Jason Portner from Precision Planting and Jason Ries
Feb 20, 2019
Jesse Wiant: Thanks Stef! So like Stef said, today we have Jason Ries and Jason Portner. Jason Ries is UFC's planter guy, he'll give you his correct title later on. Jason Portner works for Precision Planting. We're basically just going to talk about some different things that growers can do to prepare their planters for spring. So currently, we're in the middle of an ice storm and there's more snow on the way. Why not have a conversation about planters. The reality is that when the spring weather warms up, the planters need to be ready so that when conditions are right, we can hit the fields to make sure we're getting our optimum timing. The purpose of going through the planters now is to make the adjustments that you need instead of trying to do them in the field once you get the planter out. As a grower, you get one chance to get that crop in successfully. If there's a planter component that's not up to par, it could ultimately costs you money at harvest time. So again, today we have Jason Portner and Jason Ries here. So thanks, Jason's, both of ya. Jason Portner, why don't you give us a little bit about what you do and how long you've been with Precision.
Jason Portner: So I've been with Precision not quite seven years now and my role is to kind of work with 23 premier dealers I have in my region. We do a lot of education with growers, in fact UFC just hosted a meeting last Tuesday and with the wonderful weather that we had, not everybody was able to make it. We spent a lot of time really educating about the planter and what the importance is and how people can maximize their efforts on it.
Jesse Wiant: So for me as an agronomist, the biggest thing that I look for, after the seeds have been planted, is a uniform stand or uniform emergence. That's obviously how we maximize our yield. What affects a uniform stand and how can a grower prevent potential issues?
Jason Portner: I agree 100 percent. When we break down the different yield-robbing pieces out in the field and what we're expecting our planter to do uniform emergence is definitely key and there's a lot of factors that go into it. Mainly it's moisture and temperature, which with us being up north here, really gets to be a big thing. Our planting window for our whole crop season, everything's on the tighter side and so getting that all right is important. So a lot of it has to do, when we look across the planter is, we want to get rid of the residue on the front side. That's going to make a big difference on, not only temperature because it's blocking sunlight from hitting the soil, but it also can wick away moisture from the seed if we get that residue pinned in that trench next to the seed. We really would love, in a perfect world, to have the first and the last seed in the field all come up within 24 hours. We've done a bunch of research on it, in fact your guys at UFC have done some. Jason Ries was very involved in that and feel free to talk to him on the results, but that's a huge piece. Once we've got the residue cleared away, we want to ensure that every row is getting the equal depth so that we don't see a difference going across the planter. It's really hard to achieve if you've got worn components. From your opening disks to your gauge wheel arms or anything inbetween there, you've got parallel arms and bushings that wear. You want to make sure that row unit is running parallel to the ground. So there's a lot of pieces to that. From there, if depth is set right, and we could have a long discussion on proper depth, the fact is that we need to get that seed into moisture to get that moisture to imbide that seed and get things off and going. Once we've got the depth, we don't want to have any air pockets space in that seed trench. So I know seed firmers can be considered a dirty word up here because of soil buildup issues and maybe had in the past, let's take that out and we'll come back to that a little bit. All you're trying to do is push that seed into the bottom of the trench, which number one ensures you're getting the depth that we set the planter to and number two, gets rid of any air gaps. Like I said in the past, we've had issues with that. We do have a new product this year that we've been testing for the last number of years on Keaton's that will actually not have a low stick. In fact, Jason Ries had a grower just over by Gibbon that tested them and they look awesome and we just got those released for sale here last week. So one of the other things on emergence that we find is really key is, when it comes to carrying down pressure load on the gauge wheels. When you think about how to achieve depth, we need to have enough downforce. What I mean by that is, we've got the weight of the row unit pushing down, we have the weight of any seed that we're carrying; if it's a box planter, if it's center fill it's not as much, if we have insecticide, and then we've got a set of either springs, an airbag or a cylinder of some sort of pushing down, transferring weight down. The goal of that weight pushing down, on the flip side, the resistance we're running into is a cleaning system in the front, so your residue managers, whether they're fixed or floating, we have these pair of opening disks that are trying to push that soil into a perfect v that we've got set to a specific depth and then we've got a set of closing wheels on behind and they're all making contact with the soil. And so that management is, is we want enough down pressure pushing down to overcome all these resistance that the soil putting making contact with those three areas of the planter. Now one can say, well Jeez, I just to make sure I crank my springs, airbag, or cylinder so that I'll never not have enough weight because if we don't have enough weight and then the whole system is going to ride up and shallow plant and there again, that shallow depth is going to cause us issues, not getting even emergence whether it's due to moisture changes or just shallow planting. So if we were to over manage and go too heavy, again, we tend to up to your plant and I would say, tell me if I'm wrong, we tend to plant and probably a little wetter conditions on average versus ideal.
Jesse Wiant: I would say that's more than accurate.
Jason Portner: So because of that your guys are out there and you've got triples on the back during the bag, duals in the front, or some of you guys have taken extended practices to making sure you've got tracks either on the tractor in the front or tracks even on the planter to get away from compaction and that's the other flip side of this equation. If we carry too much weight underneath those gauge wheels, that's where the excessive weight is at and we start compacting and kind of building a wall on that side wall. So when that seed does germ and decides to send out its crown roots, we want those roots to not have much of a resistance, we want them to be able to branch out as they're supposed to. If we put too much weight on there we cause kind of a wall so those roots will turn. Corn doesn't like stress and so as farmers we are mitigators of stress. There's this balancing act of enough weight so we don't lose ground contacts and we don't shallow plant, but yet not that we have too much that we can build this compaction zone. So really being focused on that, is a huge part of this emergence piece. We've taken a look at what our 20-20, back when we came out with that 11 years ago, where we put a load cell on each row to take a look at what kind of weight are we carrying and then how do we manage that. So we've got a few products where we could manage airbags and even a hydraulic cylinder which has a down and lift function and we can go row by row to make sure that we get that balance right. Once we have that seed in the bottom, the last piece of the puzzle to make sure that we have our closing system set properly to collapse that trench, get that seed to soil contact that we need and we can let mother nature take it from there.
Jason Ries: We discussed the seed emergence, but what about the uniform seed population or uniform seed density? This is also a very important aspect to yield. Where does a grower start for hitting their population goals?
Jason Portner: So anytime we talk population, spacing, or seed density like that, it really starts with the meter. Whatever meter you have, that's really the heartbeat of the planter. We talk in terms of singulations, skips and doubles. That would be the next vital part, ensuring that your meters are in good shape. Any premier dealer of ours has a meter max test stand where you can bring your meters in, the guy can set up the population, your row spacing, and the speed that you're traveling. If you have a vacuum type system, they can increase or decrease the vacuum. If you have a pressure system, they can increase or decrease the pressure. If you even have your seed already, we can get your exact seed size in that meter and run it. It will give us a report card and you can play with the settings and see what it takes to get it tuned in. Different meters, have different strengths and weaknesses and over the years we've learned from that and developed our own meter that can execute. So really we want guys to be able to hit the field with their meters performing at 99% singulaiton. So that's the meter side of things. Once we've got that addressed, that's really gonna help us achieve things, but to get that population to hit correctly it has to go through a system that powers that. So that can be, whether you're a ground drive or hydraulic drive, you're still turning a series of shafts that go through bearings, a set of drive chains, maybe you've got a pro shaft cable system that turns that meter. There's a lot of things in place. We want to make sure that all those pieces are in good working order and are running fluids so that there's not a hiccup. You can imagine if you've got a stiff chain and what that can do, spinning that meter and that's going to start causing differences in spacing on the planter. Again, UFC has got not only Jason Ries, but a few other guys in the shop that are really honed in on planters and can come out and do assessment on things to make sure things are in good shape. We offer a few things on how we execute against, whether it's a hydraulic drive or we even have, what we call, a v drive and you can put an electric drive onto one of our Precision meters and it takes away all those shafts, bearings and everything else and is able to execute the population as needed.
Jason Ries: Well, what if the grower is wanting to utilize VRT seed technology. Are there different items that need to be looked through?
Jason Portner: So when it comes to variable rate, the biggest thing is to understand what your controller system is. There's a lot of options out there. Most of them are controlling a hydraulic drive. I've seen systems where it's a very manual process to increase or decrease. I guess within Precision, everything we do is fairly aftermarket that we can take to most existing systems and be able to execute. So everything when it comes to how we monitor and how we control, we want to make very easy to run for the grower because there's nothing more frustrating then when you have the best intentions that are not able to execute. Some of the different ways that we ensure that it gets done correctly is obviously we need GPS signal to make the control happen so we know where to switch from population A to population B. We also know that if speed increases or decreases, say coming into the headlands or turning around and taking off out of the headlands, there's a time where a second speed source is needed, so we utilized both radar and GPS. As there is a change in speed, we revert to radar because it gives us information faster so that we can ensure that we're executing the right population. Whether it's us controlling a hydraulic drive or like you mentioned, the variable rate technology. The other interesting thing we brought to the table that we can do on just about most planters is multi-hybrid technology. So rather than looking at that 80 acre field and you know that there's a core area that, for example, soybeans. I know there's a good chunk of the trade area that has iron chlorosis. So every year when the field goes to beans, you're having to decide, okay, I've got these couple areas that are really severe IDC, do I put a chlorosis bean in there that can handle it so that area doesn't die off, but then maybe give up some of the better ground on that same piece that maybe I can push with hybrid 2. With our multi-hybrid technology we have a couple of options, we can either utilize a box that is split, we can split the center fill and go left tank/right tank, or we can have centerfill being the front of a box and have the backs of the box as our secondary variety and make that change again. So I can put just the IDC soybean in the really tough spot and I can put a more offensive soybean in the better ground. So instead of having to make that choice, we can allow the technology to make that choice for us.
Jesse Wiant: Agronomically speaking, Jason, I think that makes a lot of sense. When we look at multi-hybrid setups and just variable rating alone, I guess in today's economics too makes a lot of sense. If we can maximize the good areas in the field and I suppose you could say minimize the inputs on the poorer areas that aren't going to give us a good ROI. So, obviously we have a lot of different technology like you said, the multi-hybrid, the variable rating, even the high speed planters. What is the best method to map all this or monitor all these different things? Is there one system that seems to be able to handle it all better than another?
Jason Portner: Well, I think the listeners are probably go "of course he's going to say Precision because that's where he works" but, yeah. If I go back, I mean I had 9 years of actually working in a similar position as you, Jesse and we had customers that expressed interest in Precision. So we looked into it and really liked the options it gave the growers and the wealth of information it gave them back. So when we chose to bring Precision on board the nice thing with it is, and Jason can probably attest, when you go down to Precision you spend two plus hours just speaking agronomy because everything is based on that and it's hard sometimes to find other companies that the background is really agronomy first. The question is always the why. Why is there a difference in this? And we really try to focus on making the technology we have very easy for the grower to use. So obviously a lot of the different products I mentioned is having a 20-20 screen in the cab, we do things differently than a lot of other companies do, but we want to make the information very easy to access and easy to use. I know we've got meetings scheduled so that growers can come in, have their screen in front of them and hit buttons so that they are comfortable before they go to the field. That has been a big staple that if you're going to invest with something with us, we want to make sure you understand how to use it. But every time we get things mapped out, again, a big focus is to make sure you know what to do with the technology and that you're not going to just sit back and just hit the easy button. We want to teach you how to use the tools to maximize things. Within Precision, like I said, we've had a couple of different series of 20-20s as technology has changed. We've had to make some changes to the screens. They all still work yet. So with the older ones, it's just different times and places to use them. One of the things we came up with was adding an iPad to the cab and FieldView is the offering that we had. Now through Precision Planting's history, we were purchased by Monsanto, and they really took a fancy to that. They started with field scripts and relied heavily upon Precision Planting to execute those prescriptions. That has changed within Monsanto, of course they are now Bayer, but they decided they didn't want to be in the equipment side of business just over a year now of being with Agco and the folks at Monsanto, now Bayer, did hang onto the FieldView side of things and as part of Climate. The relationship between Precision and Climate has remained strong and so all the information, all the different layers, that 20 -20 seed sense and if you put that same monitor system in the combine, providing the best, most accurate information to the grower, all those layers are available in FieldView. You can see high definition row by row detail on things such as singulation, population, hybrid, spacing, downforce. Putting a scale on every row and seeing what's taking place on that row unit. How much weight are we carrying? Are we actually getting the depth? Are we causing compaction? Just a lot of information at people's fingertips and very easy to use.
Jesse Wiant: So I would say besides just Climate again, as an agronomist I don't have as much experience with the monitors or utilizing monitors that you and Jason Ries do, of course, but 20-20s are probably the simplest monitor I've ever used compared to different platforms and that's what I like about it, how simple it is to use. The button pushes, everything is super simple, which I think can really relate to a grower who's trying to manage their operation a little bit differently, whether it's doing prescriptions or something like that where they get to know more than just hooking the planter up and going and planting. So I guess that's my two cents on the 20-20, just I enjoy how easy it is to use.
Jason Portner: For example, one of the nice pieces is last year. Typically in April we're planting and last season things got kinda pushed behind and our family had committed to going out to Washington where my brother and family is and dad hadn't finished planting yet. So Dad was at home planting and I wanted to keep tabs on him. In the cab I was able to use my iPad remote view in and see what was going on and seemed like we were having an issue in row 6. I called dad and said "Hey, can you maybe take a look at row 6?" even though I was half a country away. It turned out just to be the sensor that had some dust getting built up on it. There's a lot of horsepower in it, very easy to use it. It's really designed for a farmer to be easy to access, easy to operate, can make changes accordingly.
Jason Ries: I think one of my favorite things on the 20-20 on the tech side of things is, it's a great planter monitor in telling you what's going on, but if a problem does arise where you have to go out and troubleshoot, it's also a very intelligent monitor and the ability that it has to help you try to pinpoint where the problem is in a short amount of time. I just think that's very unique with monitors nowadays.
Jason Portner: Absolutely, I mean, as we kind of mentioned before, we know how this crop gets put in the ground and when Mother Nature gives you a window, you've got to take it. So anytime there is an issue or there is downtime, that time is critical to get the issue, not only identified, bot how do I fix it and get back going again. And we really strive to put a lot of smart technology to help diagnose and help through that process.
Jesse Wiant: So, Jason, we've spent a lot of time on what's available from equipment to monitors to Climate. What about new stuff? Is there any new technology that's coming down the pipeline from Precision?
Jason Portner: That's great that you asked that Jesse. We're continuing to always look at ways that we can make improvements. One item we've tested last year and we continue to refine and see what we can do with, is SmartFirmer. So there again, where maybe a regular Keaton seed firmer has a shaky past, the fact that we've got a low stick option. We actually took a firmer and put a bunch of sensor technologies in the back and so we start actually being able to read the soil. Some of the information we're pulling across is, do we have enough moisture to get that seed to germ? Because as we've talked about on the emergence piece, why do we plant at two inches? Typically we're going after moisture. So what if we got a spring where we should be at two and a half? How are we actually looking at understanding where to set the planter at? Having the ability to understand, do I have enough moisture. We know that moisture changes based on soil type. We have a full soil library in our lab at Tremont, Illinois where we're looking at how does moisture affect these different soil types so that when that firmer is pulled in the soil and we're in clay, we know what moisture at 30 percent takes to get that seed up and going versus when I get into a sand area, how much moisture is needed. So I know I have my depth set right. Beyond that, Smart Firmer brings in organic matter and we've seen some really interesting correlations of yield by organic matter. Up here, Jesse, we're blessed with some very nice organic matter numbers. I ended up in Nebraska here less than a month ago, spent a little time over there and I had some folks came up and say they had a 0.2 organic matter in their soil and I don't know if I've ever seen a number that low up here.
Jesse Wiant: That's got to mostly blow sand, I would guess out there.
Jason Portner: Yeah, you can maybe get up north of the St. Cloud or Little Falls area. I know there's a couple of little pockets, but for the most part around here, we're very blessed with organic matter. And even if we think we have high organic matter numbers, which I know a lot of us do, we still have seen even within a one percent range difference, the yield correlation to those numbers. So, traditionally we've always just grid sampled and that gives us a pretty decent idea, but when you pull that firmer in the soil, you're getting every foot that that firmer goes across. So I think it allows us to identify some of these zones maybe a little more tight than we have in the past, maybe helps us identify. So if we're looking at that variable rate technology or variable hybrid technology that helps us maybe hone in on what we're looking at. Other things it shows us is the amount of residue we have in the furrow. We talked about early on, if there's a lot of residue in the furrow and it starts to change our moisture or temperature, that can affect emergence. So based off that information, maybe I need to get more aggressive with my row cleaners. Maybe I have to change my tillage or even my combine settings or practices in order to change how we deal with residue in the fall. But without that measure, without that visibility, we don't necessarily know what we're dealing with. That's always something at Precision we're constantly trying to put a flashlight on areas we want to measure and then we want to figure out, from that, how do we want to control. Temperature is also on there. Now granted we have to be a little careful with that one, that is temperature at planting. If we were to plant seeds, it's pretty nasty and cold outside now, but let's say we're planting and that ground soil temperature is 50-60 degrees. We think we're great and then cold front comes through right after we plant. The firmer information is only going to tell us what happened day of, it's not going to tell us what's going to happen after. Those are just some really interesting pieces. This year we released that we're actually pulling cation exchange capacity with the firmer as well, it is not the same as organic manner. Nobody knew and anybody that ran SmartFirmer last year we actually collected this, but we wanted to see how close the correlation was before we turned that on. So for folks that maybe did have our limited release of SmartFirmer last year, we're going to be able to go in and flip that on for those folks and it should be available for next season. That's kind of it on the SmartFirmer side of things. We are still kind of working with some prototypes to make a lower stick option. Some of the standards if you got some sticky soils, we did have some buildup so I won't won't deny that, but we are working on it. The fact that we got a regular firmer working, I feel like we're going to get the SmartFirmer figured out in our soils up here too. Some other technology we're working with, is once we have all this information, say from SmartFirmer to tell us where our moisture is at, well what better way to take care of things by having a way to automate our depths control. So we are going to be testing SmartDepth, where we can use the information and actually change the depth on the planter. So again, kind of wait and see on that. Last but not least, we take a look at the closing system, getting that soil to seed contact we know there's a lot of variation out there and so we have what we call FurrowForce, which is a way of closing the furrow up and getting some visibility with a sensor on there to show us exactly what's going on. So some exciting things. Every time we think that we're done, the engineers seem to come up with some more stuff.
Jesse Wiant: Well, Jason, I appreciate your time today. I know we went through a lot of information. If there's questions from the listeners, just get in contact with either myself or with Jason Ries and we can get you in contact with Jason Portner if it's a more specific question that Ries cannot answer. Otherwise, like I say, Portner, thanks for your time. Really appreciate it. It's nice to talk about planters and not just focuse strictly on agronomy. As we know the planter is what gets our agronomy kicked off in the beginning of the year.
Jason Portner: Not a problem. Thanks for having me. The agronomy and the equipment go hand in hand. Hope everybody stays warm and appreciate you being on with you guys.
Jason Ries: Thank you.
Jesse Wiant: Thanks man.
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