What does the new SmartFirmer mean for you?

SmartFirmer Precision Focus for February 16, 2017 from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

A couple of weeks ago, during their Winter Conference, Precision Planting announced some of their new products that will be coming out in the future. One of the new inventions I am most excited about is called SmartFirmer. The idea behind the smart firmer is pretty simple, we take the concept of a seed firmer, and we add sensors to it. In the case of SmartFirmer, that technology is the ability to measure soil moisture, Organic Matter, and residue. And that is all great, but what does it mean to you?

Two reasons that I’m really excited about this technology is the impact that it can have on your farm AND your yield are the ability to sense organic matter and to measure soil moisture. While they both come from the same tool, they are still worlds apart on how we will want to use them on our farm.

So let’s take a look at the ability to measure soil moisture first. I call this a moment-in-time measurement. This measurement seems to me that it would be useful in two ways. The first is that when you pull into your field, having an idea of the soil moisture at your seeding depth is a great answer to a long-standing question. Every year I am asked, “What is the ideal seeding depth?” and there is only one correct answer. The right answers is the depth that provides our seed with adequate moisture to germinate, and also protect it from temperature fluctuations. Often, we just set our planter a 2” or 2.5” and we plant there for the season. The SmartFirmer gives us a real-time readout to know what our moisture situation is and gives us a tool to use to set depth provides confidence. And then for our irrigated farmers, when we finish, we can look at the map for our field and make a quick decision about if we will need to irrigate to get the seed to germinate.

Now for organic matter. While OM can vary a lot within your field, in any spot, it is pretty stable. If I get a reading for a spot today, I feel pretty good about that value still being the same 5 or 8 years from now. When we soil sample, we test for Organic Matter, but samples a spaced out several feet. Using a SmartFirmer lets us get a much higher resolution to our OM map. That means we have a better layer for building Prescriptions. With better data comes improved VR Nitrogen, Zone Maps, Seeding Maps, etc… Don’t get me wrong; this is not a magical map that will replace other maps. But it’s a wonderful layer that improves resolution and gives us better data.

Now your take home for the day. This new technology is still 14 months away from being on your farm. We are in the Beta phase this year, and we hope to have it on our RD planter this season. But it is exciting technology that will impact how we operate in the future. There is no doubt it will change and improve before we get it on our farms. But, I want you to begin to think about how this tech could impact us. It will give us another tool in our toolbox. The challenge now is drawing up the blueprints, so we know what to build when we get our new tools.