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Tech in the Field: Illinois farmer equips older equipment with Ag Leader products to improve efficiency, accuracy across his entire season.

by Jul 18, 2023Blog, Displays, Guidance & Steering, SeedCommand®, Yield Monitoring

Quick and accurate. Those two words define how most farmers feel about getting the seed in and out the ground once the weather finally breaks. As the Eastern Region Sales Manager for Ag Leader Technology, Nathan Zimmerman wants to help farmers achieve both.

For the Illinois native that starts at home with his family’s multi-generational farm. Located in El Paso, Illinois, Zimmerman began working with his father Dave to incorporate more technology into the row crop operation.

“We jumped in with both feet last fall,” he says.

First on the list, equipping a 2008 Gleaner R65 combine with an InCommand 1200 display, SteadySteer, and TerraStar X for GPS 7500.

“Adding yield monitoring system within InCommand was a major part of that,” Zimmerman says. “We wanted an accurate account of yields from the 2022 harvest, so we could compare those with future numbers to see if we are making the right decisions.”

A solution for every season

The InCommand 1200 monitor offers year-round functionality ­­– from planting to harvest – on every activity taking place in the field. SteadySteer is an economical, hands-free assisted steering system that when paired with GPS delivers pass-to-pass accuracy. TerraStar X is a satellite based RTK corrections option that requires no base station or cellular plan.

In Spring 2023, this technology was moved to a White 6182 planter. To optimize the planter’s existing meters, SureDrive was also added.

An electric drive solution, SureDrive corrects the shortfalls of the ground driven system by shutting off the meter for point rows or already planted areas, saving seed. It can bump your population rate up or down with the press of a button, or plant via a prescription. Additionally, the turn compensation feature adjusts the proper seed rate across the planter in sweeping turns by speeding up outside rows and slowing down inside rows.

“Installation was painless and fast. My dad read the instructions and got nearly everything put on the meters of the planter in about a day. He did the hard part, so all I had to do was come in and connect the wiring,” Zimmerman says.

By not replacing chains, bearings, and shafts on the old ground drive setup, plus the potential yield increase, Zimmerman believes they will see a return on the investment they made to the planter in a few seasons.

“We will know this fall when we compare yields,” he says.

Maximizing field time

Because they deal with some heavy clay soil, maximizing their time in the field is critical.

“If our soil gets beat on with rain, it turns into concrete, so we need to get in as soon as the ground is working well. This spring, we averaged about 20 acres an hour, which probably doubles where we were before the technology. I was impressed at how quickly and accurately we were able to plant in a shorter amount of time,” he says, adding that the InCommand 1200 display also helped them monitor singulation and spacing to ensure everything was dialed in correctly.

Since a creek runs through 50% of the farm, Zimmerman says the AutoSwath feature is a big seed saver. The automatic swath control allows a farmer to choose from three different coverage options: minimize skip, minimize overlap, and user defined. These options will determine when your sections turn off in a specific area.

“For as squared off and flat as we are in Central Illinois, we also have a lot of angled borders where AutoSwath should pay off,” he says. “Hopefully, it’s something we’ll be able to see this year in the yield monitor.”

Typically, corn averages around 200 bushels per acre while soybeans come in at about 65 bushels per acre.

“The technology has made the planter a better planter. Singulation is much better than the previous year. We hit the population we set, which is 33,500 for corn and 140,000 for beans on 30-inch rows,” Zimmerman says.

Saving tractor wear and tear

While it may not be talked about a lot, Zimmerman says adding the latest technology also saves wear and tear on the tractor.

“When you have a ground drive system, you must stop and raise the planter every time you reach a headland, so the clutch disengages,” he says. “Once you turn around, you must stop again to put the planter back down, so the clutch can engage when you take off.”

Now, the operator simply slows down to around five miles per hour at the headland, picks up the planter, turns around, engages the steering, puts the planter back down, and starts planting again.

“That time savings and less wear and tear on the tractor, I think, is worth just as much as everything else,” Zimmerman says. “It’s where the efficiency really kicked in.”


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