There are seed firmers; then there’s Precision Planting’s SmartFirmer. The latter is what Steve Carr, Growmark FS territory sales manager, calls the “hottest” thing coming in planter attachment technology.
So Penton Agriculture quizzed Precision Planting Product Manager Dale Koch about what this precision tech tool — targeted to be on the market this fall — will be able to do. Final beta-testing is underway this spring in the Southeast and Texas. It was field-tested in nine states last year.
SmartFirmer builds on its in-furrow seed-packing job with optical sensors that gather real-time data on organic matter and soil moisture at the seed level. “It senses organic matter and moisture in every row-inch as a measure of soil productivity,” notes the engineer.
THE REAL DEAL: Equipped with side-mounted sensors, the SmartFirmer brings a new-tech leap for variable-rate planting.
“It also senses crop residue levels in the seed furrow and allows adjusting downforce of row cleaners if you’re using the compatible 20/20 SeedSense SRM system.” Or, he adds, you can manually vary downforce via information to the planter monitor if you were, say, planting at 1½ inches and roll into a light, sandy spot.
There are two reasons why the sensors are on the side, not the bottom. “When you plant soybeans three-quarter-inch apart, you’re ‘sensing’ too much bean and not enough soil,” explains Koch. “Side placement also allows more constant downforce against that optical sensor window.”
Unlike the Veris soil conductivity system, SmartFirmer provides real-time data to let the planter decide how many seeds to plant per acre. It’s not required to be used on every row unit. “But we believe it should be applied across the whole planter. The technology is designed to pay for itself in a year’s time,” concludes the product development manager.