Seeder section control gets upgrade

BRANDON — The innovation that allowed precise on-off control of drill sections solved a host of overlap and miss problems during seeding, but it also created a few new problems.

Section control for seeding equipment was met with great fanfare when it first appeared on the scene. It enabled operators to have their GPS shut off specific sections while turning in headlands or seeding around potholes and other obstacles.

The new anti-overlap technology reduced seed and fertilizer input costs. Headlands grew better crops because they no longer suffered from too much fertilizer.

As a spin-off, the amount of excess fertilizer flowing into waterways was probably reduced. That was a significant public relations benefit.

But there was a problem. The blockage sensors available on the market at that time did not lend themselves to section control technology. This resulted in blockage messages that were wrong and a nuisance beeping in the cab for the operator.

If a section was shut off, sensors told operators to stop and fix the blockage. Operators began to lose confidence in the sensors.

Agtron Enterprises has developed a solution with a new technology called Section Aware (SA) for its line of Legend monitors.

The Legend SA module connects to the control system of the drill. The information provided by this hookup lets the Legend SA know which sections are active and which have been shut down.

Operators no longer hear annoying warnings about a problem that doesn’t exist, said Agtron’s Kris Kennedy.

“We actually tie directly into the air drill section control, so the Legend SA knows when a section turns off. Those sensors know that they should not sound an alarm,” said Kennedy.

There’s another problem at seeding time. Drills shake, bounce and vibrate, and wires become disconnected. Farmers may get a blockage and not know it until the next morning when they’re checking the machine. Or they might not realize it until after the crop has emerged.

Kennedy said Agtron has a fix for that as well.

“That’s a benefit of the Legend SA system. The loop has bi-directional communications. The signals make a complete circuit in both directions, so if a connection comes loose, the Legend SA in-stantly tells you exactly which run so you can fix it.

“Another factor is ease of installation. The detectors are linked in a daisy-chain fashion. That means that one sensor is simply plugged into the one beside it all the way along the drill. Each sensor has its own electronics to determine its position in the system.”

He said the sensors use infrared energy. They can read flow rates and operators can use the Seed Rate Wizard to confirm fertilizer rates and seed rates.

Each drill has one loop dedicated to seed and one loop dedicated to fertilizer. On a drill with 10 sections, each loop has the ability to monitor up to 120 sensors.

If the seed loop handles 120 sensors and the fertilizer loop handles another 120 sensors, the total is 240 monitored runs.

When asked if 240 runs are necessary, Kennedy conceded that it is overkill, but he added it may be required by some farmers in the near future.

Kennedy said farmers can access the data in different ways. They can go wireless to the Agtron monitor or go wireless to an Android or Apple tablet. If the tractor has ISOBUS, you can tie into that. A Windows 10 app is expected to be available soon.

“Price all depends on the size of the drill and what the farmer wants to monitor. Is it tow between or tow behind? Prices can range from $4,000 to $25,000.

“On those big 86 foot drills with 86 seed runs and 86 fertilizer runs, a full system with all the options will run about $19,000.”

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