For fields that have produced excellent stands and high yields without these features, probably not. In Illinois, it is rare that loam-textured or heavier soils are dry enough at planting to limit germination of corn or soybean seed planted at normal depths (1.25 to 2 inches).

Planting deep enough to place seeds into sensed moisture — a feature of some systems — sounds promising, but the advantage of doing this compared to uniform depth placement is not clear, especially if the topsoil has moisture, which is often the case. Most planting depth studies show that planting 3 inches deep lowers yield, and if an automated system can and does place seed that deep, it could cause harm.

Down-pressure adjustment capability assists in getting proper planting depth, and also in controlling how much “row compaction” there is. It may have value for no-till planting into dry soils, but perhaps less value for planting into tilled seedbeds.

The most important planting objectives include getting seeds placed at proper depth, reasonable spacing uniformity, and good seed-soil contact to help water move into the seed for germination. Most modern, well-maintained planters do this very well in most soils, without add-ons.

Have optimum seeding rates changed?

Corn plant populations have not continued to increase as much as many of us once thought they would. In large part that’s because hybrids have added more yield per plant, without needing more plants.

In studies, 34,000 to 38,000 plants per acre often maximizes yield. Planting 42,000 to 45,000 seeds usually does not lower yields compared to planting 36,000 to 40,000, but the added cost of seed is not covered by the average increase in yield.