Fendt Momentum Crop Tour

In 2020, AGCO is demonstrating proper planting techniques and the yield-robbing impact of planting-time compaction at Fendt Momentum Crop Tour locations across the Corn Belt. Corn has been planted with the new Fendt® Momentum™ planter, using its Load Logic™ weight-management system to demonstrate how reducing compaction positively affects plant health and yield. AGCO agronomists are monitoring and evaluating crop emergence,
season-long crop health and yield at harvest, sharing observations with growers.

Click below for more Crop Tour Field Reports, local and online event information and harvest results. Follow the tour on Facebook at Fendt Global and on Twitter @Fendt_NA and by following the hashtags #AGCOCropTour and #FendtMomentum on social media.

Click Here for Field Report #1: Tractor and Planter Compaction

Penetrometer readings show how tractor and planter tires compact the soil:

Soil compacted at planting can reduce yields by restricting root growth and reducing nutrient and water availability. Soil compaction caused by wheel traffic has become an increasing concern among farmers, especially due to the weight of high-capacity, central-fill planters on the center transport wheels. Demonstrating just how much compaction can occur, how it impacts yield and how to minimize compaction at planting are goals of the AGCO Crop Tour program in 2020.

AGCO agronomists are observing crop development and measuring yield at Fendt Momentum Crop Tour plots throughout the Corn Belt this summer. In one of their first observations, the agronomists used a soil penetrometer to measure compaction caused by the tractor/planter compared to compaction in areas where the planter did not run (See Figure 1). Penetrometers measure resistance in pounds per square inch as the device is slowly pushed into the ground, simulating a root penetrating soil. The more resistance to the penetrometer, the harder it will be for roots to grow and penetrate soil. Readings were collected in five locations in Illinois, Ohio and South Dakota.

The plots were planted with a Fendt® Momentum planter equipped with the Load Logic system to distribute the weight of the planter, seed and liquid fertilizer across all the planter’s tires to lessen the load on the center transport tires and reduce compaction near the center rows. The planter’s in-line tandem center transport wheels were equipped with very high flexion tires and an auto tire inflation system that constantly adjusts tire PSI depending on planter weight to minimize pressure on the soil.

Figure 1.

Soil penetrometers provide an indication of soil compaction by measuring the resistance of the soil to the probe in pounds per square inch as the probe is slowly pushed into the ground. The plotted points represent the average of 15 readings in each track across plots located at Chillicothe, OH; Gridley and Pontiac, IL; and two plots in Baltic, SD. The tractor-only tire track was made by the inside dual wheel of the tractor, while the tractor-and-planter track was made by the outside tractor dual followed by the in-line tandem center transport wheels of a Fendt Momentum planter.

The chart shows that the planter added little to no extra compaction to that caused by the tractor tires. Many studies have shown that the first pass of equipment, such as the planter tractor, produces most of the soil compaction that occurs.

“These initial results support our goal of not causing added compaction with the planter in order to give corn and soybean plants their best shot at optimum yields,” says Jason Lee, AGCO agronomist and farm solutions specialist. “We will be taking plant measurements and hand-harvest estimates as the season progresses, along with harvest yield results this fall, to tell the full story.”

Wide, very high flexion tires equipped with an automatic tire inflation system on the in-line tandem central transport tires of the Fendt Momentum planter help reduce compaction.

Past research verifies yield loss due to compaction at planting:

Yield losses from compaction created at planting due to interrow wheel traffic from the tractor and planter can be substantial. In 2011, Pioneer on-farm trials determined average corn yields of rows planted by the outside wing sections of the planter were significantly greater than yields from the rows planted by the center planter segment in nine of 12 locations. In fact, the rows planted by the outside wing segments yielded an average of 11.3 bu/ac more than rows planted by the center section of the planter, due to interrow wheel traffic from the tractor and planter.

Click here for Field Report #2: Tire Pressure and Crop Height

Three-inch variation in crop height between low and high planter tire psi:

This second 2020 Fendt® Momentum® Crop Tour field update reports AGCO agronomists’ observations of tire-track compaction on plant growth.

Soil compaction caused by wheel traffic is an increasing concern among farmers, especially due to the weight of high-capacity, central-fill planters on the center transport wheels. Several studies have documented plant height reductions caused by compaction, which restricts root growth, limits nutrient and water uptake and ultimately lowers yield.

For example, researchers at Penn State1 reported that tires inflated to 100 pounds per square inch created compaction that reduced corn plant height at six weeks after planting by 21% compared to the control (no compaction), reducing grain yield by 11%. See Figure 1. In contrast, the researchers noted that flotation-style tires inflated to 36 psi “helped to reduce the effect of compaction on plant growth” to the extent that the crop height in that treatment was near that of the control.

In keeping with the 2020 AGCO Crop Tour™ goal to demonstrate the effects of and ways to minimize soil compaction at planting, AGCO agronomists have been observing crop development in plots in several states this summer. They recently recorded corn plant heights at growth stages after V12 to compare the compaction effects of various treatments.

In a plot near Casselton, North Dakota, they compared two planter tire-pressure inflation rates: 55 psi, similar to the level for road transport, and automated inflation that maintained tire pressure at approximately 17 psi.

Jason Lee, AGCO agronomist and farm solutions specialist, measured plant height in the rows on either side of the in-line tandem center transport tires of the Fendt Momentum planter at low and high tire inflation pressure. He observed a near 3-inch height advantage in corn planted with very high flexion (VF) tires auto adjusted to maintain a low psi (approx. 17 psi), as opposed to the same tires kept at a constant 55 psi. See Figure 2.

To illustrate the difference in soil compaction at different tire inflation rates, please see the photo below that shows the footprints made by the same VF tire at 55 psi on the left and 15 psi on the right, the minimum inflation recommended by the tire manufacturer.

“Note that the length of the footprint increases as tire pressure decreases, reducing pressure applied to the ground and therefore potential surface compaction,” Lee says. “A larger footprint reduces the pressure to the soil and therefore lessens the potential for surface compaction damage.”

Evaluating correlation between plant height observations and yield

As the Casselton crop height observation suggests and many additional university studies have shown, tire inflation can make a difference in compaction and resulting plant height. Lee says he looks forward to taking the AGCO Crop Tour plots to harvest to see how final yields match with in-season observations.

Lee also says producers may want to consider lowering the inflation level of tractor and implement tires when possible before starting any field work. He acknowledges, however, that doing so means having an air compressor in the field and time to inflate tires back to road levels before transport, unless the equipment has a central tire inflation system, like VarioGrip™ on Fendt tractors or the tire inflation system available on the Fendt Momentum planter.

Figure 1.

Corn height at 6 weeks after planting in a 2004 study of soil compaction in conservation tillage at State College, Pennsylvania. A 6.3-inch height difference was noted between plants grown in soil with no compaction and in soil compacted by tires inflated at 100 psi. Height in treatments with flotation tires at low pressure was not statistically different from the no-compaction control.

Figure 2.

Average corn plant height around V12 when measured in the two rows on either side of the in-line tandem center transport tires on a Fendt Momentum planter in Casselton, North Dakota. In the “tire pressure low” treatment, the planter’s Load Logic™ system kept the very high flexion tires inflated at the lowest recommended level for the weight of the planter (approx. 17 psi); tires in the “tire pressure high” treatment were inflated at a constant 55 psi

Footprints made by very high flexion planter tires inflated at 55 psi (left) and 15 psi (right). Note the longer footprint at lower inflation pressure covers a larger surface area and lessens pressure applied to the ground.

Click Here for Field Report #3: Soil Compaction and Plant Height

Balancing weight evenly across planter can eliminate variability in corn row height.

In this third 2020 Fendt® Momentum® Crop Tour™ field update, AGCO agronomists report their observations of the effect of compaction on plant height.

Corn rows of uneven height can be a sign of compaction caused by planters. The weight of most high-capacity, central-fill planters is concentrated on the center transport wheels, causing excessive compaction on either side of the center wheel-track rows.

This compaction at planting, resulting in what is commonly referred to as pinch rows, restricts root growth on both sides of the row and reduces uptake of nutrients and water, often preventing plants from reaching their maximum height. Stunted plant growth above ground is often an indicator of what is occurring below ground, typically translating into yield reduction in the shorter rows, says Jason Lee, AGCO agronomist and farm solutions specialist.

Looking at ways to manage planter weight and compaction

In 2020, AGCO Crop Tour plots were designed to compare how different levels of soil compaction at planting affect plant growth and corn yield. Lee and the AGCO team planted three side-by-side plots in several states using the Fendt Momentum planter at one of three settings:

1. Load balance. The planter’s optional Load Logic™ system automatically monitors and hydraulically transfers weight equally to all wheels, while also automatically adjusting inflation pressure in the wide, very high flexion tires to the lowest manufacturer-recommended psi for the weight of the planter at any moment during planting.

2. Controlled traffic. The Load Logic system intentionally pulls the weight from the wings and concentrates it on the in-line tandem transport wheels, also with auto-adjusted low tire pressure. This setting is best for growers who strive to keep all field passes in precise traffic lanes to protect the rest of the field―and yield―from wheel-traffic soil compaction.

3. Disabled. With the Load Logic system disabled, the planter operates much like other central-fill planters, with the weight concentrated in the middle of the planter and tire inflation pressures at a static 55 psi, a common road-transport pressure level.

Because the same tractor was used to plant all three plots in a given location, any differences noted between plots could be attributed solely to the different planter settings described above. Tractor tire pressures also were maintained at a low PSI to minimize the soil compaction damage created by the tractor.

Compaction from load on center of planter stunts plant height

In the AGCO Crop Tour location near Chillicothe, Ohio, in particular, Lee says center rows were noticeably shorter in the plots planted when Load Logic was disabled (see top half of photo) or operating with controlled traffic settings. The height of corn planted with the planter at Load Logic’s load balance setting, however, was even across all rows (bottom of photo). Based on previous research related to pinch-row compaction, Lee says he would expect to see even greater differences in plant height if the corn had been planted with a central-fill planter with dual transport wheels, as opposed to the Momentum planter, whose in-line tandem center transport wheels eliminate planter-induced pinch rows.

To record plant height differences in the plots, AGCO agronomists measured the height of several plants in rows on both sides of the in-line tandem center transport wheel tracks in each of the three different plots. Figure 1 shows the average height differences due to compaction found in the Crop Tour plots in Pontiac, Illinois; Stewartville, Minnesota; and Casselton, North Dakota. When averaged across all three locations, corn in the center rows planted with equal weight on all planter wheels (Load Logic’s load balance setting) was, on average, 2 inches taller than center-row corn planted with Load Logic’s controlled traffic setting, and 4 inches taller than center-row corn planted with no weight management and with constantly high tire inflation pressure.

Check your fields for compaction

“Compaction severity is going to vary from year to year and from field to field,” Lee says, “depending on soil type, moisture conditions, tire inflation pressure, axle loads and more.” In addition to noting plant height variations between rows in fields, “a good way to assess pinch row compaction in your fields is to do hand-yield checks in rows between center transport wheel tracks and in rows with no compaction effects (no tire tracks on either side),” he says.

“Compare the yield differences in those two types of rows, then do that in multiple areas of the field to better assess if you are losing bushels to pinch-row compaction,” Lee says. If you see losses, he recommends considering lower tire pressures, not planting into wet soil and looking at technology changes to lessen soil compaction next season.

AGCO will continue to report AGCO Crop Tour plot progress, event updates and harvest results through farm media outlets, as well as via social media and online at www.fendt.com/us/planters/crop-tour, on Facebook at Fendt Global and on Twitter @Fendt_NA. Follow the hashtags #AGCOCropTour and #FendtMomentum. The Fendt Momentum planter will be on display at select dealer events and locations. For more information, visit Fendt.com or contact your local dealer.

Figure 1. Corn plant height in rows on both sides of the track from in-line tandem center transport wheels was on average 2 inches taller with equal weight on all wheels and low tire pressure (load balance) than center-row corn planted with planter weight concentrated on the center wheels (controlled traffic). It was 4 inches taller than corn planted with Load Logic disabled and high tire inflation pressure. Data: Average heights of multiple plants in the two rows on either side of the track from in-line tandem transport wheels of the Fendt Momentum planter in three 2020 AGCO Crop Tour locations in Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Shorter corn height (top) results from compaction in rows next to center transport wheels bearing the weight of central-fill planters, with tires at a static 55 psi. Corn height is more uniform (bottom), indicating less planter compaction, in rows where weight was distributed equally across all planter wheels and tire pressure was automatically adjusted to the lowest setting recommended by the tire manufacturer. Images from side-by-side passes at the AGCO Crop Tour plot location near Chillicothe, Ohio.

2020 Fendt Momentum Crop Tour Sites:

Pontiac, IL (Precision Planting’s Precision Technology Institute/PTI)
Stewartville, MN
Chillicothe, OH
Lima, OH
Baltic, SD