Seed metering and delivery technology is the heart of all row crop planting systems. Today’s metering and delivery hardware has maximized existing mechanical efficiencies and reached the limit of physics within the system. While necessity may be the mother of all invention, we believe possibility is the mother of disruptive innovation. This challenge seeks the next disruptive idea in seed metering and delivery technology which will advance row crop planting technology and feed the world of tomorrow.
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Seed metering is the process of selecting a single seed and placing it into the soil at set distance intervals. These intervals determine the plant population, or number of seeds planted within a standardized area, usually relayed in seeds per acre. Optimal plant population varies depending on the crop being planted. Row crop planting is seed metering in long, straight lines known as rows. Row crop planters are multi-row implements utilizing seed metering systems to plant 4, 8, 12, and even up to 48 rows at a time. Row-crop planters allow growers to plant large swaths of land in a short amount of time.
Current seed meters utilize crop-specific disks that are designed to separate a single seed from a bulk storage area. These seeds are generally captured against a rotating disc with mechanical fingers, brushes, positive air pressure, or negative air pressure. The seed is then moved to a release point where it is dropped into the seed trench. How well a seed metering technique picks up a single seed and releases it is known as seed singulation.
As the size of farming operations has grown, so too has the planting equipment utilized to efficiently and profitably plant crops. Increasing planting efficiency by increasing the implement size only works to a certain point. Once implements reach a certain size, we begin to see diminishing returns due to weight related soil compaction (inhibits plant growth), transportation and storage issues.
What is the best way to cover more ground with same size machine? Higher travel speed. Traditionally row-crop planting has been conducted at 4-6 mph. The solution seems simple enough, we just speed up to 8-12 mph and our problem is solved, right? Wrong. The problem with increased speed has to do with the dynamics of the row crop planter – more specifically the planter row unit, seed meter, and the forward velocity of the seed with respect to the ground. Traditionally, after a seed is singulated it is released from the meter into a seed tube and travels approximately 26” down the center of the tube to the seed trench. Increasing the speed of the planter does not increase the speed at which the seed drops to the ground. Increasing speed simply requires more seeds to be released from the meter into the seed tube in a shorter time period enhancing the risk of seeds ricocheting off the seed tube and one another. Additionally, to ensure perfect placement, the seed must exit the seed tube at zero relative velocity to the seed trench to prevent the seed from bouncing down the furrow and causing inconsistent placement.