BRANDON — Improving methods to more accurately place seeds of high value crops has become a precise science.
Now, Horsch, formerly known as Horsch Anderson, says it has what many producers are looking for in its Maestro corn planter, which can plant corn at 10 m.p.h. on a well-prepared seed bed.
The Maestro officially entered the North American planter market with six units sold to selected corn growers, at a time of increasing corn acres in North America.
Horsch sales manager Jeremy Hughes said the strong demand for aftermarket attachments and modifications sends a message that farmers are not satisfied with their current options.
“What we’ve seen in all parts of North America is that growers spend a lot of time and money modifying their planters,” he said.
Hughes said the new Maestro is a major design departure from the style of planters growers are accustomed to in North America.
Hughes said the Maestro is unlike most planters today, which use sprockets, chains, hydraulic motors and air clutches for sectional control.
“The Maestro simplifies all that. Every meter on every row unit is driven by a digitally controlled electric motor.
“Digitally controlled electric motors not only give us individual row shut off and individual row unit control, but they respond instantly to commands. This gives the grower unprecedented control of what goes into the ground.”
Unlike some add-on electric meter drives that have recently come to market, the Maestro 12-volt system does not require an auxiliary power generator. It functions with the tractor’s regular electrical system.
“The other factor is that the Maestro is engineered to function only with the digitally controlled 12-volt motor. It’s an integral part of the design.
“The aftermarket add-ons are simply that. Add-ons. You install them on a metering system that was never engineered for electric drive metering.”
The digital electric drive metering allows the farmer to control everything from the cab.
“If I’m going along in the field planting 30,000 kernels and I need to change to 25,000, I simply key in 25,000 then push “enter” and I keep going planting 25,000. I don’t even get off the tractor.”
Instead of the holes, which have been used in metering discs for decades, the Maestro has grooves that open up to the seed tube. The smooth geometry gives the seed a gentle transition from the circular motion of the disc to the linear motion down the tube. Seed handling is less violent and seeds don’t bounce once in the tube.
“That gives us excellent singulation, even at nine or 10 m.p.h. And every seed run is monitored so the operator can spot a problem the moment it occurs.”
In North America, the open groove system is only available for corn so far. In Europe, it has already been calibrated for sugar beets.
The long-term plan is to make the Maestro compatible with every type of seed, according to Maestro’s Drew Gerber from the Horsch head office in Dodge City, Kansas.
“Our challenge for the seed sensor is to detect small seeds like canola and cereals,” said Gerber.
He added the Maestro’s high level of precision at high ground speed is based on the ability to digitally identify each seed as it falls from the groove and enters the tube.
“We need that information to calculate the distance between seeds within a row to meet the exact plant population criteria.”
Data from the seed sensor and ground speed sensor go into the computer, which sends a message to the digitally controlled electric motor on the meter. Each seed across the width of the toolbar is dispensed when needed, regardless of how many row units on the planter.
Seed sensor technology is easier with large seeds such as corn, but the technology is expected to continue developing so it can manage the smaller seeds with no skips or doubles at higher ground speeds.
Gerber said that in three years of field testing, the Maestro corn planter was 50 to 60 percent faster than any other North American planter running in the same ideally prepared seedbed.
“So far, we haven’t seen those speeds in no-till conditions, but we have proven that in no-till, we can increase our field speed by 20 to 30 percent compared to other North American planters.”
Seed and fertilizer represent weight, whether carried in boxes across the planter frame or in a central box. Weight fluctuation has always been an issue as product moves from machine to soil.
Hughes said the Maestro cart and toolbar arrangement eliminates weight variation issues while eliminating soil compaction and variations between the centre section and wings.
“Our cart rolls along on these large diameter 20.8 R42 high-flotation tires instead of implement tires. But that’s only part of the reason we don’t get stuck,” he said adding that that the key to eliminating compaction is tied to more than tire size.
“Our tool bar and cart design is quite different from what we’re used to seeing. If you look at your typical John Deere or Case planter, the seed unit or seed box sits on top of the tool bar. Weight is carried on the tool bar and that’s not good.
“Don’t get the idea the Maestro is just a tow-between cart pulling a toolbar. This is a totally different concept. The weight of seed and fertilizer is transferred from the cart to the toolbar through a direct hydraulic link up. The cart is an integral part of the planter instead of a separate unit.”
Hughes said the design allows the Maestro to be the largest capacity planter in North America. The liquid cart carries 140 bushels of seed plus 1,000 gallons US of liquid fertilizer. It’s available to feed either the 12 row or 24 row Maestro planter.
The dry cart carries 60 bu. of seed plus seven tons of granular fertilizer. It’s available to feed either the eight row or 12 row Maestro planter.
Controlling that much weight can be a major headache, especially on the largest Maestro tool bar which measures 60 feet.
“Here’s what we do. We transfer active down pressure from the cart out to the wings. We always have down pressure on the wings so they don’t ride up in rough conditions.”
As well, the hydraulic linkage system virtually eliminates compaction in the wheel tracks, according to Gerber.
“The two, different sized cylinders continuously work in harmony forcing the entire tool bar to run level and equally distribute weight to every row unit.
“Each cylinder has its own accumulator and every row unit has the same down pressure,” he said.
Hughes said the engineering innovations extend down to the openers.
“On the row units, we don’t use air bags or springs for down pressure. That’s not precise.
“We use a hydraulic cylinder on each row unit so when you’re sitting in the cab, you can dial in the exact down force you need all the way up to 770 pounds.”
He says controlled hydraulic downforce gives the row units a smoother ride with less bounce and quicker reaction to changes in the field surface.
European farmers are firmly tied to granular fertilizer, according to Gerber. All European Maestro units are built solely for granular, with the necessary addition of a separate double disc opener on each row unit.
Six Maestro units were released last winter to selected growers
Those prices were not made public and prices for units for 2014 have not been announced.
For more information, contact Jeremy Hughes at 605-281-0529, Drew Gerber at email@example.com or visit www.horsch.com.