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By Staff | Apr 10, 2015

Planting season is about to commence only days from now. I know this because I was informed by my son, Mr. Fencerow to Fencerow, that everything is ready to go and he expects by mid-April, he will be underway.

The changes in planting over the years would make a long and impressive list.

The increasing size of equipment is the obvious one with 24-row planters being common.

Of course, there are more, not as obvious, but having great impact. Bulk seed and auto steer are two that come to mind.

I loaded seed in an eight- and then 12-row planter. It was more work dumping bags in a 12-row planter, but I sure went farther between fills.

Then soybean planting arrived and it seemed like I was filling that planter more than I was actually planting. Bulk soybean seed was a godsend.

The only disadvantage in bulk seed was in limiting your variety choices because of the sheer volume of seed in purchasing and planting.

I believe I can safely say nobody misses those paper bags that still needed to be disposed of when planting was finished.

Before auto steer, planting was limited by the amount of daylight since we had to see the mark left by the previous pass of the planter.

With auto steer, the problem is staying alert as both tractor and planter are computer-controlled and the driver is more observer than participant.

Sundown makes no difference and just look at those arrow-straight rows with no gaps or overlaps.

Another change that ranks high right up there with bigger equipment is planting date.

Back in the 1980s,, my uncle and I thought we were on schedule to be planting corn during the first week of May and soybeans after mid-May.

Now it is corn finished by May 1 with soybeans started right after. In the 1960s, my dad was on schedule if he finished planting corn by the date of his wedding anniversary, June 9.

I can remember planting without a cab. There was one chilly May day when I not only wore my insulated coveralls and gloves while planting, but put on my five bucklers because the cold wind was blowing up my pant legs.

Improvements in seed genetics are amazing and they are part of the equation that allows earlier planting dates along with better herbicides and higher yields.

All this does make a person wonder what the future holds. Bigger equipment is a given along with improved genetics.

Auto steer could lead to a tractor and planter that operates without anyone in the cab. The operator will be parked in a corner of the field with a load of bulk seed, fertilizer and diesel fuel for the next refill, who the planter will notify when it is running low.

And there are improvements coming that are now being finalized. Improvements that we have not thought of and will leave us saying, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

While the equipment and genetics have removed much of the work, there remains a big job for the farmer.

How does one pay for all this with today’s grain prices?

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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