Continual winter storms have farmers scratching their heads as to when fields will be ready for seeding.

“From here to the Deep South and Southern Plains, it all looks like this: white and/or wet. The bulk of the Corn Belt is wet. The Pacific Northwest is delayed, but we do see some positive forecast changes in some areas in the near future,” Jeremy Hughes, product manager for Horsch, said. “However, we’ll get in the field eventually.”

Hughes recently explained the advantages of the newly introduced Horsch Avatar SD seeder to a number of company representatives and customers. The Avatar has been tested for four or five years globally. It was released in Europe three years ago. This concept has been tested the past two years in areas within North America. Planting rice in Louisiana, planting cover crops into corn stalks in Tennessee, planting crops including soybeans, winter canola, spring canola, and cereals in the northern Red River Valley.

Hughes said this is Horsch’s approach to the central fill single disk market. The Avatar can deal with fertilizer application, small grains and soybeans. They found it requires low horsepower, so an older tractor can be used with this unit. It also has a lower hydraulic need at 12-15 gpm. Most central fill machines have a 100-bushel capacity. The Avatar has a 166-bushel capacity split 50/50 between two tanks which gives more capacity for soybeans, wheat, and the ability to apply two products.

The machine has a dual tank design which makes it possible to apply two granular/seed products simultaneously. The design increases efficiency and decreases transport width to 12 foot. The weight transfer system transfers the weight to the tool bar to help eliminate tire tracks and follow ground contour effectively.

Farmers will look for efficiency when they can finally pull into fields this spring. Hughes said the added capacity and versatility of the Avatar SD seeder can help get the seed in the ground fast as that is when yield starts. That goes for corn and soybean farmers, as they face the countdown for when the planting window is slamming on them.

No matter where the farm is, there is a 10- to 14-day optimal window when planting corn and beans. The window is the same. Many farmers always plant corn first. “I’m not saying that’s wrong, but the soybean planting date is something to consider. We see an overlap of the optimum planting window in many areas with both corn and beans, and many farmers are now looking at ways to get more soybeans planted within that window,” said Hughes.

USDA statistics on planting dates show that 40 to 60 percent of the soybeans in major growing areas are planted after the optimal planting date. Each day they go beyond that, it’s estimated they lose half a bushel of yield per acre. Hughes said, “It’s not because they didn’t use a Horsch, it’s not because they didn’t use Brand X, it’s because of timing. They didn’t get the seed in the ground soon enough. Multiply that out, and you lose $3.50 to $4.00 an acre. That’s money that’s getting left on the table. It’s all about timing.”

USDA statistics and research from east central South Dakota, for example, indicates the last optimum planting days for corn is May 5 to May 7. Optimum soybean dates are just a few days after that. “Every day after that optimum date you lose bushels. This year it’s going to be a race to get as much in the ground as fast as possible to maximize the optimum time,” Hughes said.

Interest in cover crops

There are a lot of government programs encouraging cover crops. Hughes said the single-disk drill with dual tanks can plant two different styles of cover crops in one pass. With seeds like vetch and winter pea or winter rye, it’s been a problem with even seeding across the field. Cover crop seed blends have been very difficult to meter accurately and difficult to establish consistent stands. One area might have more field peas, the other more rye simply to poor blending or settling in the seeder tank. It’s hard to meter what can be a glob of material, and it’s expensive. The Avatar SD has two separate meters, so farmers can put, for example, buckwheat in one tank and winter peas in the other tank. Both seeds go down the tube into the furrow in the same place at the same time.

When asked when farmers make decisions on purchasing planters and seeders, Hughes said most have their equipment set for the year. But some producers may decide, with the tight spring, they want to make a change to get the job done faster and need extra power in the field. “There are a number of last-minute orders, and we have a finite number of the Avatar SD on hand. Otherwise, farmers can order these machines in May or June, and we can have them for the 2020 planting season.”

New things, new concepts

Hughes highlighted some of the new Horsch products. The company has been working with the air-seeder technology for 18 years. The Panther 460 with the new Sectional Control System was introduced last year and offers sectional control technology with a 600-bushel cart. The 60-foot machine is divided to control eight individual sections.

For those in Nebraska and other ridge till markets, the new Maestro RC mounted planter was released in February.

“There is a lot of demand for mounted planters, especially in areas of ridge-till such as in Nebraska,” Hughes said. He noted that 15-20 percent of planters are on 3-point which is different than in South Dakota where drawn planters are the majority.

As far as tillage goes, the new Joker RT40 in used all over North America. As people get into fields for spring work, a lot of decisions will be made about fertilizer and seed bed preparation. The Joker works great for that and helps with residue management, Hughes said.

Connie Sieh Groop is a freelance ag journalist, and she can be reached at

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