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Effect of Heterogeneous Field Conditions on Corn Seeding Depth Accuracy and Uniformity

Poncet, Aurelie M., Fulton, John P., McDonald, Timothy P., Knappenberger, Thorsten, Shaw, Joey N., Bridges, Rees W.
Applied engineering in agriculture 2018 v.34 no.5 pp. 819-830
agricultural engineering, automation, corn, crop yield, field experimentation, growing season, planting, soil quality, soil water, sowing, volumetric water content, Alabama
Optimization of planter performance such as uniform seeding depth is required to maximize crop yield potential. Typically, seeding depth is manually adjusted prior to planting by selecting a row-unit depth and a row-unit downforce to ensure proper seed-soil contact. Once set, row-unit depth and downforce are usually not adjusted again for a field although soil conditions may vary. Optimization of planter performance requires automated adjustments of planter settings to varying soil conditions, but development of precision technologies with such capabilities requires a better understanding of soil-planter interactions. The objective of this study was to evaluate seeding depth response to varying soil conditions between and within fields and to discuss implications for development and implementation of active planting technologies. A 6-row John Deere MaxEmerge Plus planter equipped with heavy-duty downforce springs was used to plant corn ( L.) in central Alabama during the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons. Three depths (4.4, 7.0, and 9.5 cm) and three downforces (corresponding to an additional row-unit weight of 0.0, 1.1, and 1.8 kN) were selected to represent common practices. Depth and downforce were not readjusted between fields and growing seasons. Seeding depth was measured after emergence. Corn seeding depth significantly varied with heterogeneous soil conditions between and within fields and the planter failed to achieve uniform seeding depth across a field. Differences in corn seeding depth between fields and growing seasons were as high as 2.1 cm for a given depth and downforce combination. Corn seeding depth significantly co-varied with field elevation but not with volumetric soil water content. Seeding depth varied with elevation at a rate ranging from -0.1 cm/m to -0.6 cm/m. Seeding depth co-variation to field elevation account for some but not all site-specific seeding depth variability identified within each field trial. These findings provide a better understanding of site-specific seeding depth variability and issues to address for the development of site-specific planting technologies to control seeding depth accuracy and improve uniformity