A guest at the Tools of the Future Tour takes a photo of a Bin Bot, a remote controlled device that can sweep, lift, pull or knock down a wall of grain.
A guest at the Tools of the Future Tour takes a photo of a Bin Bot, a remote controlled device that can sweep, lift, pull or knock down a wall of grain.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The future of planting is something that people at Beck’s Hybrids think about all the time.

Jason Webster, research director at Beck’s Central Illinois Practical Farm Research Center, envisions the future of farming as innovative and efficient. He discussed his thoughts at the recent Tools of the Future Tour in West Lafayette.

“I think there are two main technologies that are going to start hitting planters — high-speed planting and multi-hybrid planting,” Webster said.

“When we talk about tools of the future, the nice thing is you won’t have to wait very long to get it. You won’t have to wait five to 10 years. For a lot of you, it could be available next year, in 2015. Definitely by 2016.”

Multi-hybrid planting is the idea of changing corn hybrids on the fly, based on soil conditions, management zones or yield potential.

It’s often hard for farmers to pick one hybrid to use on the entire farm. Multi-hybrid planting allows farmers to better manage their seed.

“Let’s say you have one farm that has good yields every year, and you go down the road 10 miles to another field that is rough and tough,” Webster said. “Would you plant the same corn hybrid on both farms? No.

“It’s difficult to choose one corn hybrid for the whole farm. I like to think of it as planting two hybrids for a field — one offensive for good areas and one defensive for bad areas.”

In the future, you’ll have a script made for variable seed rating, as well as the ability to switch corn varieties on the move, he said.

Farmers will have zones set up based on yield record data. High-productivity areas will have different seeds planted than low-productivity areas.

Beck’s began looking at multi-hybrid planting in 2011 and still is researching methods to improve efficiency.

“Planting is the most important thing we do every year, because it sets the stage for high yield or low yield if we do it wrong,” Webster said. “We have to do it right.”

High-speed planting, or planting 8 to 10 mph, is another area for farmers to consider.

The problem with high-speed planting is that, in the past, it negatively affected seed singulation, or how many seeds are planted at a time.

If two seeds are dropped instead of one, or if a seed is skipped, it can cause problems with plants as they compete for sunlight and nutrients.

Precision Planting planted around 8,000 acres at high speeds and saw a 99.7 percent singulation rate, giving hope that the technology for higher speeds is just around the corner.

“I probably have a lot of growers planting 4.5 mph, and they aren’t getting 99.7 percent,” Webster said. “Also, how fast you can plant changes from field to field based on conditions.

“I think there will be a lot of farmers with a 16-row planter, who had been considering a larger planter, but with this technology, I think 16-row is perfect, depending on field size and market areas.”

Right now, seeds in a planter are dropped down a seed tube. Gravity affects the process. New equipment will use a belt or brush system to put the seeds directly into the ground.