This is my favorite time of year to talk about Hydraulic Downforce and planters. And no, it’s not just because I have you captive in the cab of something as you read this article or watch this video. It’s a great time of year because we can quickly evaluate how our systems performed last year. It also allows us to “investigate” what the neighbor’s system looks like by comparison.
I am fully aware that asking you to shut down the combine and investigate things like I did last week is probably not going to happen. It is November, and we are all anxious to have this harvest wrapped up. But the good news is that there is a simple analysis that we can do at four mph from the combine seat, or even better from the grain cart seat. Any significant delay in emergence is going to manifest itself in one of two ways that we can easily see right now. That is a variation in ear height or a variation in ear size. I know that ear size is almost impossible to monitor to view at speed, so that is something to get out and check while you wait for a truck or grain cart. But ear height is something we can monitor at speed.
Today I am going to use some paint to mark this for us to see, but it isn’t necessary for your evaluation. I am going to mark the height of the shank and do a visual inspection; if you want to get really technical, grab a tape measure. What we are looking for here is a variation of around 2 inches or so from our average. Anything more than that indicates what probably was early or late emergence. If we see an ear way different, count rows and kernels and compare to the average.
Then to see how your downforce performed, compare where the planter went through a ditch vs. the flat areas. I am confident you will see some pretty obvious things when you study this. Then when you are going down the road, do a windshield comparison with other fields and see how you stack up. This isn’t something to shy away from either. Talk to your neighbors and ask what they did if you see something that you like.
I am confident that hydraulic downforce systems will show to have better consistency in ear height and ear performance. And my take home for today is that you may be busy, but you are never too busy to look at things with a critical eye as you go by. If you have questions about what you see, or you need help with the process, just let your FSA know, and we will come to you and figure it out together. When harvest is wrapped up, we will want to look at our yield maps and decide how to improve and invest for next season. An investment in the planter you already own may be the best money that you can invest in your operation for 2018.
I know I have said it before, but those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it. It doesn’t take any extra effort to be the student right now.