In this post we report on one piece of equipment for precision agriculture, presented by Precision PlantingÒ at the 2020 edition of the International Fair of Agricultural Machinery (FIMA) held last February in Zaragoza, Spain. This equipment is the Smart-Firmer (SF), an instrumented version of the Keeton Seed Firmer (KSF). As its name suggests, the function of the KSF is to achieve proper seed-to-soil contact.
To press the seed into the seed furrow bottom, the agricultural machinery market offers two designs. One is the seed firming wheel and the other is the polymer flap-shape firmer (see illustration). The aforementioned KSF is of the latter type. According to Ferrari and Ferrari (2011), the flap-shape design is more appropriate for sticky as well as for crumbling soils.
Before the development of the SF, the KSF already included a second function besides seed firming, namely, the application of in-furrow liquids like starter fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides. The double functionality lets the farmer get the benefits of seed firming and liquid application in a single device.
The SF features soil moisture, temperature and color sensors to monitor seed trench conditions. Soil moisture, temperature and organic matter content (OMC) readings can be logged to create a map, or can be processed in real-time to make on-the-go adjustments. One major adjustment enabled by the SF sensors is seeding depth: If at a given trench-depth the soil is too dry, the moisture-sensor-triggered automation will take the seed machine to deepen more, to find higher soil moisture content. With respect to the OMC sensor, in plot spots featuring higher OMC, the machine will make adjustments to increase seed population rate.
During the exhibition in Zaragoza, Precision Planting staff demonstrated how by moving the SF from one type (color) of soil to another, the OMC readings displayed on the associated monitor varied. Paired with that, the flow-rate of the applied phosphorous and nitrogen liquid fertilizers varied accordingly.
Ferrari, H., Ferrari, C. (2011). Manual de equipos para siembra de granos. INTA.