Ingenuity in Agriculture

by Patrick Kirchhofer, Peoria County Farm Bureau

Ingenuity and creativity have always occurred on the farm to make a job faster, easier, safer, less costly or more accurate. Agricultural inventions and innovations are happening at a rapid pace. They always have—and likely always will—as long as our society rewards hard, honest work and ingenuity.

Over the years, the inventions of American farmers and those employed by agribusinesses have created an opportunity to provide safe, affordable food for people throughout the world. As our population grows—and with a finite amount of land to grow crops—we need to continue to innovate.

The Peoria Farm Show was held at the Civic Center in December. It’s the largest indoor farm show in Illinois, and it's right in your backyard. Each year, the show features hundreds of exhibits highlighting the latest technologies in agriculture. Even if you are not a farmer, I think you would find the exhibits and equipment fascinating.

A planter and a combine are farmers’ two most important pieces of equipment. As the words indicate, a planter "plants" the seed in the soil, and a combine "combines" harvesting and threshing the grain at the same time.

Let's focus on a planter. If you drive through the country this April or May, tractors and planters will be rolling through fields planting soybean and corn seed, weather permitting. (In the Peoria area, there will also be some pumpkin seed planted.) The tanks on the planter hold the seed; there may be one large tank or several smaller tanks, one for each row of corn or soybeans. If it has one large tank, there will be numerous tubes going from the tank to each row being planted.

One of the challenges for farmers is to plant seed consistently in the soil—to get even spacing between the seeds. It’s been proven that if the seed can be spaced the same distance apart in the soil trench, yields will improve. It's better to have every seed five inches apart than to have two seeds one inch from each other and the next two seeds 10 inches apart.

On most planters today, the seed is dropped one at a time into a seed tube. Approximately one to two feet long, the seed tube encloses the seed as it travels from the tank to the soil—one to two inches beneath the surface. As the tractor moves through the field at approximately five miles per hour, the planter goes over soil clods and plant residue, bouncing up and down. As a result, when the seed travels through the tube, it ricochets off the sides, and uneven spacing occurs. Just imagine throwing a marble into a two-foot-long metal pipe while riding a galloping horse and trying to space the marbles exactly 10 inches apart from each other on the ground!

A recent development to help resolve this issue is a seed belt. Instead of "free-flowing" through the tube, each seed is entrenched in a slot in a belt that carries the seed from the tank to the soil. As the slots are evenly spaced on the belt, the spacing of each seed is much more precise. True "picket fence" stands of corn plants can be attained with this simple concept of carrying the seed in a controlled manner clear down to the seed trench in the soil.

This is just one of the thousands of agricultural innovations that are making the industry more efficient for the benefit of all people—and more innovations are sure to come. iBi

The 2016 Peoria Farm Show will take place November 29th through December 1st at the Peoria Civic Center.

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