Maestro sings a song of singulation

DUGALD, Man. – Prairie farmers have a half-dozen high-speed planters from which to choose.

For Andy Scheurer the selection process was easy. His neighbour bought a Horsch Maestro last year and Scheurer was impressed.

For years, the Dugald, Man., producer and his brother, Edgar, had been planting corn, canola, soybeans and sunflowers with a JD 1790 on 20-inch row spacing. Although it was still doing the job, they felt they could improve their return on those crops if they updated their planter technology.

“We briefly considered other planters. What really drove us to this one is the experience our neighbour had with the Maestro he bought last year,” says Andy Scheurer, adding that it’s ironic he and Edgar bought a corn planter at a time when they’ve stopped growing corn.

“The last few years, we’ve taken a break from corn,” says Scheurer. “It’s a high input crop and with all the extra work it doesn’t actually pay that well. The weather has to co-operate because you need a lot of rain and a really big yield. In the following crop year, regardless of what you seed into that corn stubble, you’ll get a 10 percent yield reduction.

“So we’re converting corn acres into sunflower. They’ve been paying 23 cents a pound for years. Can’t say for sure if we’ll ever get back into corn.”

Even though they’re out of corn production, Scheurer says they had no problem justifying a $450,000 corn planter because it does such a good job placing seed for three other crops.

Andy Scheurer said the wheat singulation trials he inspected in southern Manitoba convinced him the Maestro was the planter he needed. Maestro wheat emerged three to four days earlier than air drill wheat, and soybeans got a jump of four to five days. | Ron Lyseng photo

“On these higher value crops, you need to be quite precise with seed placement. On corn, they say the Maestro gets 98 percent accuracy at 11 miles per hour. On soybeans, I’ve heard of guys going eight mph plus. If I can go seven mph with 60 feet of machine, that’s more than enough.

“I think anything is possible providing you get your seedbed perfect. If your machine isn’t bouncing, you’re OK. But if you’re on a rough field like this one, you might get perfect seed spacing but you’ll never get perfect depth because of the jumping up and down.”

The main tank holds 750 gallons while the two frame-mount saddle tanks each hold 250 gallons. Note the large hydraulic cylinder below the frame. The pair of these lift the frame and the duals off the ground, thus dividing weight equally between tractor and toolbar. In this mode, the cart creates no compaction. | Ron Lyseng photo

Precise seed spacing is managed by an electric motor meter on each row unit. The digitally controlled motors provide individual row shut off and individual row unit control. They respond to commands instantly, giving the grower unprecedented control over where seeds are placed within the field.

Scheurer says one of the biggest factors in their decision was the size of the seed tank. He can plant 160 acres of soybeans without stopping. He says that’s nearly double the capacity of a John Deere or Case, and the White is only 20 bushels more than Deere.

Liquid capacity is another big factor. The Maestro can carry 1,250 gallons. The main tank holds 750 gallons plus saddle tanks on both sides of the frame each carry 250 gallons. Scheurer says they dribble in-row liquid 10-34-0 popup just in front of the seed, at a rate of five or six gallons per acre, depending on soil conditions. It goes into the bottom of the trench so it doesn’t coat the seed or burn it. With soybeans, they dribble in the inoculants.

“Tires and flotation is another big thing. The main frame has big duals. When you put the row units in the ground, it lifts the frame and the cart and the duals right off the field. The duals just skim the surface. So half the weight is on the tractor and half on the toolbar.

“You plant right behind those duals, so if they’re lifted up, there’s no tire track compaction. Those openers put seed into the same quality seedbed as the rest of the openers. That’s a big feature for us. If you have tire compaction from the tank, it really limits the growth of any plants in those rows.

“The only option we didn’t get was automatic down force, which groups the row units into four bunches. When it senses a section running in a wheel track, it instantly increases down force to compensate.”

Last summer, Scheurer heard about an experiment singulating wheat seeds with a Maestro planter. The farm was at Lettelier about an hour drive for him. So they went to investigate.

Scheurer says the main tank holds enough seed to do 160 acres of soybeans without stopping. With most crops the system dribbles in liquid 10-34-0 at a rate of five or six gallons per acre. With soybeans, it also dribbles in the inoculant.| Ron Lyseng photo

Singulating canola seeds through a planter has become a common practice because of the financial savings in the seed purchase. But wheat seed is cheap. Is there anything to be gained?

“We had to drive over to look at the plots. It was pretty dry, so you couldn’t draw any real conclusion. But you could see an obvious benefit in uniform emergence. Back in the days, people used to compare emergence of a hoe drill to a disc drill. There was the kind of difference between the Horsch and the disc drill.

“On the Horsch plots, everything came out around the same height. The Maestro singulated wheat emerged three to four days earlier. It just shot up out of the ground. I think that’s because you don’t get that compaction over the seed row. We saw the same thing on soybeans. They came out four to five days quicker than with the air drill.

“For the price, it was about the same as a fully loaded John Deere. But here’s the big difference. Changing the Horsch for different seed for different crops takes about half the time compared to a Deere. I’d bank on a solid hour switching over on this machine. All you’re doing is changing one large component for each row. You’re not taking anything apart. ”

Scheurer’s first day in the field with the shiny new Maestro was April 30. He made one round of a 60-acre canola field he was custom seeding for a neighbour. That’s when the guidance system bought everything to a sudden halt. The machine sat in the corner for at least four hours.

“The companies that provide these services have to do something about this re-occuring problem,” he says.

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