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Changing hybrids on the fly

When it comes to trying out new technology, Beck’s Hybrids gives their testing platform three years until deciding whether the new innovations are worth keeping around. The company’s Practical Farm Research Director, Jason Webster, has been trying out a multi-hybrid planting technique for the past three years and believes the idea is here to stay.

“I look at changing hybrids on the fly as a result of having soil variability on our farms,” Webster said. “If all of our farms were flat, black and beautiful, I wouldn’t need this technology. Reality is that planters all of the sudden start going up hills and into valleys and places on the field where putting in a more defensive hybrid is simply more conducive to success.”

The idea of multi-hybrid planting wasn’t going anywhere without putting the idea in motion, literally. That is where Kinze added to the project’s potential and developed planters that were capable of the task at hand.

“In the past we have been using twin-row hybrid transition,” Webster said. “With that twin row planter and we turned one row unit on and the other one off to make that transition.”

That “beta” test of multi-hybrid planting allowed Beck’s to get great field data, but Webster was concerned that grower adoption wouldn’t be that high, because farmers would always need to move the row eight inches on every transition, which would not be feasible with auto-steer.

“Now we are working with Kinze’s 4900 series planter to do single row multi-hybrid planting,” Webster said. “This one row unit has two meters on it and we can simply turn the meters on and off automatically through the field, do the hybrid transitions in the 30-inch row as well as the variable rate seeding at the same time.”

Despite the slow start to the planting season in the Midwest, Webster was already able to run the new planter for a test spin in Temple, Texas back in February.

“We planted a couple hundred acres down there and everything went pretty well,” Webster said. “There were a few bugs to work out electronically with the planter, but that’s what we wanted so we could get those worked out before we are ready to roll in our part of the country this spring.”

Many farmers in Ohio will want to learn more about and maybe utilize the multi-hybrid option in the near future, but that simply can’t happen until proper management zones are all set.

“Growers already collect yield data and have GPS on their combine and we can help them capture management zones,” Webster said. “We really need to start to layer them now and isolate where the high yields and low yields are coming from and figure out why. I may not be able to change a certain soil type as a farmer, but I definitely can change the inputs, like the hybrid or variety, I put into that soil.”

See the new Kinze planter in action at a test run in Texas in February.

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