for the high areas, Sexton said he sought a variety with deep, vertical roots to reach for moisture when drought-stressed in August. Pioneer agreed to supply the seed and made recommendations, according to agronomy research manager Barry Anderson.

Shaping the future The information gleaned from field trials planted using this first-of-its-kind multi-hybrid planter will allow SDSU researchers to produce agronomic data that will help farmers decide what to plant, where to plant it, and how much to plant, as well as when and how much pesticide and fertilizer to apply, Sexton said. SDSU will also be provide agronomic and financial reasons why farmers should consider using a multi-hybrid approach to planting, Prairie said. Eventually, Raven Industries seeks to play a role in designing a true multi-hybrid planter. Additionally, this project has paved the way for further collaboration between Raven and SDSU — a partnership with the Research Park at South Dakota State University has been announced among the three entities to further concentrate on precision agriculture innovations. Looking forward, as companies develop seed hybrids for specific growing environments, Sexton anticipates planters that use this technology will become commonplace. “What gets commercialized may look different,” he said, “but the basic ability to switch between lines on the go, I think, is part of the future.”

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The data from this research will, Anderson said, “give us a chance to understand how our products perform. “It’s nice when we as a seed industry can team up not only with the university, but also with manufacturers. “That doesn’t always happen.” The first crops planted with the new machine were harvested in October 2013 and the data is now being analyzed.

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Sugar beet spacing has a definite sweet spot. Too high of a population per foot and the yield drops. Too low of a population per foot and the sugar content in the beets will lower. One test found the highest sugar content (17.1%) on fields with seed spacing between 4.5 and 5 inches. The sugar percentage dropped to 16.9% for fields sown with seed spacing between 5 and 5.5 inches and to 16.5% for fields planted at seed spacing of 5.5 to 6 inches. Source: Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op Taking into consideration both tonnage and sugar concentration, this means a farmer can lose $20 per acre by planting ½ inch to 1 inch off (5- to 5.5-inch spacing) and $50 per acre if he’s 1 inch to 1 ½ inches off (5- to 6-inch spacing). Sugar beets face two competing factors in seed spacing. Seeds that are spaced too close together will reduce the overall tonnage produced (represented by the black bars) while seeds that are spaced too far apart will lower the overall sugar content (represented by the red line). The White Planter system of handling and placing seed helps ensure consistent and accurate placement.

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2014 Corn Edition  
2014 Corn Edition  

A publication of Farm News with editorial and advertising focused on the Corn Industry with the Ag sector.

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